Defending Your Chiropractic License in California
California Chiropractor License Investigations - Accusations - Suspensions - Revocations
As a chiropractor in California, having gone through the licensing process, you know that the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners is responsible for granting licenses and also handling disciplinary actions for those who have been accused of unprofessional conduct or had a criminal conviction that relates to the duties and responsibilities of a chiropractor.
Chiropractors have dedicated themselves to learning the intricacies of the human body in order to diagnose, treat, and prevent conditions resulting from problems with the musculoskeletal system. In order to be licensed as a chiropractor in California, a person has to pursue extensive education and training and incur significant expenses, in addition to taking several different examinations in order to become board certified and obtain a license. If you have made a mistake that now threatens the status of your license, you need The Law Offices of Lucy S. McAllister on your side as soon as possible.
The Board of Chiropractic Examiners has adopted the mission that its primary goal is to protect patients and consumers in California against the incompetent, negligent, or fraudulent practice of chiropractic care. As a result of this responsibility, the Board may bring a disciplinary action against a chiropractor based upon complaints of unprofessional conduct or if the chiropractor has been convicted of a crime that is deemed to be substantially related to the practice of chiropractic care.
The review and disciplinary process begins when a complaint is submitted to the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. At the outset, the Board needs to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the complaint. Once this has been confirmed, a cursory analysis may reveal that the complaint is based on a personality conflict or another unsupportable claim. However, if the complaint passes the “sniff test” then there is a more detailed review. There is a preliminary investigation into the allegations and the Board may determine that the accusations in the complaint are not supported by any evidence and do not appear to be factually accurate, leading to the closing of the file with a finding that the complaint lacked merit. The investigation may reveal some evidence that allegations in the complaint have merit, but not to the degree that justifies continuing the review, which will result in the file being closed with merit.
This initial review may involve an investigator being sent to collect information from the chiropractor being investigated. It is critical for the investigator not to volunteer any information because it can be used against him or her and lead to the Board pursuing a formal action. A professional license defense attorney like Lucy McAllister can be most effective during this stage, leading to the closure of the file without any penalties. An attorney also can give you the support that you need to make it through the investigation process.
The Complaint Process
If the Board does decide to continue the investigation, the proceedings go forward as follows:
• The Board may decide to handle the matter “in-house,” and may issue a fine, citation, a private reprimand, or other disciplinary action. The assistance of an experienced professional license defense attorney is critical at this stage of the process because she can negotiate a penalty that will not be widely published to patients and consumers, therefore preserving the chiropractor’s reputation.
• If the Board determines that the matter requires a more in-depth investigation, it will refer the matter to the Office of the Attorney General for legal action that may lead to a suspension or revocation of the chiropractor’s license.
• A chiropractor who has been notified of a complaint has a limited time in which to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ hears testimony and reviews evidence submitted by both the chiropractor, with or without representation by an attorney, and a lawyer from the Office of the Attorney General. After the hearing, the ALJ will issue a recommendation that the Board of Chiropractic Examiners may choose to follow, but is not obligated to do so.
• If the Board’s order is unfair or overly punitive, the chiropractor whose license is being impacted may request that the California Superior Court with jurisdiction over the matter to review the proceedings. This review only considers whether the process was fair and will not lead to an independent review of the case.
• If the chiropractor has had his or her license suspended or revoked, he or she may file for modification or reinstatement after a specified period of time has passed.
There are many different activities that can lead to a complaint being submitted to the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. People make mistakes; however, if you have done something that jeopardizes your license, calling Lucy McAllister as soon as you learn of the disciplinary action is the best way to continue in your chosen career.
If a chiropractor has been convicted of a crime that is substantially related to the chiropractic practice, lied on any of the paperwork submitted in support of licensure, or acted in a manner that falls within the category of unprofessional conduct, then it may form the basis for a complaint. The analysis of what may be a substantially related crime is not governed by strict guidelines and may vary depending upon the facts of the conviction. Although many would argue that being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) should not relate to chiropractic work, the argument frequently is successfully made that someone who has enough of a problem with alcohol or drugs that he would get behind the wheel under the influence may jeopardize the wellbeing of a patient.
Allegations Resulting in a Charge of Unprofessional Conduct
A charge of unprofessional conduct may be based on many different actions. Some of the actions that are common justifications for a disciplinary response by the Board include:
• Excessive use of alcohol or abuse of controlled substances by the chiropractor;
• Use of illegal narcotics;
• Performing chiropractic examinations or treatments in an incompetent or negligent manner;
• Practicing chiropractic medicine without a license before being certified and obtaining a license or permitting someone under the chiropractor’s supervision to perform unlicensed chiropractic acts;
• Performing spinal manipulation rather than administering a vaccination;
• Being convicted of a crime that is substantially related to the duties or functions of a chiropractor;
• A chiropractor engaging in activities that constitute sexual misconduct;
• A chiropractor intentionally reporting misleading statements or falsifying records;
• The inappropriate billing of patients for services that were advertised as discounted or free;
• Overbilling a patient;
• The use of misleading, deceptive, or false advertising by the chiropractor;
• Failure to protect confidential patient information or actual unauthorized disclosure of the patient information by the chiropractor or by staff under the supervision of the chiropractor;
• Acting in a dishonest or fraudulent manner; and
• Actively engaging in acts of theft.
There are many times during the process where an attorney can assist a chiropractor in protecting his license and livelihood. Even after the Board of Chiropractic Examiners has issued an order to suspend or revoke a license, an attorney can work with the chiropractor to request a modification of the disciplinary actions or move to reinstate the license. However, the earlier in the process in which a skilled professional license defense attorney becomes involved, the more effective the attorney can be.
Lucy McAllister is an experienced chiropractor license defense attorney who knows how to minimize the penalties imposed by the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners. She is an expert in the licensing requirements as well as the administrative hearing proceedings. If you face a disciplinary action that threatens your career as a chiropractor, please contact Lucy McAllister in our San Francisco office at (415) 939-9396 or in San Jose at (408) 947-5946 to discuss the best defense strategy.
BCE News – California Board of Chiropractic Examiners Biannual Newsletter
See article on Common Violations and Helpful Tips to Keep Your License in Good Standing in the Summer | Fall 2015 edition.