Every year, the California Department of Consumers Affairs (DCA) administers more than 3.5 million professional licenses across multiple classifications of licenses, certificates, registrations and permits, for workers throughout the state.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation (DOI) is also a law enforcement agency that protects California consumers and licensees by investigating violations of California’s laws, regulations, and professional standards. DCA investigates any and all consumer complaints about issues under its jurisdiction and if a professional has been found in violation of licensing statutes and/or regulations, a licensee can face disciplinary action. This could include probation, suspension or revocation of their license as well as fines and citations, letters of reprimand, or cease and desist orders.
California Professional Licenses Administered by the CA Department of Consumer Affairs
The California DCA administers licenses and disciplinary investigations on behalf of 37 licensing boards and authorities across a wide spectrum of “healing arts” and other professional classifications including:
- Auto Repair Technicians
- Barbering and Cosmetology
- Behavioral Science
- Funeral Directors and Cemetery
- Court Reporters
- Dental Hygienists
- Household Goods and Services
- Landscape Architects
- Medical Board (Physicians)
- Occupational Therapists
- Physical Therapists
- Physician Assistants
- Professional Engineers, Geologists and Land Surveyors
- Professional Fiduciaries
- Registered Nursing
- Respiratory Care Therapists
- Security and Investigative Services
- Speech Language Therapists, Audiologists, Hearing Aid Dispensers
- Structural Pest Control
- Vocational Nurses
Disciplinary Investigations by the DCA: Enforcement Program
If you have received a letter from the Department of Consumer Affairs, then your professional license is under investigation by the DCA’s Enforcement Program.
A typical DCA investigator’s letter may be alarming and sound as if it is coming from someone in law enforcement.
Investigations by the Department of Consumer Affairs can be triggered by a simple online complaint submission. In the space of a minute or two, one client can initiate an investigatory process which stretches over weeks or months and involves dozens of individuals, reams of documentation, interviews and audits. And note that there is no statute of limitation for the filing of a disciplinary action by a California licensing board.
The California DCA reports out in their online portal, the total volume of licensee complaints, licensee convictions and arrests, intake reviews by the DCA, DCA investigations and disciplinary actions issued by the DCA on behalf of licensing boards and authorities by quarter.
One of the most important aspects of any investigation is who is conducting it. While one might assume that CA Department of Consumer Affairs investigators have licensing board backgrounds, in fact and in practice, they more typically have been police officers or law enforcement program administrators. Their investigatory tactics and instincts have been honed in police academy training and they are familiar with both the terminology and practices employed by district attorneys, judges in law enforcement and judicial settings.
DCA “Interviews” of Professionals Under Investigation
When a licensee’s investigation begins, DCA investigators always seek to interview the target of their investigation, purportedly so that they can “tell their side of the story” to the investigators. This is one of the most frequent pitfalls for licensees in these investigations. By carefully selecting their questions and documenting a licensee’s answers, they can lay a “trap” for the individual in question which later is offered in evidence as “an admission of guilt” if the case is referred on to a local police department.
Because the licensee complaint process is so easy and simple for a client in California, California licensees need to be particularly attuned to managing any client relationships which will make them vulnerable to an investigation. It is always much easier to prevent a complaint than to defend against a “malicious action” in a DCA investigation.
Consumer Protection Enforcement Initiative (CPEI)
The California Department of Consumer Affairs launched the Consumer Protection Enforcement Initiative (CPEI) to overhaul the enforcement process at the healing arts boards. The CPEI is a systematic approach designed to address administrative improvements, staffing and IT resources and legislative changes aimed at reducing average enforcement completion timeframes from 36 months to between 12-18 months.
If you are a California professional licensed under the auspices of the California Department of Consumers Affairs (DCA) and have a client you are concerned may be about to complain about you or if you are under investigation by the DCA already, you need to contact an experienced licensing attorney immediately. If the complaint involves criminal charges (billing fraud and other types of fraud, scams, DUI, substance abuse etc.), this is even more paramount.
The Law Offices of Lucy S. McAllister have successfully represented a wide range of California professionals across different professions and we are experienced in handling investigations brought by the Department of Consumer Affairs against licensees. We handle hundreds of licensing cases throughout the state of California every year and one of our particular strengths is our extensive experience working in both Administrative Law and in Criminal Law, giving us unique edge when it comes to defending licensees with criminal charges and convictions.
Let us help you obtain, protect and defend your California licenses so that you can continue to practice the profession which you love. For additional information or to schedule a consultation, please contact our California-wide law offices today at (877) 280-9944.