Doctors, Nurses and Other Medical Professionals: NY Arrests and Licensure

Physicians, doctors, dentists, physician’s assistants, therapists, mental health counselors, nurses, and other medical professionals in private practice, working at public or private hospitals and those in other governmental positions are all essential parts of our healthcare system and workforce. Simply, without these men and women, New York City, New York State and any other town or city cannot function. An arrest, indictment or criminal conviction, whether a result of a moment of stupidity, a misunderstanding or a complete lapse of judgement, can not only compromise the communities these men and women serve, but destroy the medical professional’s career and practice. It is for these reasons that when a medical professional is investigated for or accused of a crime, given a Desk Appearance Ticket, or indicted by a Grand Jury, there can be no substitute for experienced counsel and a criminal defense attorney who can best identify and mount the strongest defense while protecting against collateral professional consequences.

Whether you are medical school student cracking open your first book, a second year resident, or a nurse with fourteen years experience in the trenches of an emergency room, an arrest or criminal conviction should not destroy your hard work nor the vitality and health of the patients you treat. The types and degrees of crimes you can face in New York may pale in comparison to the medical conditions you will encounter during your career, but you and your criminal lawyer must take all the precautions and steps to ensure that your exposure to a New York arrest is not only resolved inside the halls of criminal court, but that the exposure to your medical license is minimized. Taking the wrong steps today with the wrong criminal defense attorney can mean the decimation of your career as it was only moments before your arrest.

Potential Crimes and Charges

Doctors and physicians are no different than teachers or contractors. Nurses and physician’s assistants are no different than realtors or MTA employees. Anyone in any profession can be accused of a crime whether the allegation is true or false. Very briefly, crimes such as shoplifting $200 in clothing at Century 21, possessing a personal amount of cocaine or getting into a “run of the mill” fist fight are generally misdemeanor crimes. These offenses, respectively, are NY PL 155.25, NY PL 220.03 and NY PL 120.00. Even failure to pay your cab or jumping a turnstile is a criminal offense pursuant to NY PL 165.15.Sometimes an accused is given a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) while other times a person is brought Central Booking in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx. These crimes have a maximum sentence of one year in jail. However, jail or not, these offenses are not going away, not getting expunged and will be reportable where you are convicted.

The more serious crimes a medical professional may face include thefts in excess of $1,000, the possession of fake and fraudulent documents, and more serious assaults. These cases, for example, are codified as NY PL 155.30, NY PL 170.25, and NY PL 120.05 respectively. What’s worse, felonies would likely render any medical license invalid while the sentence accompanying these crimes can carry mandatory minimums in prison and upwards to four, seven, fifteen or even twenty five years.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as an insignificant or small arrest. Any misdemeanor or felony is potentially life altering and indelible. How you defend yourself and your livelihood is up to you.

Criminal Background Checks: NYS Office of the Professions

In New York State, likely in other states, before a medical professional such as a physician is licensed the Office of the Professions mandates that certain otherwise personal matters be disclosed. For a doctor, nurse, physician’s assistant and other medical professionals, you will be required to state whether you have been found guilty of either a misdemeanor or felony or pleaded no contest to a crime. Further, if you have a pending criminal case in any jurisdiction you must disclose this fact. Whether the case is closed or ongoing, you will need to submit the appropriate court records.

Criminal Background Checks: Physicians and Doctors

From California to New Jersey, Washington State to New York, a review of materials published by the Federation of State Medical Boards reflects that almost every state in United States has a medical board that conducts a background check as a condition for initial licensure. It is of no consequence or relevancy whether you are arrested or convicted of Petit Larceny for shoplifting in New York or Assault for striking a random person during a fist fight in White Plains. For that matter, a conviction in any state will have grave consequences on your licensing and in those states that require it, the conviction will be disclosed.

If you are attending medical school in New York City or you are completing your internship or residency at a New York Hospital such as Mt. Sinai or Columbia, an arrest and criminal conviction is no less serious than if you were an attending physician at the same facility or you managed your own boutique medical practice as a dermatologist on Park Avenue. Approximately 40 states require fingerprints as a condition of securing a medical license and more than 40 states have medical boards that can access the Federal Bureau of Investigation database. In other words, hiding from a criminal conviction will not happen. Your, along with the assistance of your criminal defense attorney, must pursue every legal avenue to prevent your criminal case from going from bad to significantly worse.

Criminal Background Checks: Nursing

There are well in excess of fifty Boards of Nursing. Although nurses are often required to self-report their criminal history and convictions, it is likely many practicing and aspiring nurses do not volunteer their arrest with anyone other than their criminal lawyer. Failure to report, however, does not mean one will avoid detection, but instead reflects that that candidate or practicing nurse is irresponsible or fraudulently sharing important information for initial or continued licensure. How might you be caught by a Nursing Board in any state after your arrest and conviction in New York? Like in other medical fields, in excess of forty Nursing Boards mandate criminal background checks. Not merely name based checks, these Boards of Nursing use biometric-based checks such as fingerprints or retina identification.

Criminal Background Checks: Medical Students and Medical School Applicants

It is the recommendation of the Association of American Medical Colleges that students applying to medical schools submit to a national background check. The reason for such a recommendation is clear. A license physician cannot be a convicted criminal. After all, one day you will be, assuming your arrest does not derail you, a physician.

Other Issues Worth Noting in the Medical Profession

If it has not abundantly clear, any arrest is devastating. Two issues worth noting, however, involve crimes relating to Domestic Violence and where you, the accused, are not a citizen of the United States.

As a preliminary matter, any New York Domestic Violence Crime mandates an arrest. This means you will be processed fully. Moreover, if your crime is an aggravated felony or one involving moral turpitude, for example, and you are a foreign national studying or working on a visa, you will face an additional set of issues that will potentially compromise both your liberty and ability to remain in the United States.

Medical Professionals: The Bottom Line

Some mistakes, whether intentional or not, can be challenged, are forgivable or are ones that can be mitigated. A mistake that you cannot merely walk away from when it comes to an arrest in New York is one that leaves you exposed criminally and professionally. You may not be able to change the past, but you can certainly shape your future to best avoid a criminal conviction and the obliteration of years of study and work.

Educate yourself on the law. Take the time to identify the right defense. Consult with counsel. Let advocacy, experience and knowledge be your guide.

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