Nurses Charged with a Crime

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are experienced in representing health care professions, including nurses, physicians, doctors, chiropractors, dentists, psychologists, therapists, and pharmacists in the greater Tampa Bay area.

We also defend health care professionals charged with a crime throughout the surrounding areas of greater Tampa Bay including Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Manatee County, and Polk County, FL.

If your career is on the line then contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney that can give you advice on how to deal with the criminal charge while you protect your ability to practice your chosen profession.

In particularly serious cases, our attorneys can help you find high-quality treatment with experienced providers who understand the challenges you face. We can also help you with regulatory agencies, employers, and insurance plans as you work to resolve any disciplinary proceedings.

Our clients include doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, massage therapists, psychologists, and mental health counselors. When a healthcare professional is under criminal investigation different legal issues can include:

  • protecting their licenses;
  • finding the best counseling options that comply with the requirements of the Professional Resource Network (PRN) or the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN);
  • deciding whether to self-report the incident to the Professional Resource Network (PRN) or the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN).

These civil and criminal actions impact health care facilities such as home health agencies (HHAs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), therapy providers, pharmacies, and durable medical equipment (DME) providers.

Attorney for Nurses Charged with a Crime in Tampa, FL

At Sammis Law Firm, we know that the career consequences for a nurse or other health care professional are particularly harsh after any felony arrest or for any misdemeanor involving DUI, controlled substances, or domestic violence.

If you are a healthcare professional who has been charged with or arrested for any misdemeanor or felony criminal offense then speak out the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Important career consequences occur for healthcare professionals after an arrest, including physicians, doctors, nurses, chiropractors, dentists, psychologists, therapists, and pharmacists in the State of Florida.

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm represent professionals in the healthcare industry in the greater Tampa Bay area including Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, Bartow in Polk County, New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, and St. Petersburg and Clearwater in Pinellas County.

When a registered nurse, physician, or medical doctor is charged with a crime, we can help.

The career consequences are particularly harsh after any felony arrest, or for any misdemeanor involving DUI, domestic violence, possession of marijuana, theft, or weapons charges.

Call (813) 250-0500 to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with defending healthcare professionals in these matters.

When a Nurse Should Remain Silent About the Allegation

After an investigation begins, and certainly after an arrest is made, it is important for health care professionals to seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Never make a statement to a co-worker, supervisor, disciplinary board, or any law enforcement officer until AFTER you have spoken with your attorney.

The fact that you invoke your right to remain silent is not admissible against you at trial in the criminal case. In other words, the jury is not told in the criminal proceeding that you invoked your right to remain silent or your right to speak to an attorney. On the other hand, if you do speak, those words can be used against you.

For licensed health professionals in Florida, the right to remain silent also applies even if a Department of Health (DOH) investigator approaches you to make a statement.

By retaining an attorney, your attorney can present favorable information to the investigator on your behalf. Your criminal defense attorney is often in the best position to tell your side the story.

Talk with an attorney in order to obtain specific advice related to your specific situation before you make any statements about the facts of the case.

Choosing Between the Informal or Formal Hearing

If the Florida Department of Health begins an investigation, you may be asked to select between an “informal hearing” and a “formal hearing.” Electing to have an “informal hearing” means you are admitting to certain facts contained in the administrative complaint.

During an informal hearing, you are only allowed to argue mitigation related to the level of discipline that should be imposed (not that the allegations are not true).

For professionals that require top-level security clearance or a special certification in order to practice their chosen career, the impact of an arrest can be a disaster even if they ultimately avoid a conviction.

For example, in the health-care profession:

  1. Any plea of guilty or no contest by any licensed health care professional must be reported to the Department of Health. Any failure to do so within certain deadlines may result in grounds for discipline.
  2. The Department of Health will treat a guilty plea the same as a “no contest” or “nolo contendere” plea.
  3. The Department of Health will treat a “withhold of adjudication” the same as a conviction.
  4. Under Florida Statute Section 456.072(1) and SB1984(2009), any plea entered to resolve certain types of criminal offenses will result in an automatic bar to any renewal of a license or the inability to obtain a license for health care professionals.
  5. Under Florida Statute Section 456.074(1), a plea to certain types of criminal offenses (regardless of whether the individuals enter a guilty or “no contest plea and regardless of whether the court withholds adjudication) may require an automatic suspension of the health care professional’s license.

In these cases, even if the health care professional agrees to voluntarily relinquish the health profession license after a criminal investigation has begun, that voluntary action usually has the same effect as the punitive revocation of the health professional’s license.

In these cases, the client really has a least two legal matters to resolve. First, the client must answer the charges in criminal court.

Secondly, the health professional must deal with administrative proceedings which could result in the revocation of a health professional’s license.

Those administrative proceedings are “quasi-penal” proceedings that may entitle the individual to certain constitutional safeguards otherwise reserved for criminal proceedings, such as the right to confront the witnesses and the right to remain silent.

The Effect of a License Revocation or Voluntary Relinquishment

If a health professional arrested for a criminal offense receives any disciplinary action related to the license if the license is revoked, or if the individual voluntarily relinquishes the license after an investigation has begun, then the following consequences can occur:

  1. Your professional license may be revoked in Florida;
  2. Your professional license in another state may be revoked;
  3. You may be prevented from working even in a different state because the information about revocation or discipline will be reported to the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB);
  4. You may even be disqualified from contracting with the government Medicaid and Medicare programs or even from working with someone who does contract with the government.

Do Nurses Have to Report a Plea, Withhold of Adjudication, or Conviction?

A nurse has to report any “conviction” even if adjudication is withheld. Florida Statutes Section 456.072 provides:

(c) Being convicted or found guilty of, or entering a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, a crime in any jurisdiction which relates to the practice of, or the ability to practice, a licensee’s profession….

(x) Failing to report to the board, or the department if there is no board, in writing within 30 days after the licensee has been convicted or found guilty of, or entered a plea of nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, a crime in any jurisdiction. Convictions, findings, adjudications, and pleas entered into prior to the enactment of this paragraph must be reported in writing to the board, or department if there is no board, on or before October 1, 1999.

If you are a nurse or plan on applying for your nursing license, then you should be aware that a criminal conviction must be disclosed to the Florida Board of Nursing which can trigger consequences that impact your license. These consequences apply regardless of whether you enter a guilty or no contest plea.

If you apply for a nursing license, then you must disclose to the Florida Board of Nursing any criminal conviction including DUI, driving while license suspended with the knowledge, or reckless driving. On the other hand, civil traffic offenses for things like speeding or running a red light do not need to be reported.

Failing to report the conviction to the Florida Board of Nursing can lead to even bigger problems. When you apply for your license or to renew your license, the Nursing Board conducts a background check. The board can find your criminal record this way even if you fail to disclose it.

In some cases, an applicant must apply to the Board for clearance. Depending on the number of prior convictions and the type of convictions that occurred.

If you list the conviction on your application, you will be required to submit additional information including a certified copy of the final disposition, proof that probation was completed, disclosure of the circumstances of the charges, and letters of recommendation.

Your attorney can help you gather the information needed for your application. Some crimes are so serious that it might prevent you from getting a license. Those charges would include selling a controlled substance and fraud cases.

What Happens When a DOH Complaint is Filed?

If a complaint is filed, the best result often comes after providing the Assistant General Counsel for the Florida Department of Health – Prosecution Services Unit with information showing why no probable cause exists. That information can include a statement from the client, if appropriate, witness statements, or other supporting documents.

For nurses, the complaint and the response to the complaint are then considered by the Probable Cause Panel for the Board of Nursing. If the panel determines that a probable cause of a violation does not exist, then the Panel will direct the DOH to close the case.

Section 456.073(9)(c), Florida Statutes, states, “In any disciplinary case for which probable cause is not found, the department shall so inform the person who filed the complaint and notify that person that he or she may, within 60 days, provide any additional information which may be relevant to the decision.”

If the case is dismissed without a finding of probable cause, the investigative file remains confidential and exempt from the Florida Sunshine Law, detailed in Chapter 119, pursuant to Section 456.073(10), Florida Statutes.

Information about the complaint will then not be disclosed to the public without the nurse’s written permission.

Additional Resources

Professional Resource Network (PRN) – PRN serves the Healthcare Community of Florida as one of the two programs designated as the State of Florida’s Impaired Practitioners Programs. PRN serves as the Consultant to the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) on matters relating to practitioner impairment. The organization works with the DOH / DBPR Legal Departments in regard to impairment-related mitigation factors during disciplinary proceedings.

Intervention Project for Nurses – One of two programs designated as the State of Florida’s Impaired Practitioners Programs. Authorized by Florida Statute, Chapter 464/456, IPN provides intervention and monitoring for nurses whose practice may be impaired due to the use, misuse, or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or a mental and/or physical condition.

This article was last updated on Thursday, May 5, 2022.