Health professions and their respective licenses are regulated under Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, individual practice acts, and rules promulgated by the Florida Department of Health (“Department”) and its regulatory boards. The web of laws and rules that governs healthcare practitioners and the way they interact is complex and changes frequently in response to medical industry advances.
If you find your license under investigation by the Department, it’s imperative that you hire an attorney at your earliest opportunity who understands the law and the disciplinary process and is respected amongst decision makers who will review the allegations against you and determine the fate of your license.
First, you will receive a notification letter informing you that you are being investigated and requesting a response within 20 days (45 days for medical doctors). An investigator will then contact you and request an interview.
Unfortunately, interviews are often performed by investigators who lack healthcare backgrounds and may not fully appreciate the complex medical issues or explanation you have given. The investigator then attempts to summarize your interview for the prosecutor’s review. In the interview summary, the investigator controls how much of what you had to say and the tone of your explanation. Mischaracterizations and misunderstandings are common and frequently passed on to the prosecutor’s as direct quotes from you. For these reasons, rarely, if ever, do we advise our clients to submit to an interview.
However, getting your version of the events to the prosecutor is critical to avoiding disciplinary action. It is often best to control the narrative the prosecutor’s will review by offering your explanation in writing through an attorney who has reviewed hundreds of practitioner explanations and knows what the decision makers value and what they don’t.
A writing through an attorney that is well thought out with supporting facts, medical literature, and/or expert opinion for consideration can be of great assistance in presenting your side early and persuasively to convince the Department that no formal action should be taken against your license.
After the investigation is complete, your case is sent to the Department’s Prosecution Services Unit in Tallahassee and a prosecutor makes a recommendation to a probable cause panel of the Board or Department to dismiss or prosecute the case. The probable cause panel members are a group of your peers who will only be permitted to review written documents in the file to determine whether your license should be disciplined. This is a confidential proceeding and you are not permitted to attend or otherwise provide your version of the events.
If the prosecutor makes a recommendation to file formal charges against your license, you have a statutory right to review the Department’s entire investigative file prior to consideration by the probable cause panel. This includes medical opinions from the Department’s experts which may incorrectly opine that you have committed malpractice or other wrongdoing, all confidential patient records the Department has gathered during the investigation, as well as the investigator’s summaries and any other evidence the Department intends to use against you. Getting your hands on these documents to review their accuracy and submit a response is vital to protecting your license.
If formal charges are filed, you will be served with an Administrative Complaint and you will have 21 days to respond with an Election of Rights. Failure to timely respond results in a waiver of your rights to challenge the allegations. Your peers will accept the allegations as true and will impose discipline based on the Department’s allegations and file.
If you respond timely, you are permitted to challenge the Department’s allegations before an Administrative Law Judge (a neutral third party) who will make a decision and recommend dismissal or punishment. The judge’s decision will be sent back to the Board or Department for final approval.
Once the Board or Department makes a final decision, you can appeal that decision to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.
Protect yourself and the license you worked hard to obtain by hiring Andrews, Crabtree, Knox & Longfellow to represent you immediately. Our team of attorneys have nearly four decades of experience defending healthcare licensees. We have even recently added a former Department prosecuting attorney to our team. We are respected amongst the decision makers who routinely review these cases and we are located in Tallahassee, where the Department’s prosecutor’s offices are located, allowing us to spare our clients time and expense and putting our firm in an excellent position to represent you.