Practicing Medicine without a License

Jun 5, 2014 by

Medical professionals in the US are required by law to obtain and retain a state license to practice, and are obliged to obtain and retain a license in each state where they practice. For example, if a doctor has offices in both California and Oregon, he or she must have a license for each state. Practicing medicine without a license in any state carries both criminal and civil sanctions.

State laws regarding criminal sanctions for practicing medicine without a license vary, but generally carry a prison term of between one to five years plus fines. Civil liability, on the other hand, lies in the presumption that having no license is a form of medical malpractice, and that any harm that a patient suffers after receiving medical treatment constitutes negligence.

There are instances when the lack of a license is because the individual is not eligible to get a license i.e. does not have the necessary training but practices medicine anyway. There are also once-licensed medical professionals whose license had lapsed at the time a patient was being treated. In the former, there is a clear intent to commit a crime, and there is no defense for it. In the latter, however, there are possibly mitigating circumstances that can constitute a viable medical license defense.

It sounds like an excuse, but a surprising number of medical professionals simply forget to renew their state license, which is why in some states such as Massachusetts license renewal coincides with the licensee’s birthday. It is entirely possible for a doctor to continue practicing medicine in good faith without realizing that the license for that state is expired.

Of course it is not as simple as that. The laws governing licensure are highly complex, and mounting a defense for practicing medicine without a license can be very tricky. A medical professional facing a criminal charge for practicing without a state license risks forfeiting the opportunity to practice anywhere in the U.S. because anyone with a criminal record is disqualified from getting a professional license. It is extremely important to get a qualified professional license defense lawyer on board at once to avoid criminal sanctions.

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