Resolving a Criminal Matter is Significantly More Complicated for Health Care Providers
By: Jesse Adam Markos, Esq.
Wachler & Associates, P.C
In today’s highly regulated health care environment, a criminal conviction of any kind (whether a felony or misdemeanor) may create significant problems for licensed health care providers. To be sure, criminal convictions always have the potential to have a profound impact on the lives of those convicted. However, a criminal conviction of any kind can have a disproportionately punitive impact on health care providers.
Pursuant to the self-reporting requirements found in the Michigan Public Health Code, providers are required to report a criminal conviction to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (“LARA”) within 30 days of the conviction. The Public Health Code makes no distinction between criminal offenses (misdemeanors and felonies) when it comes to the self-reporting requirement and, as such, any criminal conviction must be reported. However, there is no indication that non-criminal violations such as state or municipal civil infractions are included in the self-reporting requirement. Moreover, only the convicted offense must be reported, not the original offense charged or any other offenses which were subsequently dropped as part of a plea agreement.
When reporting the conviction, the provider will be required to explain the facts and circumstances underlying the conviction. Furthermore, LARA may request and receive information directly from the court regarding the conviction. As a result, meaningful reductions obtained through plea negotiations are difficult for a provider because LARA will have all of the relevant facts available when reviewing the conviction and may decide to treat a “less serious” charge just as seriously as if the provider had been convicted of initial charge.
Once notified, LARA will initiate an investigation of the conviction. In some instances, LARA will issue an order immediately suspending the provider’s license. This occurs when the provider has been convicted of a felony; a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years; a misdemeanor involving the illegal delivery, possession, or use of a controlled substance; a misdemeanor involving the illegal delivery, possession, or use of alcohol that adversely affects the licensee’s ability to practice in a safe and competent manner; or any other conviction that leads LARA to believe that the public health, safety, or welfare required emergency action.
Disciplinary action may be sought by LARA after the investigation and, in fact, may be mandatory for providers convicted of certain offenses. These sanctions may include one or more of the following, in descending order of severity: revocation, suspension, limitation, probation, reprimand or fine. Once again, reduced charges resulting from plea negotiations may have only negligible benefits with regard to a subsequent licensing matter because the relevant licensing board will determine the appropriate sanction based upon the facts underlying the conviction and not simply the listed offense.
As detailed above, a provider’s ability to resolve a criminal matter is significantly more complicated than a non-licensed individual. In some cases, agreeing to a plea-bargain offense that may be relatively innocuous for others may nevertheless result in calamitous consequences for a provider. As a result, providers faced with a potential criminal conviction should consult with an experienced health care attorney to help prevent or manage any resulting professional damage. For additional information or assistance, contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at (248) 544-0888.