Many attorneys handle standard civil and criminal matters. Administrative matters that are governed by specialized rules require an experienced attorney who can navigate that unique set of requirements and regulations. We regularly handle Florida Board of Bar Examiner hearings of all types, as well as attorney disciplinary matters and a variety of administrative hearings before boards and agencies.
Administrative hearings can be held if a complaint is made against a licensed professional. Professionals that require a license are issued the appropriate license by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Individuals who must obtain a professional license to conduct business work in a wide variety of fields. Barbers, engineers, real estate agents and certified public accountants are just a few of the jobs that require licensing to perform. In order to receive a particular license, an individual must apply according to the Florida DBPR guidelines for that specific area of work. Examinations are generally mandatory across the board but other requirements may exist within each category of work.
When a complaint is made to the FDBRP, it must first be examined for legitimacy before it moves through the actual legal process which includes several steps of investigation and judicial determination. Legitimacy is determined by assigning the complaint case to an expert analyst in the specific field of work of the licensee receiving the complaint, or, to a specific regulatory board. From here, it will be decided if the complaint is legit and shows misconduct of some kind by the licensee. If it does move forward, the case is then assigned to a department investigator or to a contracted law firm. All information obtained during the investigation is confidential. The licensee and his or her lawyer are able to view the document detailing the complaint.
It should be noted that some disputes are not considered by the FDBRP. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation is mainly concerned that work is being completed within the guidelines of the specific field and that the licensee exhibits suitable knowledge to complete his or her job. The FDBRP does not handle civil disputes between the licensee and the individual or company he or she is working for. For example, complaints regarding fees and contract terms are some of the areas that the FDBRP does not oversee or moderate.
The Investigation Process
Once the complaint has passed to an investigator, the licensee is required to respond to the complaint, present his or her side, and relinquish any documents which may be relevant to the case. This is the point in which having a skilled attorney with well-honed knowledge of administrative hearings can be key to your case. Attempting to represent oneself can be difficult and can sometimes result in accidental self-incrimination. With an attorney to help guide you through the process, you can ensure that facts are presented correctly and all facets of the case are taken into consideration. Trying to feel your own way through a complaint case against you can often lead to poor results.
After the licensee is able to present his or her case, it is sometimes dismissed. However, if it is not, the case is passed then to a prosecuting attorney from Florida’s Office of General Counsel. The OGC represents only the people of the state of Florida with the intention of making sure that licensed professionals are upholding the standards of conduct within their field of work.
The OGC has the power of prosecutorial discretion. This means that they will look at the evidence, possible motives or biases of both the complainant and the licensee, history of possible past offenses and any other information or documents that are deemed relevant to the case. The prosecutor will then make a decision as to whether or not to move the case forward to an official administrative hearing. Close examination by a series of groups and individuals is another reason why having an attorney to help you through the process is vital to avoid confusion and error.
The OGC has limited power in terms of prosecution. When the OGC decides to move a case forward to a formal hearing, it is then assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (also known as a Hearing Officer). The administrative law works differently than civil or criminal law and a lawyer is able to maneuver you through the nuances of this type of law. The hearing has no jury and the decision, as made by the Administrative Law Judge, goes to the appropriate professional board of the licensee or to the Secretary of the Department. Decisions made by an Administrative Law Judge tend to carry a lot of weight and is usually accepted by the board or Secretary of the Department. While the judge does send along a recommendation for action, the FDBPR will make the final call as to how to handle the complaint. If the board decides in favor of the complainant, discipline may be issued in the form of a fine, requiring class, or suspension or revocation of a license.
If you’ve had a complaint filed against you, don’t allow your livelihood to be put on the line and subjected to chance. Call us today and we will help fight to keep your license and good name intact.