Saturday, July 09, 2005

Professional Licenses and Criminal Cases

Many people arrested who hold professional licenses have no idea the consequences the criminal case will have on their future in their profession. Here's some information that any good criminal lawyer should know when representing someone who holds a professional license.

With the exception of The Florida Bar and the various Boards of Medicine, professional licenses are governed by Chapter 455 of the Florida Statutes.

Under this chapter, discipline may be imposed following a conviction, or a no contest plea regardless of whether adjudication is withheld. There is no statutory penalty for an arrest.

Discipline is also governed by the separate practice acts of each individual practice. For example, accountants, architects, auctioneers, and electricians (including alarm system contractors), are subject to discipline upon being convicted of, or entering a plea of no contest to a crime in any jurisdiction which directly relates to the practice or the ability to practice, regardless of adjudication.

If the client’s profession is governed by Chapter 455, the initial inquiry is whether the crime relates to the practice of, or the ability to practice the profession. Many of the specific practice acts, including those for employee leasing, funeral directors/embalmers, geologists, landscape architects, and land surveyors and mappers contain the same language as §455.227(1)(c), requiring that the crime relate to the practice or the ability to practice.

As for athlete agents, barbers, and cosmetologists, there are no specific prohibitions in the practice acts; however, these professionals are prohibited from violating Chapter 455. The state takes a different approach for Talent Agents, subjecting them to discipline upon being found guilty or entering a plea of nolo contendre to a crime involving moral turpitude or dishonest dealings under the laws of this state or any other state or government, regardless of adjudication.

Other professions have specific prohibitions that subject the licensee to discipline. For example Community Association Managers are subject to discipline upon being convicted or pleading no contest to a felony in any court of the United States.

A defendant who has a direct financial interest in a hotel or restaurant is not subject to Chapter 455, however the prohibitions in the practice act relate to specific crimes of prostitution, controlled substances, and those that relate to "professional character."

Yacht and ship brokers are subject to a license suspension or revocation if the licensee has been found guilty of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude.

For those representing businesses, non-profit charitable organizations, and individuals that hold alcohol beverage licenses, pursuant to Chapter 61 of the Florida Administrative Code, the licensees and their establishments are subject to discipline based on either a single violation which the licensee committed or knew about; or a pattern of at least three violations on different dates within a 12-week period by employees, independent contractors, agents, or patrons on the licensed premises or in the scope of employment in which the licensee did not participate; or violations which were occurring in an open and notorious manner on the licensed premises.

Under beverage law, violations are defined by those that do not "establish qualities of trust and confidence generally acceptable to the state." They include most felonies and any crime in the United States or a foreign country that is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year when the act is related to alcoholic beverages, failure to pay taxes, unlawful drugs or controlled substances, for which the defendant is penalized for a criminal act prostitution, or injuring another person in the preceding 15 years.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has their own version of habitual offender status, defining repetitive unlawful conduct as the same violations occurring within 36 months of the date of the first administrative proceeding notice.

Tobacco licensees enjoy statutory protection from any violation other than those in Chapter 569 of the Florida Statutes.

This information is a summary of the published article "Collateral Consequences of Criminal Cases," by Brian Tannebaum, published in Florida Defender.