You’ve worked hard to get this far in life. Sadly, your efforts could quickly be torn down with a single accusation. This threat pervades every day in the workforce, especially if you work in a state-regulated field such as law, child care, or real estate.
The good news? Options exist even when the chance of retaining your license seems minimal. With strong legal defense, it’s possible to avoid disciplinary action from your profession’s state board.
Arizona’s Stewart Law Group offers comprehensive services for the state’s finest professionals. Our efforts could protect you from professional censure or license revocation. We will work to help you sustain your hard-earned reputation as a trusted professional.
Types of Professional Licenses We Defend
At the Stewart Law Group, we appreciate the contributions of a wide range of Arizona professionals. We assist the following types of employees and business owners with license defense:
- Daycare providers
- Insurance agents and brokers
- Real estate agents, brokers, and appraisers
- Healthcare professionals
Clearly, our firm accommodates a vast array of occupations. Each licensing board maintains unique procedures and requires sensitive legal representation. We’ve successfully handled a range of complicated board complaints, and are prepared to assist you with your current ordeal.
Arizona’s Professional Boards
State-authorized boards oversee a variety of professions in Arizona. Examples include:
- Arizona Department of Insurance. Insurance-related complaints may be filed with the Department of Insurance’s Fraud Unit, Investigations Division, or Market Oversight Division.
- Arizona Department of Health Services for child care facilities licensing. These complaints are typically filed by parents or guardians of children under the facility’s care.
- Arizona Department of Real Estate, which investigates Arizona real estate statute violations, but directs complainants with ethical concerns to the Arizona Association of Realtors®.
- Arizona Department of Financial Institutions (AZDFI). Once known as the State Banking Department, AZDFI provides licensing and regulation services for a variety of financial enterprises. These include state-chartered banks, debt management companies, loan originators, and trust companies, among others.
- The State Bar of Arizona’s Lawyer Regulation Department, with disciplinary action governed by Rules 41-74.
- Arizona State Board of Accountancy. The Board of Accountancy investigates complaints involving ethical violations, competency issues, felony conviction, and solicitation practices.
- Arizona Board of Technical Registration, which represents the following professions: engineers, architects, landscape architects, geologists, alarm agents, and home inspectors. Allegations are assessed by volunteer members of the Board’s Enforcement Advisory Committee.
The selection and obligations of various professional boards are outlined by several chapters in the Arizona Revised Statutes.
These statutes also address administrative duty, immunity from liability, reinstatement requirements, and several other concerns.
The Arizona Revised Statutes also address other non-health professions and the potential need for regulation. According to Arizona law, the exclusive purpose of regulating an occupation is “protecting the public interest.” Regulation only occurs if the state determines that a lack of regulation would endanger the public — and that public interests cannot be met through private certification. When you are being investigated, your best interests are not necessarily being considered, which is why strong legal representation is so important.
Examples of Common Allegations Targeting Arizona Professionals
Arizona’s finest professionals face a broad spectrum of allegations — many of which may be entirely unfounded. Complaints can be submitted orally or in written form. In select cases, the complainant’s identity can be kept private.
The following are just a few examples of accusations in various fields:
- Sexual misconduct. Definitions may vary based on the profession. In law, sexual misconduct would involve any inappropriate relationship between attorney and client.
- Unlicensed activity. This accusation often targets insurance brokers believed to have performed outside the scope of their license.
- Criminal charges and conviction. In many professions, a criminal conviction can be grounds for license suspension or even revocation. In some cases merely being charged can carry extensive licensing consequences. A lot depends on your occupation and the nature of the crime. For example, daycare providers may struggle after being convicted of crimes involving children or violence.
- Acts requiring a license while incarcerated. In select cases, conviction itself may not lead to license suspension, but use of the individual’s license behind bars could.
- Misrepresentation. A variety of professionals are barred from inflating their credentials or otherwise luring clients with blatantly untrue promises. In real estate, misrepresentation could also involve incorrect statements regarding a particular property’s material features. In the Arizona Revised Statutes, this concept is referred to as “authorization or publication of false statements.”
- Failure to supervise. Real estate brokers may be held liable for problematic agent conduct. Allegations of supervisory failure have increased in frequency alongside the expansion of brokerage firms. However, the potential for this complaint causes anxiety for even modest real estate brokerage firms.
- Poor record maintenance. The ADHS Division of Licensing Services views recordkeeping issues as serious violations, as they may open the door to severe misdeeds.
- Fraud. This can occur in virtually any industry. For example, the Registrar of Contractors revoked ROI Improvements’ license, barring the remodeling firm from practicing in the state of Arizona. This occurred in 2016, after clients came forward and accused the company of taking money and doing no work.
Complaints may also address rude conduct. Typically, this does not result in censure or license suspension, especially if the incident is isolated. However, some state licensing boards maintain separate divisions to address these concerns. For example, the State Bar of Arizona addresses less severe instances of unprofessional conduct through a special program. In select cases, Arizona’s State Bar may resolve disputes between lawyers and clients.
Why You Need Help From an Arizona Attorney
Whether you’re currently dealing with accusations of sexual misconduct, fraud, or misrepresentation, it’s crucial that you work with a respected license defense attorney. Your career depends on it. A mere complaint can cause professional catastrophe, even if you succeed in retaining your license.
Remember, your profession’s board or regulatory department does not have your best interests at heart. You are never guaranteed due process. In fact, it’s typically the board’s objective to protect the consumer. Don’t rely on it to safeguard your career!
In addition to improving your chances of an acceptable outcome, a skilled license defense attorney can help you handle the day-to-day aspects of your work. Stressed by the details of your case, you may otherwise let your business suffer. The right attorney can grant you valuable peace of mind during this ordeal, allowing you to focus on other urgent matters.
The concerns outlined above are particularly relevant for lawyers facing license review. Yes, you’re familiar with the local legal system, and yes, you’re confident in your abilities. That doesn’t make it wise to defend yourself. Whether you work in family law, personal injury, or any other practice area, your clients deserve your full attention during this difficult time. Let somebody else take on the burden of license defense.
What to Expect From the License Investigation Process
Call an attorney as soon as you suspect allegations have been made that could threaten your career. Early on, you’ll meet with your lawyer to discuss pending accusations, career history, and other relevant matters. You should come away from this consultation feeling confident about your prospects. However, your attorney should also alert you to the significant challenges that lie ahead.
Once a complaint has been filed, you should receive notice from the board or department responsible for your investigation. You may also receive a request for a written response.
Upon establishment of jurisdiction, an investigator will be assigned to your case. This person may seek employee files, police records, or third-party information in an attempt to discover the details surrounding the complaint. The investigator may also contact the person responsible for the complaint. In many cases this person’s name is a matter of public record. Occasionally, however, their identity will be kept private, especially if the department deems that accusations could place the complainant at personal risk.
For small business owners, complaint investigation often includes practice observation and thorough compliance inspections. It is therefore important to work with an attorney familiar with your industry to determine what, exactly, could constitute a breach of compliance.
Once the investigator has reviewed evidence and interviewed witnesses, this information is presented to the department or board responsible for licensing. The department then determines whether disciplinary action is warranted. Administrative action will only be pursued if a preponderance of evidence indicates the licensee’s guilt.
Upon reviewing evidence, the department may elect to write a letter of concern. Although this letter is technically ‘non-disciplinary,’ it remains a matter of public record and can therefore harm your career. If future complaints arise, the letter of concern may convince the department to revoke your license.
Consequences of Disciplinary Action
If your licensing board or department deems a complaint valid, you may suffer disciplinary action. Depending on the case, this could involve one or more of the following consequences:
- Decree of censure
- Mandatory participation in an educational program
- Restitution payments for affected clients
- Restrictions surrounding the licensee’s scope of service
- Certification suspension lasting up to three years
- Certification revocation
Faced with the potential for these consequences, professionals may elect to voluntarily suspend their license. This doesn’t result in a permanent loss of license; rather, it’s viewed as an opportunity for self-improvement prior to reinstatement. Often, however, professionals voluntarily surrender their license when fighting the complaint would be the better option. Never agree to license surrender until you’ve consulted with your attorney.
Unfortunately, consequences don’t end with the board’s official action. Even if you retain certification, you may find it difficult to find work. If you run your own business, you may face skepticism from potential clients. Disciplinary and non-disciplinary action — including milder consequences such as letters of concern — can be viewed by the public. Easily accessible online records may cause issues not only in your current field, but also if you strive to find work in a new profession.
Don’t sacrifice your career for the sake of a simple misunderstanding. You cannot afford anything less than stellar representation at this critical time. Work with the attorneys of the Stewart Law Group to reach a successful outcome. Call (602) 548-3400 at your earliest convenience to schedule a case consultation.