In Florida, most professional occupations are governed by a board or agency that not only credentials qualified individuals to practice in their chosen fields but disciplines them if they run afoul of applicable rules.
Related boards are grouped into departments. For example, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for the regulation of healthcare practitioners in the state, while the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is charged with regulating non-health professionals, such as cosmetologists, real estate agents and veterinarians.
If action is taken against your license, or if you are being investigated, you need attorneys who are familiar with the maze of administrative agencies and boards and understand the specific process for each.Boards Under DOH Oversight >>
- Board of Acupuncture
- Board of Athletic Training
- Board of Chiropractic Medicine
- Board of Clinical Laboratory Personnel
- Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling
- Board of Dentistry
- Board of Hearing Aid Specialists
- Board of Massage Therapy
- Board of Medicine
- Board of Naturopathic Examiners
- Board of Nursing
- Board of Nursing Home Administrators
- Board of Occupational Therapy
- Board of Opticianry
- Board of Optometry
- Board of Orthotists and Prosthetists
- Board of Osteopathic Medicine
- Board of Pharmacy
- Board of Physical Therapy Practice
- Board of Podiatric Medicine
- Board of Psychology
- Board of Respiratory Care
- Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
- Barbers’ Board
- Board of Accountancy
- Board of Architecture and Interior Design
- Board of Auctioneers
- Board of Cosmetology
- Board of Employee Leasing Companies
- Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers
- Board of Landscape Architecture
- Board of Nursing Home Administrators
- Board of Pilot Commissioners
- Board of Professional Engineers
- Board of Professional Geologists
- Board of Professional Surveyors and Mappers
- Board of Veterinary Medicine
- Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board
A board may deny a license to an individual, refuse to renew a license, or take any number of actions against an existing license up to and including permanent revocation.
The reasons for such action are wide and varied, including:
- Entering a plea to a criminal offense
- Having a disciplinary action taken against a license in another jurisdiction
- Practicing beyond the scope of the license
- Failing to comply with educational course requirements for domestic violence or HIV
- Being unable to practice with a reasonable level of skill due to illness or impairment
- Creating false or incorrect charts
- Failing to report to DOH any person who the licensee knows is violating DOH rules
- Aiding or advising another person to practice in a manner contrary to board or DOH rules
- Failing to repay a student loan issued or guaranteed by the state or federal governments
- Exercising influence on a patient for the purpose of financial gain
- Interfering with an inspection or disciplinary action
- Testing positive for any drug that has not been lawfully prescribed
A board may also refuse to renew a license, and it can also take any number of actions against an existing license up to and including permanent revocation:
- Refusal to certify a license application to DOH
- Restriction of practice
- Imposition of administrative fines
- Issuance of letters of concern or reprimand
- Placement on probation
- Suspension of license
- Revocation of license
The disciplinary process varies from profession to profession and board to board, but in general, the Department (Department of Health or Department of Business and Professional Regulation) initiates an investigation when a legally-sufficient written and signed complaint is filed.
An anonymous complaint may also be investigated if 1) it is in writing; 2) the alleged violation is substantial; and 3) the Department has reason to believe after a preliminary inquiry that the allegations are true.
It is important to note that the Department may investigate and act on a complaint even if the original complainant withdraws it or indicates a desire not to proceed. the Department may also initiate an investigation on its own if it has reasonable cause to believe that a licensee (or group of licensees) has violated a Florida statute, a Department rule, or a board rule.
While a licensee (also called the “respondent” or the “subject”) is usually given notice that an investigation has been opened, the Department may investigate without notifying the respondent if the state surgeon general and the board chair agree in writing that notification would be detrimental to the investigation. Notice may also be withheld if the act being investigated is a criminal offense.
If an investigation is initiated, the Department has two choices.
If the violation is a minor one and a first offense, the Department may choose to send the licensee a notice of noncompliance offering the opportunity to cure the violation. If the respondent fails to take corrective action within fifteen days, the Department may resume disciplinary proceedings.
Otherwise, the Department will appoint an investigator to handle the case and send a notice of investigation to the respondent, which informs him or her about the allegations and provides twenty days to submit a response. The investigator has six months in which to submit a report to the probable cause (PC) panel detailing his or her findings and the Department’s recommendations as to whether or not PC should be found.
Note that while the Department can dismiss a case for insufficient evidence, the PC panel has the power to retain independent counsel, retain investigators, and continue the prosecution of the case.
Once the panel receives the report and accompanying materials, it has 15 days within which to request additional information from the Department. After that, the panel has 30 days to make a determination as to whether PC exists to believe that a violation has occurred. (Both the 15- and 30-day deadlines can be extended by the state’s surgeon general.)
Depending on the circumstances present in the case, the panel may choose to issue a letter of guidance instead of a finding of PC. Such a letter is considered a successful outcome, as a finding of PC results in the panel directing the Department to file a formal complaint against the respondent and prosecute it pursuant to Florida Statutes chapter 120.