If you hold an advanced degree or certification, you are understandably held to a higher level of ethics and intelligence. These kinds of people are doctors, lawyers, dentists, architects, nurses, and accountants. They can also be commercial truck drivers, teachers, police officers, and real estate brokers. Nearly all professional careers can be affected by a criminal charge. They underwent education and difficult examinations to become professionals in their fields. They are considered to be experts in their field; someone uniquely positioned to administer professional advice. Not surprisingly, in the event they err (whether intentionally or negligently), the penalties can be grave. An attorney will be able to defend against any allegations of malpractice or civil liability, provided the attorney has solid experience in defending professionals.
Unfortunately, when professionals are affected by criminal prosecutions (even if they have nothing to do with their careers), in many states, it can inevitably affect their professional license. Thus, the attorney must understand all the collateral consequences of any kind of involvement with the criminal justice system, including a firm grasp on the practice of administrative law as well as criminal law. This means that many times the professional has to defend their actions both in criminal court and before the state licensing entity (such as the Health Board or State Bar)- meaning double the defense work. An attorney must understand the effects of pleading or trying a case in criminal court on your professional license – a guilty plea can be disastrous for someone holding a professional license. It can mean the end of their career.
In New York, however, no professional license shall be suspended because of a criminal record unless there is a direct relationship between the criminal conduct and the specific professional license or unless there is a risk that continuation of the license would unreasonably risk the property, safety or welfare of the general public or individuals. The law allows professionals to demand written explanation within 30 days of being denied a professional license based on a criminal record. An attorney can help you draft this demand and determine if the denial or suspension of the license can be challenged.
New York has also been decidedly lax in many of its administrative challenges for professionals who hold a license. Unlike many other states, New York does not require nursing license applicants to undergo background checks or submit their fingerprints. Further, New York is known to have a delayed system to actually discipline nurses who commit crimes or ethical violations directly related to their career, such as stealing drugs or providing inept care. One example – in early 2014, one nurse was penalized by the state department for overdosing a patient on insulin that nearly killed him, but the Office of the Professions (charged with administering nursing licenses) has yet to take any action against her nursing license. The same year, the Office disciplined less than 350 licensees, while in Texas, disciplinary action occurred in nearly 2,300 cases.
Regardless, an attorney will be able to guide you through the procedural traps of both administrative and criminal courts in the event you are charged with criminal activity. It is still a good idea to seek out someone with some administrative experience, even if your charge has no connection whatsoever to your professional license, on the off-chance that you have to report the crime and it could affect your career.