A medical doctor's job is among the most demanding jobs in society. Before engaging in medical practice, a person must complete the relevant training and get a license to practice from the appropriate licensing organization. According to California Business & Professions Code 2052, practicing medicine without a legal license is a crime that carries serious penalties. California laws are set forth to safeguard its citizens against the risk of receiving healthcare services or treatments from unlicensed individuals.
A conviction for unauthorized medical practice could have serious professional and personal repercussions. Some of the penalties for this violation include serving a jail term and paying monetary fines. If you are the subject of such accusations, you can defend yourself by retaining the services of a criminal defense attorney from the Chula Vista Criminal Attorney.
The Definition of Unauthorized Practice of Medicine Under California Business and Professions Code 2052
If you're accused of unlicensed medical practice, it's because you're allegedly doing any of the following without a valid practicing license:
- Practicing or attempting to practice advertising or claiming to offer treatment for any kind of illness or ailment
- Diagnosing or identifying, performing surgery on, administering treatment for, or providing prescription medication for an ailment, disease, deformity, blemish, disorder, injury, disfigurement, or any other physical and mental issues
- Plotting with someone else to engage in the aforementioned actions, or protecting and helping that individual
It is crucial to point out a few words or phrases utilized in this statute to fully understand what it means. These phrases and terms are:
No Physical Illnesses or Injuries are Necessary
There is no requirement that a patient suffers any harm or injury to be convicted of the crime of practicing medicine without a license.
The prosecuting attorney is also not required to prove that you meant to hurt or injure your patients. In other words, there need not be a victim for the person who committed the unlawful act of unauthorized practice of medicine to receive their punishment under the law.
An immigrant who was a prominent medical professional in his or her home country would violate US federal laws if he or she tried to start practicing medicine without first obtaining a state license.
Even if you charge people for basic consultations with the best intentions, and nobody is likely to be harmed as a result of the way you operate, what you're doing is against the law. You will therefore be charged with unlawfully practicing as a medical doctor and be subject to harsh punishment.
Treatment and Diagnosis
Unauthorized practice of medicine involves the diagnosis or treatment of any physical or mental illness without a valid license. The statute defines diagnosis as the application of any tools, techniques, or processes to determine whether an individual is mentally or physically ill.
This also restricts the use of machines like blood pressure monitors. However, it is not against the law to take someone's weight or measure their height.
The term "treatment" under this law refers to all authorized medical procedures like the prescription of drugs or administration of injections. The same law outlaws practicing other forms of medicine without a valid state license, including hypnosis and acupuncture.
For example, it's against the law to advertise that you offer hypnosis-based weight loss solutions without having a valid license to offer medical services. Medical practice without a license is penalized under Section 2052 of the California Business & Professions Code.
A Physical or Mental Condition
It is against the law to treat any mental or physical ailment that is not one of the easily identifiable illnesses, conditions, or injuries. For example, you cannot advertise any services to pregnant women if you do not have a valid license to offer midwifery services.
This implies that it is against the law if you attempt to help a woman who is giving birth and bill her for your services, even if the lady does not require any medical assistance during the process of giving birth.
Normal childbirth and pregnancy are certainly not diseases or ailments, but the law recognizes them as physical circumstances. This means that to provide any midwifery services and bill the patient, you need to have a practicing license; otherwise, you'll be working illegally.
The Business & Professions Code section 2052, which forbids the unauthorized practice of medicine, is only relevant in California. Therefore, while it may be legal to practice medicine in certain states without a license in California, doing so is against California state laws.
Generally speaking, this law states that to treat and diagnose a patient, regardless of whether you're a healthcare professional who is licensed in the US, you need to be licensed by a California medical licensing board.
It is illegal to practice medicine in California unless you have a valid license from the state. If you provide medical services to a California resident without having one, you may be subject to criminal charges.
For example, Lauren has a medical license for Denver but is not authorized to offer medical services in California. Kris is a California resident. She becomes ill and needs prescription medication. Kris chooses to fill out a questionnaire about her symptoms and how she feels on a certain website that offers online prescription drugs.
Lauren, the Denver-based doctor hired by the website's owner to serve as a consulting physician, receives the questionnaire and reviews it. After reviewing her responses, she prescribes medications for Kris and emails the prescriptions to her.
If this occurs, Lauren will be charged with unauthorized practice of medicine because she illegally offered medical services in California. However, she wouldn't be charged with this offense if she held a California medical license.
Running a Medical Practice Without a Medical License
In California, it's against the law for someone to operate or own a medical facility or clinic without a valid medical license. This means that it is illegal to carry out medical operations even though you've got licensed medical professionals working for you and don't perform the medical procedures yourself.
For example, Brandon is the owner of a clinic that specializes in conducting medical examinations for those seeking claims for worker's compensation. Jim, a qualified doctor, is hired by Brandon because he lacks a medical license to carry out the medical procedures.
Since Brandon is not a certified doctor but instead operates a healthcare facility and derives income from it, he will be found guilty of engaging in unlawful medical practice.
Jim will also be found to be in breach of California Business & Professions Code 2052. The court will charge him in this instance of facilitating the practice of medicine without a license.
California Penalties for Unauthorized Practice of Medicine
The prosecutor may file a misdemeanor or felony against you if you are found guilty of this violation. The prosecutor's decision is supported by:
- The nature of the act, such as whether a victim suffered injury or became ill as a consequence of the defendant's conduct.
- The criminal history of the accused.
If found guilty, the following penalties apply if the violation is charged as a misdemeanor offense:
- Misdemeanor or summary probation.
- Incarceration in county jail for no more than a year.
- Monetary fines of up to $1,000.
The following legal penalties apply if this offense results in a felony conviction:
- Felony or formal probation.
- County jail sentence of sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months.
- A monetary fine of up to $10,000 could be imposed or substituted for the time served behind bars.
Civil Liability for Unauthorized Practice of Medicine
A person who commits this offense could be subject to a civil lawsuit from dissatisfied customers in addition to receiving criminal punishment and penalties. Any person who suffered suffering or injury as a result of your unlawful medical practice could sue you in court for damages.
If the judge finds that you had been negligent when rendering these services without permission, she or he could award the complainant punitive damages. Your financial security could be affected by the high cost of punitive damages because your insurer will not cover you given that you were operating illegally and were not licensed.
Factors to Take into Account Before Coming Up With a Defense Strategy
A lawyer can help you build a defense against charges of illegal medical practice by pointing out any loopholes in the prosecution's case. Your attorney will help you with matters about your legal defense, such as maintaining the chain of custody for the evidence used against you as well as any violations of your legal rights.
There are important aspects that you need to understand while your defense counsel is putting together your defense. These include:
Having Good Intentions Cannot Be Used as a Legal Defense
It is irrelevant that your actions led to a good outcome. The law still considers it illegal to offer your medical services without a valid license, even if the patient was satisfied with the treatment.
You will still violate this law even though you had no intention of causing harm to your patient and your acts were done to assist them. Ironically, good outcomes cannot assist you in defending yourself, but hurting a patient increases the penalties you receive.
If one of your patients was hurt as a result of your activities, you could be accused of a felony, which has harsher punishments than a misdemeanor offense.
Offering Routine Medical Services is not Defense For This Offense
Other defendants could try to justify their actions by claiming that the help they gave another person wasn't medical. Even if you did not receive medical training, your lawyer will still be able to counsel you on certain services that are deemed medical.
For example, you need a license to offer acupuncture services in California. The same holds for midwifery services; you need a license to charge clients for your services. When unsure of what services call for a license to operate, it is usually wise to speak with a legal professional before providing any services to a patient.
Legal Defenses Against Unauthorized Practice of Medicine Charges
When someone is suspected of unlawfully practicing medicine, a criminal act is categorized under white-collar crimes. But because of the risks that the licensed practitioners are putting patients in, the law takes this violation very seriously.
Additionally, even if the offenders were law-abiding people and well-intentioned, there are numerous horror stories linked to this offense. You will not be exempt from prosecution if you unintentionally broke the law by offering medical services without a proper license or authorization from a California regulatory body.
If you are accused of practicing medicine illegally, fighting the accusations needs to be your top priority. The likelihood of obtaining a good result and protecting yourself rises when you hire a criminal defense attorney to defend you against the allegations.
Your attorney will develop appropriate defenses after reviewing the case and any evidence presented by the prosecution. Below are a few of the defenses your attorney can use:
What You Did Does Not Qualify as a Practice of Medicine
It is getting harder and harder to describe medical practices in today's world. In California, for example, people follow various kinds of healing rites that originate from different regions. These procedures have nothing in common with well-known standard Western medicine.
For instance, people who have ailments work with their coaches each day who offer them advice on how to deal with their problems. Similarly, patients are constantly on the lookout for new, inexpensive methods to address their health issues.
Even if your actions do not fall under the standard definition of medicine, you could still be accused of practicing medicine unlawfully. In this case, your skilled criminal lawyer will assist you in presenting your defense and demonstrating your innocence of engaging in illegal medical practice.
Criminal proceedings frequently involve false accusations. People that spread false information do so for a variety of reasons, with revenge being among the most common ones. If you are unjustly accused of medical practice without a license, you will face unfair prosecution. Additionally, it could result in an unjust sentence for the crime.
Even if you're not a doctor, you might have an unsatisfied former customer who thought you provided medical services when you didn't. They could erroneously allege that you practice medicine without a license because they wish to seek revenge against you.
Moreover, if you have a business associate or coworker with whom you disagreed, that person might craft malicious accusations against you.
Due to their expertise in dealing with false accusations, the majority of criminal defense attorneys are aware of the right questions to pose to gather the information that reveals what's true and disproves the lies. In addition, your lawyer will call witnesses and specialists to provide evidence in your favor and refute the accusations made against you.
You Belong to a Self-Help Group
When dealing with a health issue, some people come together to share their experiences and offer support and guidance to one another. These organizations do not hold medical licenses or have authorization to give medical services.
If your advice was just based on what you're doing in the self-help group, it would not be considered practicing medicine. Your legal representative will present evidence in court asserting that you are a member of a group by naming other people in the group as witnesses. The court will dismiss the allegations against you when the defense convinces the judge and jury of your innocence.
You Didn't Make Money Off the Services Offered
You might've regularly assisted an individual who required it without asking them to pay for the services. For example, you might be retired from the medical field then you encounter a patient who requires assistance. It is not against the law to help them.
However, you are breaking the law when you charge them for your services while you do not have a medical license. Your attorney may contend that you didn't charge any money for the assistance you offered because you were only helping someone in need. If it's convincingly demonstrated, the allegations could be dropped.
The same is true if you were a midwife before switching careers; you are still able to help someone. If you offer help to a woman who is in labor to deliver her baby before help arrives, you will not be held responsible for this crime as long as you did not get paid for your services.
Unlicensed Medical Marijuana Practice
Even though marijuana usage for recreational use for those over 18 became legal in 2018, using medicinal marijuana without a prescription is still prohibited. California's Compassionate Use Act permitted the medical use of marijuana.
Not everybody is allowed to consume medical cannabis or has a prescription for it under this law. Laws governing medical practice and those governing illegal medical practice are intertwined and can lead to legal issues.
You would break the law, for example, if you ran a marijuana shop and hired a physician to diagnose and prescribe cannabis to your clients. You cannot operate this kind of dispensary if you do not qualify as a medical professional who is authorized to provide marijuana-related medical advice.
You could be charged with operating a medical facility without a legal license, along with the medical professional you have employed. The licensed physician will be charged with helping to facilitate the operation of an unlawful clinic.
Improper Use Of Titles Or Letters
It is unlawful to utilize any of the terms mentioned below on any business card, sign, advertisement, or letterhead if you aren't a certified medical professional in California.
- "Dr." prefixes
- "M.D." initials
- Any additional letters or terms that suggest you're a surgeon or physician
This is charged as a misdemeanor offense. The possible penalties include a monetary fine of no more than $1,000 or a prison sentence of no more than six months in county jail.
Commonly Asked Questions
Defendants who are subject to these accusations may often have many questions about the practice of medicine in California. Among them are:
What are the Penalties For Practicing Medicine In California Without a License?
Penal Code Section 2052 provides for a maximum prison sentence of three years if you have been found guilty of violating California's Business & Professions Code 2052.
What Involves Practicing Medicine in California Without a License?
In California, it is illegal to treat, diagnose, or even advertise that you are capable of treating any mental or physical disease without a license. This is what is known as the unauthorized/illegal practice of medicine.
Can You Be Charged With Violating the Professions Code 2052 If You Work as a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants often work without a license. They simply provide administrative assistance or other services as part of their job. However, in California, you could be charged for breaking Code 2052 when you treat or diagnose a patient.
Is It A Violation of the California Business & Professions Code 2052 to Host or Assist in the Organization of a Silicone Party?
Yes. It is a violation of the code even if you're the one administering the silicone shots. You are still going to require licensing, regardless of how extensive the cosmetic operation is.
Are There Repercussions For Recommending a Patient to an Unlicensed Doctor?
Yes. You could be charged for these offenses under Code 2052 when you collaborate, help, or run an unlawful medical practice. It is against the law to intentionally recommend someone for treatment to a facility like this or a physician. Nevertheless, you will not be guilty of any wrongdoing if you were unaware that the healthcare professional was not legally licensed or was engaged in illegal medical practice.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you have been accused of unauthorized practice of medicine, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to defend you in court. At the Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we are committed to representing clients who have been charged with these and other related crimes. Our Chula Vista defense attorneys can help you clear up any misunderstandings, have the charges dropped, or help you obtain a favorable sentence. Call us today at 619-877-6894 to schedule your consultation.