California Criminal Arrests, Convictions and Doctor Discipline

California Criminal Arrests, Convictions and Doctor Discipline

At What Point Can the Medical Board Suspend Your License?

If you have ever been charged with a drug or sex offense, you’ll quickly discover that the legal and medical worlds can intersect in an unsavory way. Criminal arrests or convictions can negatively impact your license to practice medicine.

Are you caught up in a net of criminal and disciplinary action? If so,  our California Criminal Defense Attorneys might be able to help. We represent physicians and other healing arts professionals with license discipline matters. We’re only a phone call away.


In this article, you will learn about criminal convictions and physician discipline in California. If you still have questions after reading it, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

We will cover:

  1. What regulating body oversees doctors in California?
  2. What convictions can invoke Board discipline?
  3. Will I be able to fight for my license?


What regulating body oversees doctors in California?

Physicians and allied healthcare professionals, including licensed midwives and medical assistants, are regulated the Medical Board of California, a state governmental agency under the auspices of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Disciplinary action that is conviction-related can take the form of warnings, probation, license suspension or even license revocation.


According to the Medical Board’s Disciplinary Guidelines, probation conditions may include such measures as biological fluid testing, community service, psychiatric evaluation and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) permit surrender, among others.


On top of your livelihood being at stake in a discipline case, your reputation is also on the line. Potential patients and interested parties can access your discipline-related documents with just one click on the Board’s website, including discipline summaries which are published in medical board newsletters.


What convictions can invoke Board discipline?

Any criminal conviction that is “substantially related” to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a doctor can bring about Board discipline.

This “substantially related” requirement is based in statute and in the US Constitution. A person’s legal right to practice their chosen profession of medicine may only be impeded for a reason that directly brings your fitness to practice into question

“Substantially related” Defined

What qualifies as a substantially related conviction?  No concise and easy answer to this question exists.  In actuality, a broad array of convictions appears to be included.


Some of the crimes that are classified as “substantially related” to the practice of medicine, according to statutes, cases and Medical Board documents are:

  • Any Medical Practice Act violations
  • Offences requiring registration as a sex offender8
  • Murder (Penal Code 187 PC)
  • Rape (Penal Code 261 PC)
  • Lewd acts with a minor (Penal Code 288 PC)
  • Drug offences
  • DUI – driving under the influence
  • Conviction as an accessory to medical fraud

This list is by no means an exhaustive.

If you have any questions about the “substantially related” criterion, you should consult a California criminal defense attorney regarding the possibility of disciplinary consequences for your specific conviction.


A conviction can include felonies and misdemeanors secured through guilty pleas and California jury trial verdicts, “no contest” pleas and even convictions that might later be expunged under California Penal Code Section 1203.4

The Board can take disciplinary action against you even if you successfully complete a court-ordered drug diversion program such as Penal Code 1000.


For the most part, the Board can respond to a conviction even when the time for appeal has passed, the judgment has been affirmed on appeal, or an order granting probation is made.

In scenarios where a licensee has been incarcerated after conviction of a felony, the Board takes expedited action.

Misconduct Off-the-Job

Alcohol-related driving offenses have the potential to form the basis for physician discipline.

One appellate court examined this issue in the case of a physician who was convicted of three alcohol-related driving offenses.  “In relation to multiple convictions involving driving and alcohol consumption,” the judge held, “we reject the argument that a physician can seal off or compartmentalize personal conduct so it does not affect the physician’s professional practice.”

The court’s position was one of prevention rather than cure.

Reporting Requirements

As a board licensee, your obligation according to Section 802 to disclose convictions doesn’t end when you submitted your license application. Unlike in other California professionals, doctors have an ongoing duty to report any felony and misdemeanor convictions as well as felony indictments to the Medical Board.


Can I fight for my California medical license?

At multiple stages in the enforcement process, you have an opportunity to challenge (or negotiate with) the Board as to discipline and/or penalty.

You might be able to convince the Board that your conviction does not fit the “substantially related” criterion or that less severe discipline is warranted because of mitigating factors.

You may also have a statute of limitations defense or be capable of demonstrating rehabilitation.

Additionally, you have the right to a hearing before an administrative law judge on the Medical Quality Hearing Panel.

Should your license get revoked in spite of your best efforts, rehabilitation efforts can help you get your license reinstated down the road.


The journey through professional discipline can be difficult.  Nevertheless, if you stay the course it can lead you back to where you want to be – a place and position where you can use your valuable skills and expertise as a member in good standing of the healing arts.


The California Criminal Defense Attorneys at Spodek Law Group Can Help.

If you or a loved one is a doctor who got charged with a criminal offence and you are looking to get a lawyer, we invite you to contact us at Spodek Law Group. We offer a free consultation in office or by phone.

You might also be interested in reading our related professional discipline articles on Nurse License

For more information visit:

California Department of Consumer Affairs

Center for Public Interest Law