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California Dentist Criminal Convictions and License Discipline

By Spodek Law Group | January 22, 2023
(Last Updated On: March 14, 2023)

Last Updated on: 14th March 2023, 09:14 am

California Dentist Criminal Convictions and License Discipline
In the state of California, dentists and hygienists may have their professional license suspended or revoked if they face certain criminal charges. Also, the Dental Board of California could disqualify aspiring dentists and hygienists from getting licenses for either:

  1. obtaining a criminal conviction within the prior seven years that was substantially related to nursing duties; or
  2. obtaining a criminal conviction from any time that is classified as “serious”, like murder, rape, or grand theft; or
  3. obtaining a criminal conviction from any time that requires the applicant to register as a Tier II or Tier III offender

The California Criminal Defense Lawyers at our firm have experience helping dentists and other professionals to keep their licenses in disciplinary actions.
In this article, you will learn about how criminal convictions can impact your dental license in California. If you still have questions after reading, feel free to contact our California Criminal Defense Lawyers for a consultation.
We will cover:

  1. What body regulates dentists in California?
  2. What types of convictions can bring about Board discipline?
  3. Will I be able to fight for my license?
  4. Can I use the 7-year rule to disqualify my past conviction?

In the state of California, dentists and hygienists may have their professional license suspended or revoked if they get a criminal case.
What body regulates dentists in California?
The Dental Board of California is the body that oversees dentists, dental assistants and dental assistants with extended functions. It operates under the California Department of Consumer Affairs with the mission is to protect dental patients in keeping with the Dental Practice Act.
This body has the authority to discipline licensees via reprimands, probation, or suspending or license revocation for unprofessional conduct, incompetence, individual and repeated acts of negligence and criminal convictions.
What types of convictions can bring about Board discipline?
Board discipline can happen due to any criminal convictions that is “substantially related” to the qualifications, functions, or activities of a dentist or dental assistant.  Any substantially related convictions that are discovered during the application process for a license can form the basis for Dental Board’s denial of that license.
 What is considered a “substantially related” conviction?
The category   “substantially related” convictions appears to be rather broadly.  It includes within its ambit any crime or act “if to a substantial degree it evidences present or potential unfitness of a licensee to perform the functions authorized by his license in a manner consistent with the public health, safety, or welfare.”
If you are in question about a conviction on your record,  you should consult with an attorney.
Convictions: Defined for Dental Licensing
For the purposes of the Dental Board, a conviction can include any felony and misdemeanor conviction that is secured through a guilty plea, a verdict, or a “no contest” plea.  Included in this definition are convictions that may later be expunged.  That said, getting a conviction expunged can helps to show evidence that you have been rehabilitated from your crime.
Nevertheless, the Dental Board can take disciplinary action at its discretion even if you successfully complete a court-ordered diversion program.
Licensed Dentists and Sex Offenses
If you are convicted of a crime requiring registration as a sex offender, your license will get revoked. The legislation is clear in this instance and does not leave room for probation.  The only exceptions to this rule include situations in which registration has been terminated or the registration is for misdemeanor indecent exposure.
The Role of Rehabilitation
In the process of determining whether and how to discipline a licensed dentist, the Board must consider whether the licensee has been rehabilitated from his or her criminal activity.
The Board takes the following into consideration:

  1. the severity of the crime
  2. the licensee’s overall criminal record
  3. the time that has passed since the offense was committed
  4. the licensee’s compliance with any connected probation or parole terms
  5. proof of expungement
  6. other proof of rehabilitation

Regarding expungement:  Although the conviction is still recognized by the Board, if you have met the requirements for expungement, this can become a mitigating factor in favor of rehabilitation.
Other ways to demonstrate rehabilitation include counseling, remedial education, reference letters, and 12-step programs, to name a few.  These will be helpful in your case. The goal is to satisfy the Dental Board that you have sincerely come to terms with your crime, that are remorseful and that you are committed to making better choices in the future.
It is worth noting that the law says that a Dentist license cannot be denied solely on the basis a felony conviction in cases where the applicant has received a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to the Penal Code or on the basis of a misdemeanor if the applicant has met all rehabilitation criteria set forth above.
Be Honest with The Board
The Dental Board looks favorably upon honesty.  Therefore, it behooves you to be truthful in answering application questions about convictions on your record.  The Board has a number of ways of uncovering concealed convictions, including background checks.   Any deceit it discovers can, in and of itself, become a basis for discipline.  Furthermore, court clerks are required to submit copies of convictions and other information to the Dental Board.
Additionally, an in-house Enforcement Unit staffed by sworn peace officers investigates complaints on the Board’s behalf.  This is another way the Board can discover concealed convictions.
Best practice is to consult with a lawyer knowledgeable in this area if you have any doubts.
Will I be able to fight for my license?
Indeed, you can fight to keep your dental license. You have the legal right to contest adverse denials and disciplinary charges by the Board. This holds true if you receive a statement of issues notifying you that you will have to demonstrate your fitness to continue to practice at a hearing.  You can also contest if you already hold a license and you receive an accusation notifying you that the Board is looking to discipline you.  In either circumstance, you are entitled to a hearing, but you must respond quickly in order to exercise that right.
You should contact a lawyer as quickly as possible in a situation like this.
Your Dental Board Disciplinary Hearing
The hearing will take place before an administrative law judge. A representative from the California Attorney General’s Office will make the case for the Board.  You, or you and your lawyer, will be able to present testimony and evidence in your defense.
The judge then evaluates the evidence and testimony and issue a proposed decision to the Board.
If you don’t get the outcome you were seeking, you may file an appeal to the state trial court in the form of a writ of administrative mandamus.
After all of this, if you still end up losing your dentist license, in most scenarios you will eventually be able to petition the Board to have it reinstated.
Can I use the 7-year rule to disqualify my past conviction?
This depends on the kind of offense.  In California, the Dental Board of California can deny people a dental or hygienist license if they have been convicted in the past seven years of a crime that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of dentistry. (Scroll up to review question 2, where we covered “substantially related” convictions.)
In addition, the Dental Board may deny people from getting their dental or hygienist license if they have a criminal conviction — no matter how old — for certain egregious criminal offenses.

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