Psychologists Legal Defense
New York Psychologists Legal Defense
Long years of hard work and dedication go into becoming a psychologist and establish a sustainable psychological practice. The majority of licensed psychologists are devoted professionals who dedicate their lives to being there for people in need. Unfortunately, allegations of professional misconduct against New York psychologists come about often and can potentially be career-ending. The attorneys of Spodek Law Group have assisted numerous New York psychologists and social workers who were up against grave professional misconduct charges.
For starters, let’s talk about the general nature of the New York disciplinary process against psychologists and other mental health professionals as well as the potential outcomes and ramifications.
The majority of disciplinary matters that come against New York psychologists originate as patient complaints of professional misconduct. Although the list of what is professional misconduct in the state of New York includes roughly forty different items as defined by New York Education Law, the most frequent allegations psychologists must fight include the following:
- Sexual activity with patients
- Overstepping of boundaries with patients
- Abuse of controlled substances
- Practicing with negligence
- Being convicted of any crime in any state or jurisdiction
- Being professionally disciplined by other jurisdictions
- Allowing unlicensed staff members to carry out licensed duties
- Fraudulent billing practices
Because psychologists work with a vulnerable patient population, it would follow that they are held to a much higher degree of scrutiny by licensing authorities. This makes any allegation of misconduct especially egregious in its consequences for the professional’s career.
When the complaint comes into the office, it lands in the Office of Professional Discipline (OPD), which has authority and jurisdiction to conduct the investigation and to prosecute all cases of professional misconduct in New York. At some point, the subject of the investigation is informed by a letter that there is an open investigation into charges against them. When cases involve psychologists, the OPD will always ask for the licensee to produce patient records as well as that the psychologist comes in for an interview with the OPD investigator. It is critical that you realize that while production of documents is obligatory in such cases, interviewing with the investigator is not mandatory. In actuality, it could be and often turns out to be ruinous to the case. This is due to the fact that any statement made to the investigator can and will be used against the psychologist. In those cases involving one-on-one therapy sessions in general and cases of many patients who visit psychological practices, it often comes down to a “who said and did what” situation, which, in concert with patient records, may be extremely damaging to the practitioner, even if the allegations are not always true or are not entirely representative of what actually happened. This is why we always suggest that any psychologist up against a disciplinary investigation secure themselves legal counsel as soon as possible before replying to the OPD letter.
Bear in mind that the investigator’s main responsibility is to collect evidence against the subjects of their investigations, which is precisely what they are trained to do. When seeking out an attorney, make certain that they have specific experience in the highly specialized field of OPD defense. You should be extremely concerned if an attorney offers to accompany you to an OPD interview. If you give any statements that end up in a career-ending result, it is totally irrelevant that you were accompanied by a lawyer to the interview.
A knowledgeable attorney experienced in defending physiologists will go through your case with you in detail, contact and talk with the investigator, and then advise you on the best course of action from your end.
At the conclusion of the investigative process, the agency will decide whether or not the body of evidence supports filing formal disciplinary charges. The prosecuting attorney is assigned to your case and will get in touch with your lawyer to offer a proposal. You will be offered the option of going to a hearing or working out a consent agreement with the government. Your lawyer will explain to you the pros and cons of each option. If you choose to resolve the case by consent, you should be aware that this option is very much akin to a plea bargain in a criminal case. What this means is that you agree to cop to some form of misconduct in exchange for the negotiated deal, which includes some disciplinary action, which will normally become public record.
In the case of discipline, the possible options range from censure and reprimand to monetary fines to probation to license suspension or even revocation. It will all depend on the particulars of your case, particularly on the quality of evidence the prosecutor possesses, which is the reason that it is so critical to engage the attorney early on as the investigation progresses.
Through the years, we have been there for numerous mental health professionals including psychologists and social workers in cases running just about the entire spectrum of legal dilemmas they can face in the state of New York. We have an impressive track record defending psychologists in front of the OPD as well as law enforcement agencies like the Attorney General’s Office and the local District Attorney’s offices. We also represent psychologists when they are dealing with insurance and medicaid billing problems.
If you are a licensed New York psychologist up against legal dilemmas, give us a call today to schedule your immediate confidential consultation.