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Will I lose my professional license with federal drug conviction in New York?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 05:02 pm

Will I Lose My Professional License with a Federal Drug Conviction in New York?

Getting convicted of a federal drug crime can have devastating consequences for your professional career. If you hold a license to practice medicine, law, nursing, or another profession, a drug conviction could mean losing that license and your livelihood. This article will cover how federal drug convictions can impact professional licensing in New York, potential defenses, and steps you can take to try to save your career.

New York’s Mandatory License Revocation Laws

New York has some of the toughest laws in the country when it comes to revoking professional licenses after drug convictions. Under state law, convictions for felony drug sales or possession will result in mandatory license revocation for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, accountants, and many other professions[1][2]. For example:

  • Doctors and nurses will lose their medical licenses.
  • Lawyers will be disbarred.
  • Teachers will have their certifications revoked.
  • Financial professionals will lose necessary registrations.

Unlike some states, New York does not give any discretion – loss of license is automatic upon a qualifying conviction. Even misdemeanor drug possession can be enough in some cases. And it does not matter if the offense happened out of state or in federal court – New York can still revoke a state-issued license[3].

Federal vs. State Charges

Many drug crimes can potentially be charged at both the state and federal level. Federal charges often carry harsher potential sentences, but the rules around professional licensing may be different. For example, a federal drug conviction does not automatically disbar a lawyer in New York, while a state felony conviction requires permanent disbarment[4].

However, federal charges can still get you in major trouble with state licensing boards. After a federal conviction, New York (and most other states) will launch an investigation and can pursue disciplinary action like revocation, suspension, or probation. So while disbarment or license revocation is not guaranteed with a federal drug conviction, it is still a very real possibility in New York[5].

Avoiding Mandatory Revocation

Is there any way to avoid mandatory license revocation in New York if you’re facing federal drug charges? Here are some options that may help:

  • Plea to a non-drug charge – If possible, try to negotiate a plea deal where you plead guilty to a non-drug charge like simple possession of paraphernalia. This avoids triggering the mandatory revocation law.[6]
  • Diversion programs – Some federal diversion programs like drug court may let you avoid a conviction completely if you comply with the requirements. This also avoids license revocation.
  • Deferred adjudication – Similar to diversion, this delays entering a conviction pending completion of probation. If probation is completed, charges are dismissed. This can prevent license loss.
  • Expungement – In some cases, you may be able to get a federal conviction expunged later on. If successful, this can remove the offense from your record and potentially save your professional license.

However, these options are not guaranteed and depend heavily on prosecutors’ willingness to negotiate. Avoiding the mandatory license revocation laws can be very difficult in New York.

Federal Drug Charges Defense Lawyer

If you’re a licensed professional facing federal drug charges in New York, the first step is contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A skilled attorney knows the complex interaction between state and federal law. They can advise you on the risks to your professional license and build the strongest defense to your charges. This gives you the best chance at avoiding mandatory revocation.

An attorney can also negotiate with prosecutors for one of the options above that may prevent license loss. In some cases, they may even be able to get charges reduced or dismissed completely. The stakes are high, so it’s essential to have an expert legal advocate on your side.

Appealing License Revocation

If you do end up losing your professional license in New York after a federal drug conviction, there still may be ways to fight it:

  • Administrative appeal – You can appeal the licensing board’s decision. This involves requesting a formal hearing to present evidence and arguments on why your license should be reinstated.[5]
  • Court appeal – If the administrative appeal fails, you can take the licensing board to state court and argue their decision was “arbitrary and capricious.” This is hard to win but is possible in some cases.[5]
  • Expungement – Getting the conviction expunged from your record can sometimes form the basis for getting your license back. But expungement of federal offenses is difficult.
  • Presidential pardon – In rare cases, a presidential pardon may be granted and remove a federal conviction from your record. This can allow applying for license reinstatement.

However, appeals are complex and uncertain. There’s no guarantee of getting your license back once revoked. Avoiding revocation in the first place is critical.

Other Consequences of Drug Convictions

In addition to loss of licensure, a federal drug conviction can bring other life-changing consequences including:

  • – Years or decades in federal prison
  • – Massive fines up to $10 million for large-scale trafficking
  • – Forfeiture of assets like cash, property, and vehicles
  • – Federal drug felony makes you ineligible for many public benefits like public housing and student loans
  • – Loss of voting rights in many states
  • – Potential deportation for non-citizens
  • – Difficulty finding future employment and housing

These severe collateral consequences demonstrate why fighting federal drug charges is so crucial, especially for licensed professionals. An experienced federal criminal defense lawyer can advise you on all the potential penalties you face and build the strongest case for avoiding them.


Here are some key takeaways on federal drug convictions and professional licensing in New York:

  • – Felony drug convictions, even federal ones, can mean mandatory license revocation
  • – Avoiding conviction through plea deals or diversion programs is likely your best option for saving your license
  • – Work with an expert defense lawyer to fight the charges and negotiate the best resolution
  • – Diversion programs and deferred adjudication may allow avoiding license loss
  • – If revoked, licenses can be very difficult (but not impossible) to get back
  • – Conviction brings many additional consequences beyond licensure

Losing your professional license is a real risk if you are a doctor, nurse, lawyer, or other licensed worker facing federal drug charges in New York. But an experienced lawyer can help you navigate this complex area of law and give you the strongest defense. The stakes are high so it is critical to act fast and get the right legal help on your side.

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