In California, it is unlawful to engage in the unauthorized practice of medicine. Unlawful practice of medicine entails practicing medicine without a valid medical license. The law is outlined under the California business and profession code 2052. According to the statute, engaging in various activities without a professional license is unlawful. For example, you may face conviction when you are unlicensed and advertise yourself as offering or practicing treatment for affliction or illness.
Unlicensed doctors should not operate, treat, prescribe or diagnose medication. The conviction may result in adverse consequences like jail time. Therefore, when you face conviction for a crime, you want to seek legal help as soon as possible.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, our competent and well-experienced attorneys can help you fight the charge of unauthorized practice of medicine in California. We have helped numerous people with similar charges in Los Angeles, CA, escape the severe penalties.
Overview of Unauthorized Practice of Medicine in California
It is essential to note that for you to face conviction for the unlawful practice of medicine, no patient needs to develop an illness or suffer bodily injuries. You do not need to have the intent to harm the patient. The crime of unlawful practice of medicine is victimless. It means even when there is no victim of the crime, you can still face conviction for the crime. When you face accusations of unauthorized practice of medicine in California, you will only face conviction if your case meets the following:
- Confess the accusations.
- Agreeing to a plea bargain, including accepting a conviction for the crime.
- You go through a case tried by a criminal court judge, and the court finds you guilty of the crime.
When you decide to fight the allegations, the prosecution team must prove the critical elements of the unauthorized practice of medicine. It means the prosecution team must determine the elements of the offense. Alternatively, your attorney will work hard to create doubt about the case to have the case dropped. The following activities in California may translate to unauthorized practice of medicine:
- Practicing or trying to practice medicine, treatment of various afflictions or ailments, or promoting any form of medicine.
- Identifying, determining, performing surgeries, prescribing drugs, treating deformity, blemish, injury, disease, psychological or physical conditions.
- Facilitating, helping, or colluding with a person involved in the above activities.
Unlawful Practice of Medicine by Medical Assistants
According to California laws, medical assistants may also face charges for violating PC 2052. Note the medical assistants do not have a medical licenses. Under professions & business code 2052, medical assistants do not have the authority to assist healthcare workers in performing their duties. The assistants cannot face conviction provided they perform technical or administrative services. The assistants only face conviction when diagnosing or treating the patients.
Medical assistants can also face criminal convictions when they perform minor operations. For example, you face conviction when administering silicone without a professional license. The law in California requires you to have a medical license even when you perform cosmetic procedures.
Lastly, you can face charges for unlawful practice of medicine by referring a patient to an unlicensed doctor, even if you hold a professional license. It is illegal to conspire, aid, or abet the practice of unauthorized medicine in California. Otherwise, you face severe penalties for violating Profession and Business code 2052.
No Ailment or Injury is Required
Under California law, several elements are not included in the definition of unauthorized practice of medicine. According to the law, no person must suffer harm or injuries from the unauthorized practice of medicine. In addition, the law does not require a plan to cause injuries or harm anyone.
Under the definition of crime, the unlawful practice of medicine can be conducted without the presence of victims. But even without the complainants or the victim, you can also face severe penalties under the law. For example, Jane, a doctor from another country, decides to further her studies in the US. After settling in the country for several months, she realizes many people lack proper medical care.
Since she is in California to further her studies, she pays a low fee for a check-up from her house. Although no one files a claim against her, the court can charge her with unlawful practice of medicine. Remember, good intentions are not an excuse for the unlawful practice of medicine.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Under California law, you violate BPC 2052 when you do the following without a license:
- Evaluate or diagnose a patient.
- Offer medical treatment to anyone for a physical or psychological condition.
The law outlines that diagnosis may involve any procedure, device, or method to determine a patient's condition. Note-taking a person’s height or weight does not violate the law. Therefore the unlawful practice of medicine involves using injection, prescription, or unconventional therapies like hypnosis or acupuncture. For example, Mark can help many people lose weight through hypnotism.
Despite his claim, he does not have a professional medical license. However, he proceeds to advertise his business. According to the law, Mark has violated the law by claiming to treat mental and physical conditions without a professional license.
Physical or Mental Ailment
You may face conviction for the crime when you claim to treat physical or psychological ailments without authorization. Note the business and professions code 2052 only applies in California. It means you are not allowed to offer diagnosis or treatment to the residents of California without a professional license. You can also face conviction when you offer your services through social media and diagnose or treat a California patient. So, when you face allegations of the unlawful practice of medicine, you want to seek legal help from your attorney. The attorney will guide you throughout the legal process.
Penalties for Unlawful Practice of Medicine in California
Practicing medicine without legal authorization attracts severe penalties. The law considers the crime a wobble. Therefore you might face either a felony or misdemeanor charges. When you face a felony charge, your conviction may occur at the DA’s office. Alternatively, when you face a misdemeanor charge, your conviction could occur at the city lawyer's office.
Even when you face either a misdemeanor or felony charge, the prosecution team must provide enough evidence before your case proceeds to the trial hearings for the court to determine the guilty verdict. According to California law, the court will consider two main factors regardless of whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges. The first factor to consider is the facts surrounding the case. When your offense is severe, you face a felony charge.
For example, when the unlawful practice of medicine results in deaths or severe bodily injuries, you face a felony charge. Again, the prosecution team may consider your criminal history to determine your case. If you have a past criminal record for violating PC 2052, you face a felony charge. You face a misdemeanor charge if you do not have a past criminal record.
When you face a felony charge, you remain in jail for 36 months or serve felony probation. Felony probation has more terms and conditions than misdemeanor probation. The judge may order you to visit a probation expert regularly. When you violate the terms or the conditions of the probation, the court may revoke the probation and impose a jail term. Alternatively, a misdemeanor charge attracts a sentence for at least 12 months, or the court requires you to serve misdemeanor probation. While serving misdemeanor probation, the law requires you to visit your probation expert regularly.
When you work in a clinic owned and controlled by unlicensed people, the prosecutor may charge you with a crime. If you are a licensed doctor in California working in an unlicensed clinic, you may fight the charge by arguing you never knew the clinic was unlicensed. When this is your case, the prosecutor may file a misdemeanor charge against you. Under California law, a doctor may face professional discipline when convicted of misdemeanor or felony charges of unauthorized medicine practice. When you face professional discipline, you risk losing your professional license.
You might also face civil liability for unlawful practice of medicine in addition to the initial charges. The patient may sue you when the unlawful practice results in injuries or harm. The criminal court judge may assume you were negligent in providing the medical services. The patient may also file a lawsuit for the medical costs they incur because of the unlawful practice of medicine. Again, the patient may sue you for the lost wages for the period they were away from work because of the sustained injuries.
The law also allows the patients to file a claim for lost earning capacity if they find it challenging to resume their jobs because of the injuries sustained in the unauthorized practice of medicine. The court may impose punitive damages against you. The punitive damages focus on punishing the practitioner for avoiding repeating the criminal behavior in the future.
Owning a Clinic While Unlicensed pc 2052
Owning a clinic or part of medical practice without a valid license in the medical field violates pc 2052. You may violate pc 2052 even when you did not treat a patient. Owning the clinic is enough to earn you conviction.
The law also applies to operating medical marijuana dispensaries. Medical marijuana clinics require licensed doctors to examine, diagnose and treat patients. In California, only medical doctors with a valid license may own a medical license. When an authorized person benefits from a medical facility, the person engages in the authorized practice of medicine. Again, being a licensed doctor, you may face charges for violating PC 2052. You do so by agreeing to practice medicine in a clinic owned by an unlicensed person.
Strategies to Fight PC 2052 Charge
The conviction for the crime can attract severe penalties. You still have the opportunity to challenge the prosecutor's evidence. When charged with violating PC 2052, you must know the possible consequences of the offense.
Your primary objective must be protecting yourself against the charges. Seek legal help from an aggressive criminal defense attorney who understands the California legal system and the best way to defend you in court. Remember, before you face conviction, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime.
However, your criminal defense attorney should challenge the prosecutor's evidence by challenging the credibility. Remember, the criminal defense attorney you go for will highly determine the possible outcomes of your case. A passionate and experienced criminal defense attorney is highly recommended. The following are the potential legal defenses your attorney can employ to fight your charges:
You Did Not Practice Unlawful Medicine in California
Nowadays, it takes work to define the practice of medicine. For example, many healing traditions from different parts of the world are practiced in the state. The practices differ from the commonly known western medicine. For example, many people with health issues work daily with their trainers to overcome their health problems.
Also, consumers search for cheaper and new alternatives to curb their health issues. Therefore, it is possible to face the allegation of practicing medicine illegally. Your attorney must come up with evidence to convince the court that you do not practice medicine as defined by the law.
Victim of False Allegations
Do you know you can be falsely accused of unauthorized practice of medicine in California? False accusations are common in many criminal cases. The people making the false accusations usually have their reasons for doing so. The most common reason for false accusations is revenge. Therefore, you are subject to wrongful conviction when you face false allegations of practicing medicine illegally. Wrongful prosecution can also lead to wrongful conviction.
If you are not a medical expert, your client may feel unsatisfied with the services you offer them. Since they want revenge, they might accuse you of practicing medicine without legal authority. Also, when you have a business colleague, and you disagree, the partner might make false accusations against you. Many criminal defense attorneys in California have handled similar cases. Your attorney knows which evidence to collect and support your claim. Your attorney may also present experts or witnesses to testify on your behalf. Once you do so, the court may drop the charges.
You Never Profited from the Medical Practice
Sometimes you might offer medical services to help people without charging them. For example, you stop practicing medicine and find someone requiring your services. When you assist them, it is not unlawful. However, you will be guilty of violating the law when you charge them a fee and do not have a practicing license.
Your criminal defense attorney may argue you merely assisted and you did not charge the complainant. Also, if you practiced medicine but changed your career, you can help a needy person. For example, if you come across a woman in labor and decide to help her deliver before the medical professionals arrive, you cannot face charges for the crime.
Evidence plays a vital role in the success of every case. The side with sufficient evidence has the greater opportunity to win the case. If the prosecutor has insufficient evidence, you may not face conviction for the crime. In many cases, the court drops the cases of unauthorized practice of medicine because of poor investigations and delays in the investigation. Your criminal defense attorney can take advantage of the case situation and challenge the evidence presented against you. The criminal court could dismiss or reduce the charge.
You and Medical Assistant Did Not Violate the Law
Does the law in California require medical assistants to hold a professional license? Medical assistants in California do not need to have a medical license. So, the medical assistant does not have the authority to practice medicine independently. They only have the authority to assist the medical officers.
Therefore if the medical assistant performs administrative and technical services, they cannot face conviction. If this is your situation, you have a valid defense to fight the charge. You only need to present evidence to support your claim. Once you do so, the court will drop or reduce the charges.
You Engage in a Self-help Group
You might challenge the prosecutors' claim by arguing you are a self-help group member. The criminal court will more likely not convict you if you present sufficient evidence that you did not practice unauthorized medicine but participated in a self-help group. You only need to present evidence to support your claim that you are a self-help group member. After doing so, the court will drop your charges.
Other Related Offenses
The following are the crimes charged alongside the unauthorized practice of medicine:
Practicing Law Without a License
Like other professions, attorneys want to have a license to practice law. Although license requirements differ from state to state, it is unlawful to practice law without obtaining a license. If you practice law without a license, you commit a criminal act. The following are the activities you may face charges after engaging in:
Holding Yourself as an Attorney
Practicing law includes acting as a lawyer or someone entitled to engage in law practice. For example, when you rent a building, then put a sign saying it is a law firm and you're not a licensed attorney.
Representing Others in Court
Only a lawyer must represent someone in court. The lawyer represents you in administrative proceedings, mediation hearings, and administrative proceedings. If you are not a licensed attorney, it is unlawful to negotiate on someone's behalf, especially when the negotiations involve legal responsibilities.
However, you may not face conviction for practicing law when you represent yourself in court. The law permits you to represent yourself in court without an attorney's assistance if you can prepare legal documents, legal pleadings, medical directives, etc.
Preparing Documents on Someone's Behalf
Choosing the documents one should create or assisting someone in creating legal documents is the unauthorized practice of law.
Only lawyers want to give people legal advice on their rights, how to protect them, and other legal advice. However, this does not mean speaking to someone about the law is illegal. Again, it allows you to advise or provide information to someone on what they want to do. Unauthorized practice of law involves advising someone or providing them with legal information about the actions they want to take about their case pretending to be an attorney.
Penalties for Unauthorized Practice of Law
The unauthorized practice of law may either be a misdemeanor or felony offense. The penalties for violating unauthorized practice of law include:
- When convicted of the crime, you face jail or prison sentences. A misdemeanor conviction attracts a service in county jail for one year. A felony conviction attracts a service of five years in prison.
- You also pay restitution fees to the victim to compensate for the losses.
- You also comply with probation conditions.
Doctors prescribe medical marijuana to patients who meet specific requirements to use it legally. There are requirements you have to meet to qualify for medical marijuana. Failure to meet the requirements of California law charges medical marijuana alongside the authorized practice of medicine.
A person owning a medical marijuana cooperative faves unauthorized practice of medicine. If you operate a medical marijuana cooperative and hire unlicensed doctors to examine patients and issue them medically. Marijuana to the patients, you may violate pc 2052.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Practicing unauthorized medicine in California can have negative consequences in your life. Therefore when you face the charge, you want to seek legal help from an attorney to clear the misunderstanding, obtain a favorable sentence or have the court dismiss your charges. Whatever your objective might be, a competent criminal defense attorney will help you obtain your objectives.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we understand the process might be confusing. We build evidentiary records early to increase the chances of winning the case. If you are seeking legal help in Los Angeles, CA, we are here for you. Contact us at 424-333-0943 and talk with one of our passionate attorneys.