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How criminal charges can affect your medical license

Facing criminal charges is no walk in the park for anyone. Licensed professionals such as doctors can suffer from additional repercussions if a conviction ensues.

The North Carolina Medical Board has the power to decide the consequences in each specific case. According to the law, license revocation may ensue upon conviction of a crime of "moral turpitude," a crime related to practicing medicine or a felony.

Moral turpitude

The concept of "moral turpitude" can cover a wide range of transgressions. Generally, authorities tend to interpret it as the kind of crime that shows a deeper moral flaw rather than simply an issue of breaking the rules. For example, something like jaywalking will likely not fall into this category. On the other hand, crimes that harm others or create the risk of harm to others, such as DUI, are more likely to demonstrate moral turpitude. This category also typically includes crimes of violence or dishonesty.

What affects the practice of medicine

The Board may also employ a fairly wide view of what crimes affect the practice of medicine. Primarily, this category would include crimes such as health care fraud or criminal negligence in treating patients. However, the Board may consider a physician who commits a DUI as someone who cannot be trusted to control her or his alcohol intake and may therefore present a risk to patients.

Felony convictions

Unlike the above two categories where revocation is optional and the Board may choose to impose other types of discipline, a felony conviction means automatic revocation unless either the Board specifically rules not to revoke or the doctor asks for a hearing within 60 days of getting the notice of revocation.

Obligation to disclose

Physicians applying for a license or for a renewal must disclose convictions, including guilty pleas. Withholding information can itself result in revocation. Because the Board has discretion, it may impose alternative penalties such as license suspension.

For a physician, even a relatively minor conviction where you would have to pay just a small fine can ultimately put your entire future on the line. For this reason, it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible in order to mount an effective defense.

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