In the wake of several sex scandals in politics and the entertainment industry, medical professionals and other human resources departments have become much more cognizant of both real and false workplace sexual assault claims. While much of the attention has turned to potential civil lawsuits, the more dangerous threat for medical professionals is the potential criminal and licensing issues associated with sex crimes in the medical community.
Civil Lawsuits vs. Criminal Investigations
While the media often portrays sex assault allegations against doctors, dentists, and physical therapists as civil lawsuits, the danger these professionals face goes well beyond the monetary damages associated with a civil action. For many medical professionals, the bigger concerns are criminal consequences and the effect that a false sexual assault allegation will have on the professional’s license.
It is not unusual for a medical professional who has been accused of sexual assault to become the target of investigations by the hospital, the state licensing agency, and the state prosecutor’s office.
The proactive measures one might take in a licensing case could be detrimental to a criminal case and vice-versa. For example, a doctor accused of unwanted or inappropriate sexual touching may wish to make several affirmative statements denying the allegations that might sit well with the department of health and human services, but at the same time establish the probable cause that the county attorney’s office needs to file charges and make an arrest.
The problem comes when the medical professional defends his license and makes admissions about persons with whom he interacted and times at which he interacted with them. Often, the medical professional, while defending his professional license, is unwittingly establishing probable cause for law enforcement to arrest him.
However, while defending against potential criminal charges should be the priority, actions taken solely for the purpose of a criminal defense may make it difficult for the medical professional to defend his or her license.
What Is an Attorney’s Best Course of Action?
Even a simple third-degree sexual assault (sexual assault with no penetration) carries a sentence of up to a year in jail, a $1000 fine, and 15 years in the sex offender registry. There is also the threat to the medical professional: If he or she loses a professional license, he or she will never be allowed to practice in the health care field again.
Fortunately, these types of claims can be successfully defended. The key is that actions taken during the professional license defense phase do not increase the probability of a criminal arrest. The lawyer defending the medical professional must be careful to comply with all the disciplinary board’s requirements, while not taking any action which would further expose the professional to criminal liability. When this is done successfully, the medical professional walks away from the false allegation without criminal charges and with license intact.
When these types of cases are handled incorrectly, an innocent medical professional risks losing both his license and his liberty.
Contact Berry Law Firm
The attorneys at Berry Law Firm have been defending medical professionals against false sexual assault allegations for decades. To learn more about actions medical professionals can take to protect themselves from criminal convictions and the loss of professional licenses, contact us today.