Undoubtedly, being a medical doctor is among the most challenging professions. You must undergo thorough training at a recognized school and obtain a practicing license to practice medicine. Practicing medicine without a valid medical license is a serious offense that can attract severe and life-altering consequences upon conviction, including incarceration and significant fines.
If you are under investigation or charged with unauthorized practice of medicine offenses in Santa Ana, our experienced legal team at Darwish Law is here to help. We will work tirelessly to prepare the best defenses to help you challenge the allegations through every stage of the legal justice system to secure the best possible outcome, including a reduced charge or lighter penalties.
Unauthorized Practice of Medicine: Definition Under the Law
The crime of unauthorized or illegal practice of medicine under the Business and Professions Code (BPC) 2052 occurs when an unlicensed individual attempts to treat or diagnose any mental or physical problem. Specifically, this statute makes it illegal to do the following without a valid and up-to-date professional license:
- Practice, attempt to practice, and advertise yourself as practicing any way or technique of treating affliction or illness, including modern and traditional treatments.
- Diagnose, treat, and prescribe any medication for physical and mental ailments.
- Conspire with or aid another person in engaging in any of these activities.
BPC 2052 is a comprehensive law and extends beyond the simple act of a person posing as a medical practitioner while knowing he/she does not have a medical license. If you do not hold a valid medical license, the prosecutor could obtain a conviction against you for a BPC 2052 violation even if the following is true:
- No one sustained an injury or any harm because of your unlawful practice.
- You legally own a medical clinic or hospital, but you never treat patients yourself.
- You are a licensed medical practitioner in another state.
In a few words, you violate this statute when you diagnose or treat a physical or psychological illness without a valid medical license. In understanding the legal definition of BPC 2052, it is critical to highlight a few phrases or terms used in it, including:
No One Becomes Sick or Suffers an Injury
For you to be guilty of a BPC 2052 violation, the prosecutor does not have to prove another person was injured or sick due to your illegal medical practice activities. Even if you did not intend to hurt your patient, the prosecutor could obtain a conviction against you for a BPC 2052 violation if he/she can prove all elements of the crime at trial.
Physical or Mental Condition
The prosecutor must also prove that you attempted to treat a person with a physical or psychological health issue or ailment to be guilty under BPC 2052. For example, if you do not have a practice license to offer midwifery services, the prosecutor could secure a conviction against you for a BPC 2052 violation when you offer these services to any woman with a normal pregnancy.
Even if normal pregnancy or childbirth are not afflictions or ailments, they are still physical conditions that require you to have a valid license to treat.
Diagnosing or Treating Another Person
According to BPC 2052, “diagnosing” means using any instrument, device, procedure, or method to establish whether a person suffers from a mental or physical condition. On the other hand, “treatment” includes all practices we typically recognize as “medical,” including prescribing drugs, giving injections, and unconventional treatments like acupuncture and hypnosis.
Potential Penalties for a BPC 2052 Violation
The court will convict you of a BPC 2052 violation if the prosecutor can prove the above facts beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. A BPC 2052 violation is a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecutor could file misdemeanor or felony charges against you, depending on the circumstances of your case and criminal history.
If the prosecutor files your charge as a misdemeanor, you should expect the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor probation.
- A jail term not exceeding one (1) year.
- A fine amounting to up to $1,000.
On the other hand, a felony conviction for a BPC 2052 violation will carry the following potential penalties:
- Felony probation.
- A fine of not more than $10,000.
- 16 months, two years, or three years of incarceration in the county jail.
Even after conviction, an aggressive attorney can raise mitigating arguments during the sentencing hearing to obtain the minimum punishment.
Aside from the above criminal penalties, a disgruntled client can file a civil lawsuit against you to secure damages for his/her losses.
Probation Conditions and Terms to Expect Upon a BPC 2052 Violation Conviction
Depending on the facts of your case and your attorney’s mitigating arguments, the judge presiding over your case could award you probation instead of jail time. However, you must be ready to abide by strict conditions during your probation period. Common terms and requirements the court could require you to comply with include the following:
- Pay fines and damages.
- Perform community services.
- Agree to regular check-ins with a probation officer.
- Submit to random searches by the police or a probation officer.
- Remain arrest-free.
The specific conditions the court will set will depend on the particulars and facts of your unique case. You should speak with your attorney whenever you have doubts or questions about what you can and cannot do while on probation.
If you fail to comply with these terms and conditions for the required period, the probation officer will inform the court to issue an arrest warrant, authorizing the police to arrest you.
After an arrest on suspicion that you have violated the terms and requirements of your probation, the judge will schedule a hearing to determine whether the allegations are true. You will have the right to challenge the allegations with the help of your defense attorney.
If found guilty of this crime, the judge could revoke your sentence and send you to jail for the maximum period required for your offense conviction. With adequate and convincing mitigating arguments, the court could also decide to reinstate your probation with the same or more stringent conditions.
Factors to Remember When Formulating Your Defenses for the Alleged BPC 2052 Violation
If you are under arrest on suspicion that you were practicing medicine illegally, there are a few factors your attorney will bring to your attention as you prepare your defense. Your defense attorney will help you with issues like:
- Questioning the available eyewitness.
- Determining whether arresting officers violated your legal rights.
Even if your attorney can prepare the needed defense arguments on your behalf, there are two key facts you need to understand, including:
Having Good Intentions or Motives is not an Applicable Defense
Even if you had the best intentions for the patient, meaning all you wanted was to treat or heal him/her, the prosecutor could secure a conviction against you for a BPC 2052 violation. According to a BPC 2052, offering medical services without a medical license is a crime, even if your patient healed or benefited from the diagnosis or treatment.
Ironically, arguing that the patient benefited from your treatment is not an applicable defense, but if he/she sustained an injury, the prosecutor would file your case as a felony.
Providing Routine or Regular Services Will Not Work as a Defense
Arguing that the services you provided the patient were not medical is not a viable defense to challenge the alleged BPC 2052 violation. Your defense attorney will help you understand which services qualify as “medical” under BPC 2052, even if you are not a doctor by profession. For instance, offering acupuncture services without a valid license is illegal under this statute.
Viable Defenses to Challenge the Alleged BPC 2052 Violation
Every case is different, meaning the defenses your attorney will use are unique to your case. Commonly applicable defenses that could work to your advantage to obtain the best possible outcome at trial include:
You are a Victim of False Accusations
The alleged BPC 2052 violation is an offense ripe for false allegations. The individual making the false allegation could have his/her reason for doing it, but the main reasons include jealousy or a motive to avenge unresolved disagreements.
The worst part about being a victim of false accusations is that the case could result in a wrongful prosecution for a crime you did not commit. A seasoned attorney understands how false accusations could impact your life and will work tirelessly to gather the necessary evidence, including eyewitness testimonies, to help expose lies in your case for the best possible outcome.
You Did Not Make a Profit From Your Deeds or Services
Your defense attorney can argue that you did offer medical services to the person, but you did not charge him/her. If you have retired from practicing medicine and come across an injured person, helping him/her is not unlawful.
However, the prosecutor could obtain a conviction against you for a BPC 2052 violation if you received money for the services because you do not have an active medical practicing license.
Your attorney can argue, with proper evidence, that you offered medical help to the person but did not receive payment for these services. The judge could drop or reduce the charges you are up against when this defense works to your advantage.
Your Deeds Do Not Qualify as a Practice of Medicine
In this modern-day world, several gray areas are involved when defining what qualifies as a practice of medicine. With people increasingly seeking alternatives to conventional medicine, there are now several treatments that do not qualify as a practice of medicine.
For instance, many people with health problems nowadays prefer to work with personal massage therapists and trainers to help them heal and overcome their issues. A seasoned attorney can intervene and help you convince the court that your services do not qualify as a “practice of medicine” as defined under BPC 2052.
The Prosecutor Has Insufficient Evidence Against You
For a BPC 2052 violation conviction, the prosecutor presiding over your case must provide sufficient evidence to convince the jurors or judge beyond a reasonable doubt that the allegations you are up against are true. If your attorney’s defense arguments raise doubt on any element of the crime, you will not be guilty of a BPC 2052 violation.
You are an Active Member of a Self-Help Group
A skilled attorney can challenge the prosecutor’s case against you by arguing that you are a self-help group member. If your attorney can provide clear evidence to support this claim, the court could drop or reduce the charges.
You Were Legally Licensed
It is a valid defense to argue that you have a valid medical practice license or were unaware that it was invalid or expired when you offered medical services to a patient.
Offenses Similar to the Alleged BPC 2052 Violation
The prosecutor could file a few other related or similar offenses against you instead of or alongside the alleged BPC 2052 violation because they share similar or related facts. Some of these offenses include:
Unauthorized or Illegal Practice of Law
You can legally practice law as long as your membership status in the State Bar is active. If you are not a trained attorney or your membership in the State Bar is suspended or revoked, you cannot practice law.
Like a BPC 2052 violation, a conviction for the unauthorized or illegal practice of law will attract severe penalties. Although, in many cases, the prosecutor will file this offense as a misdemeanor, it is chargeable as a felony under certain circumstances, particularly if you have a disbarred or suspended law practice license.
When the prosecutor files your offense as a misdemeanor, a conviction will carry a jail term of up to six (6) months and a fine not exceeding $1,000. However, if charged as a felony, a conviction will attract the following legal penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Sixteen months, two years, or three years of detention in the county jail.
Unauthorized or Illegal Use of Letters or Titles
Using letters and titles without the authority to do so is a crime. If you do not have training or a license to practice medicine, it will be unlawful for you to use any of the following titles in an advertisement, letterhead, or business card:
- The term “physician.”
- The term “doctor.”
- The prefix “Dr.”
- “M.D.” initials.
Generally, this crime is chargeable as a misdemeanor with the following potential penalties upon a conviction:
- A jail time of not more than six (6) months.
- A fine not exceeding $1,000.
- Misdemeanor probation.
Prescription Fraud by Medical Practitioners
According to Health and Safety Code (HSC) 11153, it is illegal for a medical practitioner to prescribe a controlled substance to anyone without a related diagnosis or legitimate medical reason. Like a BPC 2052 violation, the prosecutor will file this offense as a felony or misdemeanor because it is a wobbler.
A misdemeanor conviction will carry an incarceration sentence of up to one (1) year and a fine not exceeding $1,000. Conversely, a felony conviction for an HSC 11153 violation will carry harsher penalties, including:
- A fine amounting to up to $10,000.
- Jail time not exceeding three (3) years.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Unauthorized Practice of Medicine Offense Under BPC 2052
Defendants under arrest or charged with a BPC 2052 violation will ask several questions to know what they are up against and what to expect. Common FAQs about this offense include:
Could I be Charged with a BPC 2052 Violation When I Refer a Friend to an Unlicensed Nurse?
Yes. BPC 2052 makes it a crime to aid, conspire, or abet another person to practice medicine without authorization or a medical license. Knowingly referring a patient or participating in collaborative medical activities with an unauthorized or unlicensed person can attract a criminal charge under BPC 2052.
Is it Illegal for a Medical Assistant to Practice Medicine?
Yes. Medical assistants have no qualifications to practice medicine and can only perform technical support or administrative services assigned to them. When a medical assistant diagnoses or treats a patient, he/she could be charged and convicted of a BPC 2052 violation.
Could I be Charged With a BPC 2052 Violation for Facilitating or Running a Silicone Party?
Yes, that is particularly true if you are the person performing silicone injections. You need proper medical licensing, even if the cosmetic procedures you are offering are minor.
Find a Seasoned Defense Attorney Near Me
Aside from the possible severe criminal penalties, a BPC 2052 violation conviction will remain on your criminal record, negatively affecting your reputation and professional life. If you are under arrest or charged with the crime of unauthorized practice of medicine under BPC 2052, a skilled attorney can help solve the misunderstanding, have the charges dropped, or obtain a favorable sentence.
At Darwish Law, we are understanding and passionate about helping clients with DUI charges or related allegations. If you need the services of an experienced and aggressive attorney in Santa Ana to help you challenge an alleged BPC 2052 violation, we are here and ready to help you.
We invite you to call us at 714-887-4810 to discuss the details of your unique case with our attorneys for quick intervention and necessary legal representation to obtain a desirable outcome.