Frequently Asked Questions

How does license discipline work in California?


Governmental regulatory boards oversee license approvals, as well as disciplinary actions against licensees that have been accused of unethical behavior, professional misconduct, or those who’ve been charged with a crime. In California, most license discipline matters are decided by a formal hearing process under the Administrative Procedure Act. Professional license defense attorneys step in to represent licensees during these matters, and their key areas of focus can be divided into application appeals, discipline defense, and petitions for reinstatement.


What do I do if I receive an Accusation?


After your licensing board accuses you of professional misconduct, you’ll have 15 days to respond to the accusation in order to contest it. If you miss the deadline, your license can be disciplined by default. Before taking action to file the Notice of Defense, we recommend you seek advice and representation from an experienced State Board License Defense lawyer.


Can I ask for reconsideration?


After an Administrative Law Judge has heard your case at a hearing, and issued their proposed decision, you may petition for reconsideration. Reconsideration provides the opportunity to reevaluate the situation given new evidence and legal arguments. A licensee or license applicant can ask an agency to reconsider its decision in whole or part within 60 days after receiving the claim. If reconsideration is granted, you may have to appear before your licensing board for an administrative hearing.


What happens at an administrative hearing?


During the hearing, you will appear before either the members of your professional licensing board or an administrative law judge. It is similar to a trial, but there is no jury. In the proceedings, both parties provide facts, evidence, and arguments for their respective cases in an attempt to reach a resolution.


What happens after an administrative hearing?


Following a hearing, the license board or the administrative law judge will render a verdict that will be circulated to all parties in writing. The licensing agency then has 100 days to accept or reject the proposed decision. If you disagree with the ruling, the written decision will include information regarding filing an appeal.


Can a licensing case be settled?


Most clients first hear about the opportunity for a Stipulated (negotiated) Settlement in the Statement to Respondent. The Statement to Respondent notifies the Respondent that they can contact the attorney for the Board or the Agency to negotiate a settlement offer. An experienced professional license attorney is experienced in the ways to negotiate the best settlement for you.


Can I get my revoked license reinstated?


Most licensees can restore licenses through filing a Petition for Reinstatement. The waiting period varies depending on the industry. In California, doctors and nurses have to wait at least three years to petition to get their medical license back if it was surrendered or revoked because of professional misconduct. If the doctor’s or nurse’s license was surrendered or revoked because of a mental or physical illness, they could file a petition to reinstate their license at least one year later. A real estate broker or salesperson can petition to get their license back at least one year after it was revoked. An engineer can petition to reinstate their license at least three years after their license was revoked. The California Department of Insurance does not set a specific amount of time before insurance brokers can apply for a reinstatement of their license. If an insurance broker reapplies for their license within five years of it being revoked, however, the Department of Insurance can deny the license without a hearing, and the five-year period begins again.


Can I continue to practice my profession?


No two situations are alike, and you can never tell for sure how a licensing board will respond to a professional misconduct accusation or a criminal conviction. According to the California Business and Professions Code, a professional can have their license suspended for a crime “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the licensee was issued.” In some cases, a licensee is granted permission to practice during the pendency of his or her investigation.


Do I need to hire a criminal defense and professional license defense attorney?


As in a traditional court of law, you have the choice to represent yourself during your administrative hearing. However, it is best that you seek representation because an effective licensing attorney will prep you for your hearing appearance and ensure that you receive the best possible outcome for your case. While a criminal defense attorney will fight to prevent a conviction, license defense attorneys will fight outside the courtroom to prevent licensing boards from revoking your professional license. License defense attorneys have experience in the following areas: representing professionals in front of their licensing boards at hearings, helping navigate the license application process if the professional already has a criminal record, appealing licensing board decisions if the license was denied, and petitioning licensing boards for reinstatement.


How much does it cost to hire an attorney?


Unlike most law firms, you can expect to receive a competitive flat fee for our services. Depending on the complexity of the case, legal fees can vary greatly. To request a consultation, please go to


How do I pay for an attorney?


Unlock legal accepts all forms of payment accepted at any major service firm, including American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover credit cards, as well as debit cards, cash or check.




Accusation: The Accusation is the legal document that initiates the formal disciplinary proceedings against a California licensee. The Accusation gives the licensee notice of what the licensing agency is seeking and why. It is a public record and is analogous to a criminal complaint which, once filed, starts the criminal proceedings against the accused.

Administrative Hearing (also known as a board hearing): A trial-like court proceeding that takes place before a governmental agency or regulatory board. Although hearings are similar to traditional criminal or civil court trials, they differ in that they are almost always conducted as bench trials.

Administrative Procedure Act (APA): The APA provides a legal overview for rulemaking procedures and standards for state agencies.

Application Appeals: The act of defending a license applicant when their license is denied. A competent professional license defense lawyer defends an applicant after a denial or a “Statement of Issues” has been filed against them.

Discipline Defense: The act of defending practicing licensees when their license is facing discipline because they’ve been accused of professional misconduct, unethical behavior or a crime.

Notice of Defense: A legal document provided by the licensing agency with the accusation, and in the case of a license denial, with the Statement of Issues. Licensees and some license applicants may submit it to their licensing board to preserve their right to a hearing after receiving an accusation or denial. Per the Code (Government Code section 15506), the Notice of Defense is a request for hearing and a general denial of all of the allegations in the accusation. If the Notice of Defense is not filed timely the licensing agency can take the licensee or the license applicant’s default. A default means the harshest sanction possible – a revocation or a license denial – is imposed.
Petitions for Reinstatement: The act of representing a former licensee who’d like to re-enter their career field after having a license that has been suspended or revoked.

Statement of Issues: Documents that state the reasons an applicant should be denied a license. Upon receiving an Accusation or Statement of Issues, a Notice of Defense must be promptly filed in response to the Accusation or Statement of Issues to preserve the right to a hearing.

Statement to Respondent: A notice intended to educate a licensee or license applicant about their most important rights and obligations. A statement to respondent must contain the following: obligation to request a hearing within 15 days or default, evidence that the agency has against you, opportunity to postpone a hearing, and right to counsel.

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