Monterey License Attorney


Registered Nursing

Being a nurse is challenging, though rewarding at the same time. As a nurse, nurse practitioner, licensed vocational nurse, or advanced practice nurse registered by the BRN (California Board of Registered Nursing) or Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT), you have devoted your life to assisting in caring for other people. Therefore, when accused of professional misconduct, dealing with the allegations and the charges that may hinder you from doing what you love is excruciating.

At Monterey License Attorney, we are defense lawyers who know the necessary steps to safeguard your license, enabling you to continue practicing your profession. If a BRN investigator has conducted you, the BRN has denied you a license, you have received a formal accusation, or you are facing an administrative hearing, call us as soon as possible to know your options and defend your rights.

The BRN Role

The BRN primarily regulates California registered nurses, which entails safeguarding patients and ensuring professionalism and quality care prevail. It also issues nursing licenses to people who have met educational requirements and other professional standards.

To achieve their roles, the board has set up various disciplinary guidelines, which they refer to when imposing disciplinary action against nurses considered incompetent or negligent in their discharge of duties or those convicted of a crime substantially related to a nurse’s duties, functions, and qualifications. The guidelines detail the recommended disciplinary action for violations of the Business and Professions Code or the Nursing Practice Act. Some of the potential disciplinary actions the board recommends and imposes include: 

  • License suspensionit involves the nurse losing their license for some time.
  • Revocation of the nurse’s license—revocation is the most severe type of disciplinary action. It entails the nurse losing their license indefinitely.  
  • Voluntary surrender of the license (surrender, suspension, and revocation of a nursing license bar the nurse from practicing).
  • License probation—if the board places a nurse’s license on probation, the nurse can continue practicing as long as they adhere to the probation conditions.
  • Public letter of reprimand—a letter of reprimand cautions the nurse not to repeat or continue the alleged misconduct. This letter appears on the BRN’s website as a public record.
  • A stipulated settlement.
  • A citation and finesthese fines could be up to thousands of dollars.
  • Stipulated agreement or stipulated settlement.
  • Interim license suspensionthis kind of suspension is temporary. It prevents the nurse from continuing to practice while they are under investigation.
  • Accusation withdrawal with no action taken.

When deciding whether or not a violation or unprofessional conduct will lead to disciplinary action, the board considers various factors, including:

  • The type of complaint.
  • The nature and seriousness of the misconduct or violation.
  • The kind of harm inflicted or could have been inflicted on the patient in question.
  • If there is any prior disciplinary action on the nurse's professional record.
  • The period that has passed since any previous violations of the registered nursing professional standards.
  • Whether the nurse has any criminal record.
  • Potential or actual harm to the public.
  • Rehabilitation evidence.
  • Mitigating evidence.
  • In a criminal conviction instance, adherence to conditions of court-ordered probation and sentence.

If there is a pending distinct criminal case against a nurse (be it a felony or misdemeanor), the board must adhere to the sentencing conditions involved in the court-approved probation, if applicable.

Do not think the BRN is concerned with your interests; its primary concern is public safety. However, this does not imply that a skilled attorney cannot help you negotiate with the board for a successful case outcome.

A skilled lawyer is conversant with the evidence that can cancel or minimize the severity of a potential board disciplinary action against you. They can submit mitigating circumstances supporting your case, evidence of rehab efforts if your case involves substance abuse, and evidence of continued education and safe practice where applicable. The attorney can also disclose the weakness of the evidence against you at and before your hearing.

Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians

Like the BRN, the BVNPT also looks out for public safety. The board ensures that only eligible individuals are licensed psychiatric technicians and vocational nurses by enforcing the standards of practice and education requirements and educating consumers about their rights. The BVNPT imposes the same sanctions and disciplinary actions as the Board of Registered Nursing.

The BRN Complaint Review Process

The complaint review process for nurses involved in unprofessional conduct involves six steps, as follows:

Nurse Criminal Charge or Complaint

The BVNPT or BRN enforcement activity starts when it receives any of these:

  • A complaint from a patient, hospital, another nurse, doctor, or anonymous.
  • Notification of criminal charges, conviction, or arrest.
  • Disciplinary action imposed in a different state (for travel and multistate nurses), which is reported to the State of California through the NURSYS database.

Anyone, including an anonymous party, can file a complaint online for supposed professional standard, law, and regulation violations. If, after complaint review, it is found that the nurse violated the Nursing Practice Act within the BRN's jurisdiction, the board will refer the complaint to any of the twelve district offices for probe by the California DCA (Department of Consumer Affairs) Division of Investigation (DOI).

Nursing License Interviews and Investigation

You will generally first be notified of the investigation against you when a DCA DOI or BRN investigator calls you to schedule an interrogation or interview or if the board issues you a letter that:

  • Offers you to enroll in the Board's Intervention Program willingly.
  • Provides notification of a legal accusation or investigation.
  • Requests authorization for employment records release.

Investigators from the DCA are usually ex-DEA agents, law enforcement officers, and other skilled investigators with decades of experience conducting investigations and interrogations. They generally seem friendly, casually requesting to listen to your account of events. However, in the real sense, they are thoroughly building a case.

Filing of Formal Accusation

An accusation refers to a legal document from the BRN and Attorney General detailing why they want to revoke or suspend your license or need you to surrender your professional license willingly. It also includes a cost recovery statement outlining the board's enforcement and investigation costs, which you must reimburse. After the Attorney General brings a formal accusation against your license, it becomes a public record published on BreEze and the BRN's website.

After receiving an accusation, you generally have fifteen days to file your response. Failure to do so will lead to the loss of your license by default.

Administrative Hearing at the OAH (Office of Administrative Hearings)

You will be subject to an administrative hearing if your case goes unresolved at the accusation step. This proceeding, presided over by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), is held at the OAH and aims to decide your case's merit and fate.

Apart from the judge, other parties present at the proceeding will be your lawyer and the attorney general. Your lawyer and the attorney general will argue their cases and submit evidence in compliance with the set rules. The ALJ will then review the presented information and have thirty days to give a ruling. The most prevalent outcome of administrative hearings is placing the nursing license on probation, with the nurse being ordered to complete some probation conditions.

Remember that the BRN can override the ALJ's (Administrative Law Judge) decision. Deviating from the ALJ's recommended formal disciplinary action is allowed, although a valid reason must be given. By arguing evidence that favors you, your lawyer can convince the administrative law judge to rule favorably and successfully justify the ruling to the board.

Appealing the ALJ's Decision

If you lost your case during the administrative proceeding, you have thirty days from when the decision was made to appeal the judge's decision to the Superior Court. This appeal is known as a petition for writ of administrative mandamus, and it seeks a court order directing the ALJ to set aside the imposed disciplinary action.

If your attorney believes mistakes occurred in the ALJ's ruling, the writ of administrative mandamus may provide relief. You can move to the Appellate Court if the writ petition fails to provide relief. Usually, appeals are a technical legal matter, with intricate timelines and limitations on the evidence presented and the scope of review.

License Penalty Relief or Reinstatement

You can request the BRN to terminate your probation sentence early, reduce the penalties imposed against you, or reinstate a previously suspended or revoked license. Various time frames apply for filing a petition for penalty relief or license reinstatement, as follows:

  • You may file the request for early probation termination two years from the date of the imposition of the sanction or from when the board issued the license in probation status for ordered probationary periods of thirty-six or more months. If the ordered probation period is less than thirty-six months, you may file your petition after 12 months from when the action took place.
  • You may file the petition to reinstate your license three years from the date of revocation, suspension, or surrender. For a license revocation, suspension, or surrender because of impairment due to physical or mental illness, you may file your petition 12 months from the date of the imposition of the disciplinary action.
  • If you wish to have your penalties modified, you may file your petition after a minimum of 12 months have elapsed from when the disciplinary action was imposed or when the license was issued in the probation status.

The board can deny the petitions brought within two years from the last decision date without an argument or hearing. It will also deny a petition in a situation where:

  • There is an unresolved accusation or request to cancel the petitioner's probation.
  • The petitioner faces an order to comply with the sex offender registration requirement.
  • The petitioner is serving a sentence for a crime, including court-ordered parole or probation.

Intervention Programs (Diversion) for Registered Nurses

The board offers a voluntary, confidential intervention program (alternatively called diversion programs) for any nurse whose competency might be impaired due to mental illness or substance use disorder. Deciding whether or not to enter these programs is a critical decision you should consider carefully. The diversion program is expensive and invasive; ultimately, the board may still impose disciplinary action against your license.

Some registered nurses find that joining the diversion program can help them refocus on leading a healthy lifestyle after achieving sobriety, while others find these programs unsuitable. Should the BRN offer you the diversion program, contact your attorney for a review so you can better understand your options and whether the program will suit your needs.

Common Licensing Matters that the BVNPT and BRN Investigate

Common incidences the BVNPT and BRN investigate against nurses and which can trigger disciplinary action include the following:

  • Failure of the nurse to treat a mental illness that jeopardizes their capability to care for patients.
  • Criminal arrests or convictions, such as for fraud, battery, domestic violence, shoplifting, and DUI.
  • Committing severe medication errors.
  • Abusing patients.
  • Practicing beyond the scope of the nursing license.
  • Failure to provide appropriate patient care.
  • Omitting information or lying on license application paperwork.
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs.
  • Practicing licensing with no license.
  • A nurse’s professional relations, attitude, and how they conduct themselves with patients or the workplace.
  • Deficient record-keeping.
  • HIPAA violations.

A registered nursing license defense lawyer can clarify why the incident occurred or create reasonable doubt regarding whether it occurred in the first place. This is particularly essential if the BVNPT or BRN has accused you of abusing or hurting a patient.

Find a Defense Attorney Experienced in Defending Registered Nurses Near Me

When your career and reputation are at stake, you want to find someone knowledgeable about the system and your case. A registered nursing defense attorney is the most appropriate person to help you. At Monterey License Attorney, we have over four decades of combined experience defending nursing licenses against severe disciplinary action by the BRN or BVNPT, and we can help you.

If the BRN or BVNPT is investigating you, has filed a formal accusation against you, or you have recently been convicted of or arrested for a criminal offense, call us immediately at 831-296-1191 for a consultation. We will analyze your case, determine the ideal course of action to help your situation, and take an understanding, zealous, and proactive approach to the problem that might jeopardize your nursing license. We will also help if the board has denied you a nursing license, fighting to ensure approval.

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