In California, practically speaking, there is no such thing as a permanently revoked license. I can think of a couple of rare examples of licenses that cannot be reinstated, for example, if a physician is spending life in prison, or an attorney has been convicted of a felony that cannot be reduced. However, for the vast majority of individuals whose licenses have been revoked, petitioning to reinstate a revoked license is a matter of waiting one to three years then following an application process. There are a number of important considerations when seeking to reinstate a license.
The first is eligibility. As a general rule, an individual can only petition to reinstate their license if they are not on probation or parole and a requisite amount of time has passed. Some Boards, such as the Medical Board of California, require that the petitioner obtain sworn statements supporting their petition from two licensed colleagues. These threshold requirements must first be met.
Next is consideration of the time involved and complexity of the process. Some Boards, such as the California Board of Registered Nursing, will allow a petitioner to appear in front of the Board in just a matter of months to seek reinstatement of a license. Other Boards, such as the Medical Board of California, delegate these cases to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) in a process that can easily take from a year to 18 months. The Medical Board and Dental Board, to name two, also commonly conduct investigations as part of the processing and consideration of reinstatement petitions. These investigations usually occur even before the case is referred to the Attorney General and then placed on calendar at OAH.
The most important consideration, however, is whether the person asking to reinstate the license has the ingredients for a winning petition. Very simply put, these ingredients are adequate rehabilitation both through personal improvement and the passage of adequate time without further incident; evidence of professional knowledge and competency; and a demeanor, or attitude, that favors a second chance.
Here are some answers to questions that we are repeatedly asked about concerning petitions for reinstatement of revoked licenses. First, a licensee does not have to requalify for the license all over again to get it reinstated. Second, even individuals with serious wrongdoing in their past can get their license back with the right presentation. Third, any cost recovery ordered at the time the license was revoked must be paid back, although not necessarily before the license is reinstated. And fourth, oftentimes licenses are reinstated only on probation (as opposed to a full and clear license), and with the prior record of discipline prominently featured on the license record, so restarting a professional career with a reinstated license can be a challenge. It is a good idea to develop a plan in consultation with a licensing lawyer to use these opportunities and to overcome these challenges. Legal fees, payment of cost recovery, the costs of probation and the cost of rebuilding a practice can present significant financial hurdles.
The most common issue that comes up when potential clients ask about license reinstatement is whether at hearing a petitioner can challenge the underlying, or prior, discipline that led to license revocation. The short answer is “no.” Even if the license was revoked as a default judgment (without even having a court hearing), even if the petitioner was sitting in jail or rehab when the license was revoked, even if the petitioner felt he or she had no choice but to a accept a license revocation due to a lack of money or the occurrence of personal hardships, that discipline from long ago cannot be directly attacked or impeached. It must be overcome with evidence of personal improvement and readiness to resume licensed work without raising overriding concerns about public protection. If lingering issues from the prior discipline are to be discussed at all in the current reinstatement proceedings, that is a highly delicate matter that must be strategically calculated by an experienced lawyer.
Another important aspect of the process to understand is that license reinstatement can be a cumulative process with failures along the way. Although ideally the license should be reinstated on a single attempt, more than one attempt may be necessary, building towards success on each attempt. Often the key factor for success is that sufficient time has elapsed since the license was revoked in order to demonstrate the longevity and permanence of positive lifestyle, behavior or personal judgment changes. However, many petitioners are impatient to get their license back and therefore want to push quickly for reinstatement, even if it would be prudent to wait a number of additional years.
The assistance of a licensing lawyer is critical for a successful petition for reconsideration. An experienced California license lawyer has the objectivity and experience to determine what evidence will be crucial to get a license issued. The message of the petition must be carefully crafted to explain the petitioner’s personal growth and redemption and assure a skeptical licensing Board that the petitioner will neither harm to public nor end up back in the license discipline system.