California licensing agencies can issue a default decision against a licensee who has no idea their license was even in trouble. If you’ve moved and failed to notify your licensing agency about your new address, have trouble getting your mail, or have someone else handling your mail, the first time you learn your license is in trouble might be after your license has been revoked. But there is something you can do about it.
In California, when an accusation is filed against a licensee (starting a formal discipline case), for almost all cases the licensee must file a document called a notice of defense within 15 days of being served with (sent) the accusation in order to request a hearing and avoid default. If the licensee fails to preserve their right to a hearing within 15 days of service, the state agency can proceed to discipline the license right away without a hearing. That almost always means a license revocation done by default.
However, there is relief available from default. If you act within seven days of when the default decision was served (which usually means seven days from when the agency sent it, not when it arrived), under Government Code section 11520 you can ask the agency to set aside the default. This motion is best done by an attorney, but it has to be done quickly. The attorney files a motion and a notice of defense. If you have a good excuse for not filing the notice of defense, the agency will usually reinstate the license and let you defend the license discipline case. If the motion is unsuccessful, there can be other options, like asking for reconsideration or filing an appeal in Superior Court (called a writ petition), but those options are more complicated and can be much more expensive.
There is a second type of default – one that the licensee usually knows about. That’s when a licensee files a notice of defense, but fails to show up at their administrative hearing. In that case, there is also window of time to ask to set aside the default before a proposed decision is issued. If you let that time pass, then you have to try the seven day motion or other legal options.
A surprise default, or realizing you didn’t show up at your hearing, is about the worst feeling a licensee can have. Call the attorneys at Ray & Bishop at 949-557-4888 for immediate help. For more information, our website is www.rayandbishop.com.