Photo Credit: Jakob van Santen
Attorney Mark Briggs on license suspension in Arizona: The Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) handles cases when someone’s professional license is under threat of suspension or has already been suspended by an administrative agency. In 2013, OAH handled more than 7,500 cases, more than half of which involved healthcare professionals. But professional licensing includes many other professions.
If you’re in a profession that requires a license, such as a contractor, hair stylist, accountant or lawyer, having your license suspended can wreck your career if you don’t handle it correctly. If you receive notice that your license is may be suspended, take a day to vent your frustration, anger, sadness and fear, and then get focused to take the following steps:
- Understand and preserve the facts.You need to gather all files, papers, documents, emails, recordings, and anything else related to the event in question. This also includes a list of everyone who might know important facts about the situation. Also, when it comes to electronically stored information, like emails, make sure they do not get accidentally deleted by an auto-delete policy or similar function. The last thing you need at this point is to add an accusation that you destroyed electronic evidence.
- Contact an attorney.Arizona doesn’t require that you have an attorney to represent you during your administrative hearing, but an experienced attorney can make all the difference in the world. If you can afford one, get one.
- Understand all the facts, law and regulations that apply to your case. Regardless of whether you have an attorney, you still need to understand the details of your case, both on the factual side as well as the laws and regulations that apply to your situation. The more you understand, the more you can help you and your attorney achieve the best outcome possible.
- Observe another hearing.Some people find it helpful to attend another person’s license suspension hearing to get familiar with how the process works. Remember: You are there to only observe and learn. You’ll be able to sit in on only those cases that are open to the public — if anyone asks why you’re there, that’s all you have to say. Do not discuss your case or otherwise vent to anyone at that hearing, no matter how friendly or sympathetic they may seem. Administrative judges aren’t allowed to talk to you about your case, and talking to government attorneys could give them evidence to use against you. Just listen and learn.
- Don’t try your case in the media. Although you may be tempted to shout from the highest rooftop about your innocence, it rarely is a good idea to do so. I know it is difficult not to go public, especially if someone on the other side is doing it. However, the downside risk of spinning your side of the story on the Internet or through the media usually far outweighs the benefits in these kind of matters. The hearing officer deciding your case ultimately is the only person whose opinion matters, and they will make their decision based on what evidence you present at your hearing.
- Take it with dignity. If you end up having your license suspended, reflect on what you contributed to the suspension. Even if you feel it is an unfair result, think about what you could have done better, accept total responsibility for what has happened and make whatever changes are necessary. You probably will want your license back at the end of your suspension, so start fresh and learn from your mistakes without negative feelings of vengeance, regret and anger, because those only hold you back from being your best self.
For more suggestions on what to do during a hearing, read the OAH’s list of 10 Things Not to do at an Administrative Hearing and its FAQ page.