Can I be charged twice for a licensing violation?


I've been charged with the crime of practicing without a license, but I also just learned that there's another hearing about losing my license. Can I be charged twice?


When states require people to first have a professional license before engaging in the practice of a profession, they also have laws that make it a crime to engage in the that profession without an up-to-date license. If you engage in any licensed profession without a valid license, you can be charged with a crime as well as face the possibility of having your professional license revoked, suspended, or face other non-criminal licensing penalties.

Criminal Charges

When you are charged with a crime, prosecutors file a criminal complaint against you. To be convicted of that crime, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed each element of each crime with which you are charged. If you plead guilty or are convicted of any crime, you face criminal sanctions that can include jail, prison, fines, probation, or other penalties.

State Licenses

When a state requires someone to obtain a license to engage in a profession, it establishes standards that all applicants must meet. For example, a state might require you to obtain a specific academic degree, take an exam, file a license application with a state board, and pass a criminal background check.

Similarly, the state might also require you to maintain a level of professional care and responsibility as you engage in your profession. You may, for example, have to take yearly classes, pay a yearly licensing fee, and comply with professional ethical standards of conduct.

If you violate any professional requirements the state can limit your ability to practice your profession. They can do this by, for example, suspending your ability to practice for a specific length of time or by revoking your license entirely.

Crimes or Regulatory Actions

The difference between being charged with a crime and having your license suspended, revoked, or otherwise limited is the difference between the criminal justice process and the regulatory process.

For example, in some states you can receive a limited license to practice a profession, such as a limited license to practice psychology. This type of license will allow you to practice psychology in a school or other supervised setting. If you violate the terms of that license by practicing psychology outside of the supervised setting, you may have not only committed the crime of practicing without a license, but because you violated the requirements of your professional license you can also have your ability to practice psychology limited or revoked.

It’s possible, therefore, to face both criminal charges and a professional misconduct action. It’s also possible that prosecutors might choose not to file criminal charges against you, but the state professional agency could nevertheless choose to initiate a professional misconduct action.

In the criminal justice process prosecutors must show you committed a crime and, if you are convicted, you face criminal sanctions. In the regulatory process a state regulatory agency must conclude that you have violated a professional regulation and, if you did, you face professional sanctions, but not criminal penalties.

The two processes are essentially two different trials, each with its own rules. In criminal process, for example, prosecutors have to meet a higher standard of proof than in the state agency must meet in the regulatory process. This means that you can conceivably be charged with a crime and be found not guilty in the criminal trial while still losing your professional license in the regulatory trial because of the different rules that apply.

Find a Lawyer

Navigating the difference between the criminal justice process and state licensing requirements is often very difficult. Needless to say, because of the complex nature of these kinds of cases, the different laws involved, and the individual differences that exist among states, you always need to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area to help defend your case and protect your rights in both arenas. Even if you do not believe you have committed a crime or done something wrong to justify revoking a license, you need the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that both your freedom and your ability to practice your profession are protected to the fullest extent of the law.

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