According to California law, it is illegal to engage in the unauthorized practice of medicine. Unauthorized practice of medicine refers to practicing medicine without a valid license. According to the California Business & Professions Code 2052, it is illegal to carry out several activities without a valid professional license. For instance, you may face charges if you practice or attempt to practice or advertise yourself as practicing or offering treatment for any illness or affliction. You should also not diagnose, treat, operate on a person, or prescribe medication for any physical or mental condition. It is a crime to engage in a conspiracy to or to aid or abet another person to diagnose, treat, operate, or prescribe medication without a valid professional license.  If you are facing charges for unauthorized practice of medicine in Los Angeles, California, The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm can help fight the charges in court. 

Facing Unauthorized Practice of Medicine Charges

It is important to note that for you to face unauthorized practice of medicine charges, no person needs to suffer bodily harm or develop an illness due to your actions.  You do not have to harm a person with your unauthorized practice of medicine for you to face legal charges.  You do not need to have an intention to harm another person in any way. The crime of unauthorized practice of medicine is victimless. This means that even if there is no victim of your actions, you will still face hefty penalties under California law.  For example, if you are a doctor in your country and you migrate to the United States, you have to seek a license to practice in the U.S. If you advertise your services before seeking the necessary licensing, you may face charges for unauthorized practice of medicine. You will face charges even if your intentions are good and even if you are a qualified doctor. 

You may be guilty of illegal practice of medicine if you diagnose or treat any physical or mental condition. Diagnosing a condition entails using any device, method, or procedure to determine whether a person is suffering from any psychological or physical illness.  According to California law, diagnosing may not include measuring a person's weight or height. However, activities like measuring a person's blood pressure using blood pressure sleeves or any other equipment may qualify as a diagnosis. 

Treating a physical or mental condition comprises both conventional and unconventional treatment methods.  Therefore, you may face charges if you indulge in medical treatment without a license. Psychological treatment includes giving injections and prescribing drugs. On the other hand, you may also face charges if you engage in unconventional treatment methods. Unconventional treatment methods include acupuncture and hypnosis. 

If you are not a licensed medical professional yet you advertise your services as a hypnotist, you may face charges under California law. If you use hypnosis to help people lose weight or to help people get rid of unwanted habits, you should seek a valid license to practice art. 

You may face charges if you diagnose or treat any medical condition without a valid license to practice medicine. Physical and mental conditions include other conditions beyond readily recognized illnesses, diseases, or injuries. For example, if you are not a doctor but you offer midwifery services, you may face charges under Business & Professions Code 2052.  You may face charges even if you only handle women with healthy pregnancies and who do not require any special attention and medical intervention during childbirth.  Also, if pregnancy and delivery are not forms of illnesses or afflictions, you still need a medical license to offer midwifery services. 

Normally, for you to face charges for unauthorized practice of medicine, you have to practice the illegal medicine within the state of California. However, the internet has dramatically changed this concept. The applicable rule is that if you have no medical license to practice in California, you may face charges for treating a patient based in California. For instance, if a doctor licensed to practice in another state offers online diagnosis and sends medicine to a patient based in California, the doctor may face charges.  The doctor may face charges because even if he/she has no license to practice medicine in California, he/she provided medical treatment to a resident of California. 

Violations of Business & Professions Code 2052

You may violate the Business & Professions Code 2052 in various ways. For instance, if you are an immigrant in the U.S, you should not offer your medical services in the U.S without a valid license. You may also face charges if you are an herbalist, and you advertise that you can heal/cure cancer and other serious illnesses using your herbs. If you only hold a degree in nursing, but you offer services like abortions at a fee, you may violate the code. You may also be guilty of unauthorized practice of medicine if you own a medical clinic without a license and if you do not have medical qualifications.

 It is against the law for a legalized doctor to offer his/her services in a medical clinic that belongs to non-licensed individuals. If a doctor has a license and practices in a different state and without a California Medical license treats or diagnosis, a resident of California online, the doctor may face charges. If you are a medical practitioner/doctor operating on a revoked medical license, you violate Business & Professions Code 2052. 

Other ways of violating the law include employing a person without a legal medical license for diagnosing and treating patients. You will get charges even if you are a licensed medical professional, and the unlicensed employee is operating under your supervision.  You may violate Business & Professions Code 2052 if you practice in an area, which you do not have proper training and if you operate without the supervision of a licensed doctor. 

Other Activities that Constitute/Entail Practice of Medicine

Several peripheral activities constitute practicing medicine. If you conduct the activities and you do not have a valid medical license, you may face charges under California law. The activities include determining or conducting tests on a patient. Determining whether a patient needs a referral to another medical doctor also constitutes the practice of medicine. Managing the medical care or treatment of an individual is a form of practicing medicine and calls for medical licensing. Practicing medicine may also include determining how many individuals doctors will attend to in a day. The act of hiring or firing doctors, nurses, or other medical professions based on their medical proficiency calls for medical licensing in California. 

Owning a Clinic or a Medical Practice While Unlicensed

If you are in ownership or part ownership of a medical practice or a clinic and you do not have a valid license in the medical field, you may violate Business & Professions Code 2052. You might violate this code even if you did not personally perform medical treatment on a person. Being the owner of the medical practice or clinic is enough to earn you a conviction.

Still, in the case of non-doctors owning medical clinics, the law also applies to the operation of medical marijuana clinics/dispensaries.  Medical marijuana clinics/dispensaries call for licensed doctors who use their auspices while examining, diagnosing, and treating patients by prescribing various strains/portions of marijuana. 

Only medical doctors and those with a valid medical license may own medical clinics in California.  If an unauthorized person benefits or profits from the medical facility, the person is engaging in the unauthorized practice of medicine. If, as a doctor, you agree to practice in a clinic owned by an unlicensed person, you will be aiding and abetting the commission of violation under Business & Professions Code 2052. The act of aiding and abetting an unlicensed person to commit the crime of unauthorized practice of medicine makes you liable under California law. 

Consequences for Unauthorized Practice of Medicine

The prosecutor may decide to charge the offense of unauthorized practice of medicine as a felony or misdemeanor.  The charges you face for the crime will depend on whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor. When deciding on the charges to assign, the prosecutor may consider your credit history and the circumstances surrounding the offense. For instance, if someone got ill or suffered harm due to your illegal practice of medicine, you are likely to get felony charges. 

The presence of aggravating and mitigating factors will determine whether the prosecutor charges the offense as a felony or misdemeanor. For instance, if you are a licensed doctor serving in a clinic owned by unlicensed persons, you may assert that you were not aware that the clinic owners were unlicensed.  If it is evident that you were not aware that the clinic owners were unlicensed, the prosecutor may assign misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges. 

If a doctor gets a conviction for either misdemeanor or felony unauthorized practice of medicine, the doctor may be subject to professional discipline. The professional discipline will be in addition to the regular criminal charges. Professional discipline may lead to suspension or revocation of the doctor's license.

If the prosecutor charges the crime of unauthorized practice of medicine as a misdemeanor, the consequences include serving summary probation. The alternative name for summary probation is misdemeanor probation.  When you are on misdemeanor probation, you do not have to meet with the probation officer regularly. You do not also have to make regular visits to the probation office while on probation.  The other consequences include jail time that does not exceed one year in a county jail in California. The court may impose a fine that does not exceed $1,000. 

If the prosecutor charges the offense of unauthorized practice of medicine as a felony, the consequences include formal or felony probation. Felony probation has more conditions of probation than misdemeanor probation. While on felony probation, you may have to meet with the probation officer regularly.  If you fail to abide by the conditions of your probation, the court may revoke the probation and recommend jail time instead. 

For a felony conviction of unauthorized practice of medicine, you may get a jail time of sixteen months, two years, or three years in county jail. This is according to the California realignment program. The court may order you to pay a hefty fine not exceeding $10,000. 

In addition to facing criminal charges, you may face civil liability for the unauthorized practice of medicine.  If a patient suffers harm or injuries because of your practice of medicine without a license, the victim may sue you for the damages. The court may assume that the care accorded to the patient was negligent because the caregiver is unlicensed.

The victim may seek compensation for medical expenses they incur in treating the injuries suffered due to your unauthorized practice of medicine. The victims may also seek compensation for lost injuries for the time they spend away from work due to the injuries arising from your negligence. The victim may also sue for lost earning capacity in case they are no longer able to work due to the injuries they suffer because of your negligence.  In addition to seeking compensation for personal injuries, the victims may sue for punitive damages.  Punitive damages are aimed at punishing the defendant and preventing him or her from repeating the offense in the future.  

Fighting Charges under Business & Professions Code 2052

The penalties for a conviction of practicing medicine without a license can be detrimental.  However, several defense strategies are available. Your attorney can take advantage of the defense strategies to fight for you. The attorney uses the best procedural approach to influence the outcome of your case. With strong evidence against you, the attorney may rely more on procedural defenses instead of fighting the prosecutor's evidence. The attorney may use substantive motions and arguments to challenge the evidence presented in your case, and you will know the best course of action for your case.  

Some of the common legal defenses for the crime of unauthorized practice of medicine include:

1. Denying the Practice of Medicine

With many methods of alternative hearing coming up in the United States, it is hard to define what medicine is clearly.  In the United States, most forms of medical treatment are in line with Western styles of treatments. There are many people offering health information in current times.  For instance, while training in a gym, the gym trained may advise you on what to eat and how to deal with body aches or inflammations.  At times, you may get charges under Business & Professions Code 2052, yet what you did does not qualify as medicine. 

The prosecutors and law enforcement officers are always aggressive. They aim to prove that you are guilty of the offense, even if they are not sure that you are indeed liable.  Your attorney can argue and prove that what you did was not technically medicine.  If your attorney shows that your actions do not qualify as the practice of medicine, you cannot face charges under California law.  It is essential to seek the counsel of an attorney at the early stages of the case. The attorney can negotiate the dismissal of your charges. This will help to save you money and grief.

2. False Accusations of Practicing Medicine without a License

It is common to face false allegations and accusations of unethical business or medical practices. When seeking medical treatment, people are often experiencing all forms of traumas, concerns, and emotions.  It is, therefore, common for patients and medical practitioners to get into arguments and all sorts of disagreements.  An angry client or former client may accuse you of unauthorized practice of medicine. With a criminal defense attorney by your side, you do not have to worry. The attorney can employ skilled investigators and other experts to determine what happened concerning your case. The attorney will strive to build an evidentiary record in your favor. The court may then dismiss your charges at an early stage.

3. You were engaging in Self-Help Group

You may also fight charges for the unauthorized practice of medicine by asserting that you were participating in a self-help group. Members of the group often lead self-help groups. The members of the group lead in the absence of licensed healthcare professionals. If you prove that you were not practicing medicine but merely engaging in a support group or a self-help group, you may not face charges under California law. Self-help groups are usually not guilty of practicing medicine without a license. The members of the group may suggest remedies or treatments but are not engaged in practicing medicine.  Even if there is no licensed professional leading the group, the members cannot face charges under Business & Professions Code 2052.

4. Medical Assistants and Violation of Business & Professions Code 2052

Can medical assistant face charges for practicing medicine without a license?  Typically, medical assistants do not have medical licenses. Therefore, the assistants do not have the legal authority to practice medicine independently. The medical assistants only have the authority to assist licensed health practitioners in administering medical services. As long as a medical assistant is engaged in the performance of technical or administrative services, the assistant may not face charges. However, if the assistant is engaged in diagnosing and treating people, the assistant may violate the California PC 2052. 

Even seemingly, minor operations may earn you charges under Business & Professions Code 2052. For instance, the simple act of conducting or running a silicone party may be a violation.  If you are the person injecting the silicone and you do not have a medical license, you may face charges for the unauthorized practice of medicine.  Even minor cosmetic procedures require medical licensing.

5. Referring Patients to Unauthorized Doctors

Even if you have a medical license in California, you may face charges under Business & Professions Code 2052 if you refer patients to unlicensed doctors.  The California law makes it illegal to conspire, aid, or abet the practice of medicine without authorization or license. If you intentionally and knowingly refer patients to unauthorized medical practitioners, you are guilty of the crime as well.

You are also guilty if you collaborate with unauthorized and unlicensed practices. For instance, if you offer medical services in a clinic owned by an unlicensed person, you violate Business & Professions code 2052.  You will violate the code even if you hold a legal, medical license. As long as you offer the medical services in a clinic owned by an unlicensed person, you are liable under the law.

Related Crimes

Several crimes under California law are closely associated with the crime of unauthorized practice of medicine. The prosecutor may charge you with related crimes instead of the practice of medicine without a license. The prosecutor may also charge you with the related crimes alongside the crime of unauthorized practice of medicine.  Some of the related offenses include:

Medical Marijuana

The California law on medical marijuana at times intertwines with the California law on the unauthorized practice of medicine.  The California laws on medical marijuana are confusing and complicated on their own. Due to the overlapping of the two laws, persons owning medical marijuana cooperative may face unauthorized practice of medicine.  If you operate a medical marijuana cooperative and you hire licensed doctors to examine patients and issue marijuana recommendations to them, you may violate Business & Professions Code 2052.

Unauthorized Practice of Law

Just like the illegal practice of medicine, the unlawful practice of law often leads to detrimental criminal consequences.  In the state of California, you are unauthorized to practice law unless you are an approved member of the California State Bar.  If you have never been a lawyer, you are not eligible to practice law. If you are a lawyer but currently facing license suspension or revocation, you have no authority to practice law. The offense of unauthorized practice of law is often a misdemeanor.  However, the offense may become a wobbler if a California attorney suspended or barred from practicing commits the offense. If charged as a wobbler, the crime may attract felony or misdemeanor charges. 

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

The offense of unauthorized practice of medicine has detrimental consequences under California law. If aggravating factors like inflicting injuries on another person exist, the implications for the crime may be worse.  The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm assists people facing charges under Business & Professions Code 2052 in Los Angeles, California, to fight the charges. Contact us at 310-935-1675 and speak to one of our attorneys.