The Effect of Criminal Charges on a Nurse’s License

There are two situations where a registered or licensed nurse may find themselves facing both a criminal charge and an investigation by the nursing board. The first situation is when a complaint about professional misconduct could also result in a criminal charge – for example, charges like misuse of drugs or mistreatment of a patient.  The second situation is when a nurse is arrested for a criminal charge that takes place outside of the workplace and is unrelated to their job.

Criminal Charges for Professional Misconduct

At times an RN or an LPN may be exposed to disciplinary actions taken by the nursing board as well as criminal allegations issued by the district attorney’s office. Like most professions, actions against a license do not insulate a nurse from criminal filings by the district attorney. For example, if a nurse grossly mistreats a patient, that nurse can expect actions against his or her license by the nursing board.  If the patient dies as a result of nurse’s gross negligence, the district attorney’s office may pursue criminal charges of negligent homicide or even manslaughter. It depends on the facts of the specific case, but it is important to remember that restriction or revocation of the nursing license should not be the only concern.  Another example would be the removal of narcotics from the hospital where a nurse is working. This is of course not only a violation of occupational standards, but could also be considered a criminal act with a charge of theft or distribution of drugs.

Criminal Arrests Unrelated to Nursing

Arrests for criminal activity outside of the workplace are also grounds for discipline by the Louisiana Nursing Board. The arrest could be for any misdemeanor or felony including DUIs, shoplifting, sexual charges or assault and battery and has nothing to do with their nursing job.  But even though the arrest is not job-related, the board considers criminal activity to be unprofessional conduct and in violation of the Nurse Practice Act.

In Louisiana, the police will report arrests and criminal charges to the Louisiana Board of Nursing.  It may not happen immediately, but the board will be notified eventually.  At my law firm, we recommend that our clients fully disclose any arrests immediately to the nursing board. The board will find out anyway, and in our experience, subsequent actions by the board will be much harsher and more difficult to resolve without full disclosure. And if you are able to successfully defend against the criminal charges and have the charges dismissed, reinstatement of your professional license can happen more quickly than if you failed to disclose.

Hiring the Right Attorney

In either of these situations, you should consider hiring an attorney like myself that specializes in both nursing board violations and criminal charges.  The criminal charges would be handled separately from the license defense proceedings in a criminal court, but this way you will have full legal representation.  An attorney with experience with both nursing complaints and criminal charges will know how the criminal proceedings could affect your nursing license disciplinary process, and vice versa.  For example, an experienced nursing attorney will be aware of what the ramifications of pleading guilty to a criminal charge will be for a nurse’s professional license.  Pleading guilty may be unavoidable, but at least your attorney will have the knowledge and experience to help you weigh your options and get the best possible outcome. Being charged with a felony almost always results in an immediate suspension of a nursing license. So if you are facing a serious criminal charge or a charge of professional misconduct that could potentially lead to a felony filing from the district attorney, it is particularly important to hire an attorney that specializes in both license defense and criminal matters.