by Daniel J. Schulte, J.D.
MDA Legal Counsel
Published in the April 2005 issue of the Journal
Question: Will I automatically lose my license to practice dentistry if I am convicted of a crime? I have heard conflicting stories and am concerned.
Answer: It depends on the crime. Pursuant to Section 16221 of Michigan’s Public Health Code, the Disciplinary Subcommittee of the Michigan Board of Dentistry will take adverse action against your license if it is determined that one or more of several grounds exist. The grounds for such adverse action include, among other things, your conviction of any felony or a misdemeanor:
- punishable by imprisonment for a maximum term of two years;
- involving the illegal delivery, possession or use of a controlled substance;
- reasonably related to or which adversely affects your ability to practice in a safe and competent manner;
- involving the misbranding, adulterating and/or substituting a drug or device knowing it will not be used as intended;
- for violating Michigan Penal Code Section 492a (inserting misleading or inaccurate information into a patient’s record); or
- involving fraud in obtaining or attempting to obtain fees for your services.
In any case, the Michigan Board of Dentistry and its disciplinary subcommittee can rely on a certified copy of the court record as conclusive evidence of your conviction.
The list of adverse actions that may be taken against your license are contained in Section 16226 of Michigan’s Public Health Code (“PHC”). This list includes probation, limitation, denial, suspension, revocation, restitution, community service, fine and reprimand. PHC Section 16226 directs the disciplinary subcommittee to choose from one or more of these adverse actions for each of the different grounds for adverse action listed in PHC Section 16221. For example, if you are convicted of a felony, Section 16226 directs the disciplinary subcommittee to choose to either: (i) limit, suspend or revoke your license; (ii) place your license on probation; or (iii) require you to make restitution, pay a fine or perform community service. The disciplinary subcommittee is not required to automatically revoke your license upon your conviction of a felony.
The only cases in which PHC Section 16226 requires the disciplinary subcommittee to revoke your license are when you have (i) been convicted of a violation of Michigan Penal Code Section 492a (inserting misleading or inaccurate information in a patient record); or (ii) misbranded, adulterated and/or substituted a drug device knowing it will not be used as intended. In addition, PHC Section 16226 lists certain other convictions that a disciplinary subcommittee is required to revoke or deny a license, which are typically not related to the practice of dentistry (e.g., performing partial birth abortions, human cloning, etc.).
In most cases, the board and its disciplinary subcommittee must issue a formal complaint, conduct a compliance conference, and hold a hearing in addition to conducting an investigation prior to taking any adverse action against your license. The time this process requires varies, but generally can take as long as 90 days. However, the board has the ability pursuant to PHC Section 16233(5) to summarily suspend your license “if the public health, safety, or welfare requires emergency action.” This section goes on to state that a licensee’s conviction of a felony, a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a maximum term of two years or a misdemeanor involving the illegal delivery, possession or use of a controlled substance generally should result in a finding that the public health, safety or welfare requires emergency action.
Upon the summary suspension of your license, PHC Section 116233(5) further provides that Michigan’s Administrative Procedures Act applies, which allows quick access to a hearing before an administrative law judge to show that your conviction does not prove the existence of a threat to the public health, safety or welfare.