Legal Defense for New York Psychologists
It takes years of hard work and dedication to become a psychologist and build psychological practice. Most licensed psychologists are devoted professionals who dedicate their lives to help those in need. Unfortunately, accusations of professional misconduct against New York psychologists emerge often and can potentially be career-ending. Attorneys with Norman Spencer and Associated have helped numerous New York psychologists and social workers who faced serious professional misconduct charges.
First, let’s discuss the nature of the New York disciplinary process against psychologists and other mental health professionals as well as potential outcomes and ramifications.
Most disciplinary cases against New York psychologists stem from patient complaints of professional misconduct. While the list of what is professional misconduct in the state of New York includes about forty different entries as defined by New York Education Law, the most common allegations faced by psychologists include the following:
- Sexual relations with patients
- Breach of boundaries situations
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Being convicted of any crime in any state or jurisdiction
- Being professionally disciplined by other jurisdictions
- Practicing with negligence
- Delegating duties to unlicensed staff
- Fraudulent billing
Psychologist deal with a vulnerable patient population, which means that they are held to a much higher degree of scrutiny by licensing authorities, which makes any allegation of misconduct especially far-reaching in its consequences for the professional’s career.
When the complaint is made, it is directed to the Office of Professional Discipline (OPD), which has authority and jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute all case of professional misconduct in New York. At some point, the target of the investigation will be informed by a letter that there is an ongoing investigation. In cases involving psychologists, the OPD will always request production of patient records as well that the psychologist sits down for an interview with the OPD investigator. It is important to realize that while production of document is mandatory in these cases, speaking with the investigator is not. In fact, it could be and often is very unwise and jeopardizing to do so because any statement make to the investigator will be used against the psychologist. In cases involving one on one therapy sessions in general and cases of many patients who visit psychological practices, it often boils down to “who said and did what” scenario, which, combined with patient record, may be very damaging to the practitioner, even if the allegations are not always true or are not entirely representative of what actually happened. This is why we always recommend that any psychologist facing a disciplinary investigation seek out legal advice as soon as possible before responding to the OPD letter.
Remember, the investigator’s job is to collect evidence against their targets, which is exactly what they are trained to do. When looking for an attorney, make sure they have experience in the highly specialized field of OPD defense. You should be very concerned if an attorney offers to accompany you to the OPD interview. If you make statements that lead to career-ending outcome, it is really irrelevant that you are represented by a lawyer.
A good attorney experience in defending physiologists will discuss your case with you in details, speak with the investigator, and then advise you on the best course of defense.
At the end of the investigative process, the agency will determine whether the evidence supports filing formal disciplinary charges against the psychologist. The prosecuting attorney will be assigned to the case and will reach out to your lawyer with a proposal. You will have the option to go to a hearing or to work out a consent agreement with the state. Your lawyer will explain to you the cons and pros of each option. If you choose to resolve the case by consent, you need to understand that this process is very similar to plea agreements in criminal cases. This means that you will have to admit to misconduct in exchange for the negotiated deal, which include some disciplinary action, which will usually become public record.
When it comes to discipline, the potential choices range from censure and reprimand to fines to probation to license suspension to license revocation. Everything will depend on the case, particularly on the quality of evidence the prosecutor has, which is why it is so important to engage the attorney early in the investigative process.
Over the years, we have helped numerous mental health professionals such as psychologists and social workers in cases encompassing just about the entire spectrum of legal problems they can face in the state of New York. We have an established track record defending psychologist before the OPD as well as law enforcement agencies such as the Attorney General’s Office and the local District Attorney’s offices. We also represent psychologist in insurance and Medicaid billing matters.
If you are a licensed New York psychologist facing legal issues, call us today to set up your immediate confidential consultation.