By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Whether you are a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or another type of mental health professional, I beseech you: please do not talk to a Department of Health (DOH) investigator until you have talked to a health lawyer who is experienced with DOH investigations and board licensing complaints. Do not answer or respond to even the most basic questions about where you work now, what your address is or if you know patient x, until consulting with counsel.
Admitting to the Simplest Facts May Harm You.
We are routinely consulted by mental health professionals and other healthcare providers for representation after they have discussed the case and after it is too late to undo the damage they have caused to themselves. Often they do not understand the seriousness of the matter or the possible consequences, until it is too late. Admitting to even the most basic facts causes damage to any possible defense.
Administrative Licensure Investigations are “Quasi-Criminal.”
The vast majority of mental health professionals and even most attorneys do not realize that DOH investigations concerning complaints against a practitioner’s license are considered to be “penal” or “quasi-criminal” proceedings. This means the same laws and constitutional rights apply to them as apply to criminal investigations. However, since they are also administrative proceedings and not strictly criminal proceedings, investigators do not need to advise you of your Miranda rights or tell you you have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc.
In any criminal investigation a good criminal defense attorney would always tell you “Do not talk to the investigator” and “Tell the investigator you have a lawyer.”
Investigators’ Techniques Try to Get You to not Consult a Lawyer.
DOH investigators, like police investigators, FBI investigators and other law enforcement officers, are well-trained in investigative techniques and how to get information out of suspects. Often the approach used is to catch you by surprise before you even know there is an investigation and the investigation is of you. Another technique used is to lull you into a false sense of security that the investigation is about someone or something else and not you. Another investigative technique is to convince you that you need to “Tell your side of the story” so that the investigation is accurate. Yet another is that “Things will go much better for you if you cooperate.” None of these things are true.
However, if it is truly in your best interest to cooperate or to make a statement, after you consult with your attorney, your legal counsel will surely advise you to do this. The investigator should not mind waiting until you consult your attorney. However, many will go to extremes to convince you that you don’t need an attorney and shouldn’t get an attorney.
Consult an Experienced Health Law Attorney.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in dealing with DOH investigators, AHCA surveyors, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, FBI agents, police and sheriff’s office investigators, OIG special agents (S/As) and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigators. Call or contact The Health Law Firm for legal advice before you talk to any investigator about any matter.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article represents our opinions based on our many years of practice and experience in this area of health law. You may have a different opinion; you are welcome to it. This one is mine.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only; it is not legal advice.