Our firm represents health care providers in front of their respective licensing boards. The founder of the firm, Ivette Gonzalez, was a registered nurse for several years before becoming an attorney. As such, she has the experience necessary to understand the pressure faced by health professionals.
Any time the decision of a state administrative agency affects the substantial interests of an individual, that individual is entitled to an administrative hearing.
The procedure for administrative hearings in Florida is found in Chapter 120 of the Florida Statutes. The two main types of administrative hearings are “informal hearings” and “formal hearings”. Both of these procedures differ greatly and therefore the importance of understanding the differences and making an informed decision.
Informal Administrative Hearings
When there are no disputed issues of material fact, in other words, the individual agrees with the charges in the administrative complaint an informal hearing is the right vehicle to proceed with. By electing an informal hearing the agency will allow you the opportunity to present mitigating factors which might affect the disciplinary action to be applied. The board will ultimately give the penalty pursuant to certain guidelines they must follow.
It is important to note that when an individual elects an informal hearing, he/she is admitting to all the facts contained in the administrative complaint; therefore, the facts cannot be disputed later on. The only portion of the case to be decided from this point forward is the discipline or type of punishment to be issued. Hence, a person opting for an informal hearing will not be allowed to argue or dispute the facts of the case.
Formal Administrative Hearings
A formal administrative hearing means that the individual requesting the hearing is contesting the material facts of the case. In this type of cases the individual licensee will have all the same rights as in a criminal trial. The rules of evidence and rules of civil procedure are followed which helps to prevent inadmissible, unfair or prejudicial evidence from being considered by the Judge. In addition, the attorneys will be able to take depositions and conduct discovery which is helpful for the case in order to find out what the state agency has in their power.
At trial it is the state agency the party that has the burden of proof in proving the case against the licensee. The standard required from the state agency to prove these types of cases is “clear and convincing evidence.” However, many times the state agency may not be able to meet this high standard.
In conclusion, if the state agency has alleged incorrect facts in the administrative complaint or if the individual is innocent, then the individual licensee should opt for a “formal hearing” because otherwise that person will not be allowed to dispute the facts or contest innocence at the informal hearing.
Since formal hearings require specific procedures and rules of evidence that need to be closely followed, it is crucial that the individual licensee obtains the advice of an experienced attorney to represent him/her well in advance. Not hiring an attorney early into the case could lead to making mistakes that can forever damage the case or can have a significant and detrimental impact on the ultimate result.
Select The Law Professionals to handle your Administrative Hearing, contact us today!