California Business and Professions Code Section 2052 BPC: Unauthorized Practice Of Medicine

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimeunauthorized doctor

The California legislature has taken steps to ensure that those who do not carry professional licenses cannot engage in certain activities. One of the most strongly protected professions is the practice of medicine. Under California Business and Professions Code Section 2052 BPC, it is a crime to engage in the unauthorized practice of medicine.

To prove a defendant is guilty of engaging in the unauthorized practice of medicine, the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant practiced or attempted to practice or advertised or held himself or herself out as practicing, any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted in California

  2. OR the defendant diagnosed, treated, operated for, or prescribed for any ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury or other physical or mental condition of any person, without having at the time of so doing a valid, unrevoked, or unsuspended license

  3. AND the defendant was not authorized to perform the act pursuant to a certificate obtained in accordance with some other provision of the law.

In addition, those who own or operate medical practices who are not licensed practitioners can be subject to prosecution under California Business and Professions Code Section 2052 BPC, even if they never treat patients but only supervise licensed physicians.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Prescribing a Controlled Substance Without a Legitimate Purpose – California Health and Safety Code Section 11153 HSC
  2. Prescribing a Controlled Substance Without Treatment – California Health and Safety Code Section 11154(a) HSC
  3. Counterfeit Prescription Blank – California Health and Safety Code Section 11162.5 HSC
  4. Selling Marijuana – California Health and Safety Code Section 11360 HSC
3. Examples

A man owns commercial property that he leases to different medical practices. One of the man’s doctor tenants is struggling financially and is afraid he will have to close his practice. The property owner, who is not a licensed doctor, knows how to run a business and agrees to purchase the practice from the doctor. The doctor becomes his employee and the man keeps the profits from the clinic and pays the doctor a salary. The man has no involvement in the day-to-day operation of the practice and never sees patients for any reason. This man could be charged with engaging in the unauthorized practice of medicine in violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 2052 BPC. Recently, two owners of marijuana dispensaries who did not have licenses to practice medicine were convicted of unauthorized practice of medicine for owning a dispensary that employed a fulltime physician to see patients and write prescriptions.

In another example, a man is a licensed masseuse who works independently from his home. He tells prospective clients that his massages can cure stress as well as take care of pain and mobility issues. He never claims he is a doctor or a chiropractor. This man would not be criminally liable under California Business and Professions Code Section 2052 BPC because his massages would probably not be considered practicing medicine, despite some of his claims.

4. Defenses to Unauthorized Practice of Medicine

As discussed above, there may be situations where it is not clear if the defendant was actually engaging in the practice of medicine. A lot of alternative treatments from other cultures may or may not be considered practicing medicine, depending on the specific treatment involved.

5. Penalties

The unauthorized practice of medicine is a “wobbler” offense under the law. This means that the case can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on factors such as the underlying facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. If convicted of a felony offense, the defendant can be sentenced to serve up to three years in prison. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the defendant can be sentenced to up to a year in jail.

6. Criminal Defense for Unauthorized Practice of Medicine Cases

If you have been charged with or are under investigation for the unauthorized practice of medicine, it is imperative that you meet with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is highly skilled at assisting those charged with white collar offenses. In many cases, Mr. Kraut’s early involvement while the case is still being investigated can result in charges being significantly reduced or dropped altogether.

For more information about unauthorized practice of medicine, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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