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What Licensed Professionals Need to Know About Facing Criminal Charges in New Jersey

January 10, 2024 | Posted In Criminal Law |

If you are facing criminal charges as a licensed professional in New Jersey, it is important to understand what your case means for your career. While a conviction could lead to fines, jail (or prison) time, and other penalties, convictions—and arrests—can have professional licensing consequences as well. As a result, your case could have both immediate and long-term consequences for your career, and this makes it critical that you speak with an experienced New Jersey white collar crime lawyer as soon as possible.

Getting Arrested Can Trigger Professional Disciplinary Proceedings

In many licensed professions, simply getting arrested can trigger professional disciplinary proceedings. You may have an obligation to report your arrest to your state licensing board (i.e., the New Jersey Real Estate Commission or the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners), and you could face disciplinary action even if your arrest doesn’t ultimately lead to a conviction.

This is due to the different standards that apply in professional disciplinary proceedings and in criminal court. To secure a conviction, prosecutors must be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in professional disciplinary proceedings, proof by “clear and convincing evidence” or “a preponderance of the evidence” may be sufficient to warrant a reprimand, suspension or even permanent license revocation. Additionally, professional licensing boards may impose discipline for acts and omissions that don’t rise to the level of criminal offenses. So, even if you have strong defenses in your New Jersey criminal case, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can use these same defenses to protect your professional license.

For example, lawyers are subject to strict ethical rules regarding the use of escrow accounts. Lawyers must generally place any unearned fees (i.e., retainer fees) into escrow, and if they receive any funds on behalf of a client (i.e., a settlement or civil judgment), they must hold these funds in escrow as well. If a lawyer withdraws a client’s funds from escrow and uses them for non-client-related purposes, this could lead to criminal charges for theft or embezzlement. But, regardless of whether prosecutors can prove that the lawyer’s actions constitute a crime, making improper use of a client’s escrowed funds can lead to disciplinary action by the New Jersey Disciplinary Review Board.

Getting Convicted Can Have Even Greater Professional Consequences

While getting arrested can lead to professional disciplinary action, getting convicted can have even greater professional consequences. Certain convictions may constitute grounds for immediate disqualification or disbarment. Even if you are not permanently disqualified from practicing, having a conviction on your record can still make it much more difficult to find a job within your profession—as can having any form of disciplinary action on record with your professional licensing authority.

Plea Bargaining, PTI, and Other Options Can Keep Your Case Out of the Public Eye

As a licensed professional, facing public accusations of a white collar crime can have immediate and long-lasting consequences for your reputation and standing within your community. As a result, working with your New Jersey white collar crime lawyer to keep your case out of the public eye can also be extremely important.

One option for keeping your case out of court (and thus out of the public eye) is to negotiate a plea bargain. If a conviction at trial seems likely, then negotiating a plea bargain could be your best option for multiple reasons. However, when negotiating a plea bargain as a licensed professional, it is critical to consider the potential disciplinary consequences of any deals that are on the table. Accepting a plea bargain means accepting criminal responsibility, and accepting responsibility for different types of crimes can have different professional disciplinary implications. So, in addition to considering the judicial penalties you will face if you accept a plea, you will need to work with your lawyer to assess the likely licensing implications as well.

If this is your first time facing criminal charges, you may qualify for pretrial intervention (PTI). New Jersey’s PTI program allows first-time offenders to resolve their cases without a trial and without a conviction regardless of the facts involved. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have other options for keeping your case out of the public eye as well. Your lawyer should be able to help you assess all of your options and choose the best path forward.

Steps You Should Take if You Are Facing White Collar Criminal Charges in New Jersey

With these considerations in mind, there are some steps you should take promptly if you are facing white collar criminal charges as a licensed professional in New Jersey. For example, to protect yourself, you should:

  • Avoid talking to investigators or prosecutors. You should exercise your right to remain silent and let your New Jersey white collar crime lawyer communicate with the police and prosecutors on your behalf.
  • Preserve all relevant records. If you have any records that are relevant to your criminal case, you should be sure to preserve them. Destroying relevant records (or even allowing them to be shredded or deleted in the ordinary course of business) can have adverse consequences in court.
  • Determine if you have an obligation to report your arrest. If you have an obligation to report your arrest to your licensing board, you should do so promptly with your lawyer’s help. Failing to timely report an arrest can itself lead to professional disciplinary proceedings.
  • Talk to a New Jersey white collar crime lawyer. Protecting yourself in this situation requires experienced legal representation. To help ensure that you do not face unnecessary consequences, you should speak with a lawyer in confidence as soon as possible.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation with a New Jersey White Collar Crime Lawyer

Our lawyers have extensive experience representing licensed professionals in serious criminal cases. To speak with an experienced New Jersey white collar crime lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. in confidence, please call 877-435-6371 or send us your contact information online today.


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