When you hear the term medical practitioner or doctor, you likely think of somebody highly trained who understands the most intricate medical problems. We trust medical practitioners to guide and help us through our illnesses and health conditions, some of which are terrifying and confusing.

Given the high risk involved in medical treatment, California harshly penalizes people practicing medicine when they lack a valid practicing license. Per the state's Business and Professions Code (BPC) 2052, it is an offense for anyone to practice, try practicing, or advertise themselves as practicing medicine in California with no authorization or valid certificate to do so. In this case, practicing medicine includes diagnosing, treating, or operating on a patient or prescribing medication for a blemish, disorder, deformity, ailment, disease, injury, disfigurement, or other mental or physical condition.

Similarly, it is against the law to conspire with somebody else to commit the above acts or to operate or own a medical facility staffed by doctors when you lack a state medical license. If you have been accused of illegally practicing medicine, you need help from an experienced fraud crimes attorney to fight the charges. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have helped clients charged in Anaheim beat these and other criminal charges. Our solid defense strategies can convince the judge to find you not guilty, dismiss the case, or reduce your charges.

Call us for a free consultation, and you will learn more about how we can help you.

BPC 2052 Violation In Detail

BPC 2052 applies when an unlicensed party tries to treat or diagnose any mental or physical ailment or advertises oneself as capable of treating or diagnosing such ailments. Particularly, this law criminalizes any of these activities:

  • Trying to practice, practicing, or advertising oneself as practicing ways or techniques of treating ailments or illnesses, including both unconventional and conventional treatments.
  • Prescribing medicines for, treating, or diagnosing a mental condition or physical blemishes or ailments of any kind.
  • Assisting (aiding and abetting) or conspiring with others to perform the above actions.

The law on practicing medicine without authorization is detailed. It extends beyond merely disguising oneself as a medical practitioner without certification. If you lack a legitimate California license to practice medicine, you could be accused under 2052 BPC even if:

  • You are a licensed doctor in another country or state.
  • Nobody you treat suffers an injury as a consequence of your treatment.
  • You own a healthcare facility but never attend to patients yourself.

Simply put, illegally practicing medicine entails an unlicensed person treating and diagnosing someone with a mental or physical condition.

Assisting in or aiding and abetting the act of illegally practicing medicine can occur in different ways, the most common being when doctors delegate duties to physician assistants, nurses, medical assistants, nurse practitioners, or any other staff member when the duty must be undertaken by a physician or somebody with a medical license.

If, for example, a doctor permits a nurse practitioner to administer a Botox injection without first performing a good-faith examination, the nurse practitioner may face charges for practicing medicine without authorization. Conversely, the physician will face charges for aiding and abetting practicing medicine without certification.

This is usually a risk at medical spas. These charges may be triggered when hospitals or doctor's offices do not have standard operating procedures. Standard procedures for operations allow nurses to do basic medical duties without specific orders from doctors. If a nurse performs these duties in the absence of these procedures, they and the physician could be subject to criminal and professional consequences for practicing medicine without a license.

Elements of the Crime

For the judge to find you guilty of violating 2052 BPC, the prosecution must demonstrate the facts making up the offense beyond any reasonable doubt. It must prove that:

  • You practiced, tried to practice, held yourself out, or advertised yourself as being able to treat the afflicted or sick in California.
  • You operated on, prescribed for, treated, or diagnosed any deformity, ailment, disorder, disease, injury, or any other mental or physical condition of an individual when you had no valid medical license.
  • Your certificate does not permit you to do what you did.

As described under this law, diagnosis means utilizing any tool, procedure, or technique to examine whether someone has a mental or physical disorder. Diagnosis includes utilizing blood pressure monitors and similar machines, though it does not entail measuring somebody’s weight or height.

“Treatment" entails practices recognized as explicitly medical. These include prescribing someone medicine or administering injections to them. It also entails more traditional treatments like acupuncture, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, and hypnosis.

Note that your actions do not need to have injured or harmed someone to face prosecution under BPC 2052. You also do not need to have aimed to hurt or injure anybody in any given way to face conviction. That means that although violating 2052 BPC is a victimless offense, you may still be detained, prosecuted, found guilty, and punished severely.

You could be prosecuted under 2052 BPC for attending to any mental or physical condition. Under this law, mental or physical conditions go beyond those easily identifiable as injury, illness, or disease.

Lastly, BPC 2052 only criminalizes actions that occur within California's borders. This element is currently more complex than before due to the emergence of the internet. However, generally, if you attend to a patient in California when you lack a license from the Medical Board of California, you could face BPC 2052 charges, whether you have ever been in California or not.

BPC 2052 also applies to people who are not licensed healthcare professionals but own or operate a medical facility. Therefore, if you own or operate a medical facility and are not a licensed practitioner, you could be prosecuted under 2052 BPC, whether or not you treat patients yourself.

Examples of actions constituting 2052 BPC violations include the following:

  • A non-doctor entrepreneur purchases a medical facility from a doctor and then employs that doctor to operate the practice. Whereas only an authorized doctor attends to the ill, the facility's new owner violates 2052 BPC because they are unlicensed.
  • A licensed doctor from a different state treats or diagnoses a patient living in California via telemedicine. Here, the doctor is guilty because they do not hold a California license.
  • A licensed doctor emigrating from Russia treats immigrants from her homeland at a lower rate because they cannot afford healthcare. Again, the doctor is licensed, although the license is not California-issued.
  • Someone uses homeopathic or unconventional methods like herbal remedies, acupuncture, or hypnosis to treat particular illnesses. Even if this person does not claim to be a physician, they could still face criminal charges for illegally treating and diagnosing conditions.
  • A woman with no medical license advertises herself as being able to treat obesity and diabetes using hypnosis.
  • A woman with midwife training, though not a licensed midwife, advertises her services of supervising births in homes.

Practicing Medicine Without Authorization By Medical Assistants

Medical assistants in California may not face charges under 2052 BPC because they are not mandated to possess a medical license. Medical assistants in California are not legally authorized to practice medicine separately. They can only assist licensed medical care workers in conducting their duties. Medical assistants may not face BPC 2052 charges, provided they do technical and administrative tasks. They might only face charges if they diagnose or treat people.

You could be convicted under 2052 BPC for doing minor operations as a medical assistant. For example, you violate BPC 2052 if you participate in conducting or managing a silicone party. You can be convicted of violating 2052 BPC if you administer silicone and do not have a medical license. A California medical license is mandatory, even for minor cosmetic procedures.

Patient Referral to Unlicensed Medical Practitioners

You may be subject to criminal charges under 2052 BPC if you deliberately and knowingly refer patients to unauthorized physicians, whether you possess a license or not. This is an example of actions that constitute conspiring to, aiding, or abetting practicing medicine when unauthorized.

Related Crimes to 2052 BPC Violation

Some crimes are related to BPC 2052 violations due to their shared elements. These crimes include the following:

HSC 11153, Prescribing a Controlled Substance Without a Legitimate Purpose

Under HSC 11153, it is an offense for a healthcare professional to consciously prescribe a controlled substance that is not issued for a legitimate medical purpose or is not issued in the usual course of their professional practice.

Violating 11153 HSC is deemed a wobbler crime. If found criminally liable for a misdemeanor, your penalties will include a jail term of 12 months and a fine of up to a thousand dollars. And if convicted of a felony, you will be subject to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand dollars and incarceration for up to three years.

HSC 11162.5, Counterfeiting a Prescription Blank

HSC 11162.5 criminalizes possessing or creating a counterfeit prescription blank for a controlled substance and presenting it as genuine to acquire the drug. A violation of this law is a wobbler offense. If found criminally liable for a misdemeanor, you will face 12 months in jail and a fine not exceeding a thousand dollars. If convicted of a felony, you will be subject to 16 months, three years, or two years in jail and a fine not exceeding $10,000.

HSC 11154, Prescribing a Regulated Drug Without Treatment

HSC 11154 prohibits doctors from consciously prescribing a drug for somebody not deemed their patient. A violation of this law is considered a wobbler crime. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you will be subject to a jail sentence of 12 months and a fine not exceeding twenty thousand dollars. If convicted of a felony, you will face a jail sentence of sixteen months, three years, or two years.

Defending Against 2052 BPC Violation Charges

To obtain a conviction under BPC 2052, we mentioned that the D.A. must effectively demonstrate particular elements, including:

  • You treated, diagnosed, or tried to treat or diagnose mental or physical ailments, or.
  • You advertised yourself as a licensed medical practitioner, and.
  • When you did so, you lacked a legitimate California-issued medical license.

Therefore, effective defenses against 2052 BPC violation charges will disprove any or all of these elements. Based on the circumstances surrounding your case, your lawyer can help you argue that:

Your Actions Do Not Constitute Practice of Medicine

In this age, several gray areas are involved when defining practicing medicine without authorization. For example, various healing traditions worldwide have little or nothing to do with conventional Western medicine. Trainers work closely with their clients to find solutions to their health concerns. On the other hand, consumers increasingly seek new and more affordable ways to cure their health problems.

That said, it is highly likely that the D.A. has accused you of violating 2052 BPC for an action that falls outside the meaning of the practice of medicine. In that case, you can argue this defense to prove your innocence.

Consider this example: You are a certified massage therapist. You claim your services could relieve pain, and rightfully so, but you neither precisely diagnosed anyone suffering from pain nor described your services as a treatment. In this case, the prosecution may have difficulty obtaining a conviction since you never advertised yourself as a physician and did not treat or diagnose anyone.

You Were Licensed or Believed You Were

With this defense, you could either present a valid California-issued medical license, or your lawyer may assert that you did not know your medical license had expired or otherwise been rendered invalid.

Other legal defenses that may be helpful to your case include the following:

False Accusations

Untrue allegations can result in people being wrongly convicted for any violation, including violations under 2052 BPC. For example, in your case, it could be that, as a non-doctor, a discontented ex-client did not understand your services or desired to land you in legal trouble. Or, a business conflict may have caused an ex-business associate or colleague to make incorrect claims about you. In this case, your lawyer would know what evidence to gather and questions to ask to reveal the truth.

You Did Not Earn from Your Medical Services

Sometimes, you may offer healthcare services to assist a person without requesting that they pay you. For example, suppose you stopped practicing medicine long ago but found somebody who requires urgent medical attention, and no doctor is nearby. It will not be considered illegal if you help this person free of charge. Your lawyer may successfully prove that you only helped save a situation at that moment without requesting anything in return. But you could be convicted if you requested that the person pay you for your services since you lack a medical license.

Additionally, if you used to practice medicine but changed careers, you can assist a patient needing medical attention. For example, suppose you encountered a woman about to give birth, and she had no help. You decide to assist the woman through the delivery process before the doctors arrive. In this case, you are not guilty of violating 2052 BPC.

Inadequate Evidence

Evidence is critical in criminal prosecution. The side that presents enough evidence has a higher chance of winning the case. If the D.A. has inadequate evidence, the judge may not find you guilty of the allegations against you. The judge usually dismisses BPC 2052 charges due to poorly conducted or delayed police investigations. If the case is weak, your lawyer can seize the opportunity and contest the prosecuting attorney's evidence against you, achieving a charge dismissal or reduction.

You Are a Medical Assistant, And You Did Not Break the Law

California law does not necessitate the medical licensing of medical assistants. Therefore, a medical assistant is not authorized to practice medicine independently. They can only assist medical officers and professionals.

So if a medical assistant offers only technical and administrative services, they are not criminally liable under BPC 2052. If you are a medical assistant, you can use this defense strategy to fight your charges. You only have to submit evidence in support of your claim. The judge will reduce or drop the charges against you if the evidence is sufficient.

You Are Self-Help Group Member

You may challenge the D.A.'s case against you by asserting that you are only a self-help group member. The court will acquit you if you submit enough evidence showing you never practiced medicine without a license but instead participated in the activities of a self-help group.

Consequences for BPC 2052 Violations

Violating 2052 BPC is considered a wobbler violation, meaning the prosecution may file felony or misdemeanor charges based on the accused's criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the case.

If you are found criminally liable for a misdemeanor violation, you will be subject to a court fine of up to one thousand dollars, twelve months in jail, and informal probation. If you are found criminally liable for a felony offense, the possible fine will increase to ten thousand dollars. You will also be subject to formal probation and sixteen months, three years, or two years in jail.

For either charge, the court could, at their discretion, lower sentences to felony probation for felony charges or informal probation for misdemeanor charges instead of prison or jail time.

Other Topics Related to Unauthorized Practice of Medicine

Topics related to 2052 BPC include:

Medical Marijuana

The state laws on medical marijuana are complex and confusing, and at times they can relate to the law on practicing medicine without a license and trigger legal problems for individuals who did not intend to break the law.

Consider this example: two medical marijuana business owners were found guilty under 2052 BPC for managing a facility where licensed physicians examined patients and recommended medical marijuana. Though only authorized physicians treated patients, it was still deemed the practice of medicine without a license because non-physicians owned the facility where the doctors worked.

California Criminal Convictions and Professional Discipline

Criminal convictions and medical professional discipline are also areas that California healthcare professionals should be concerned about. A guilty verdict for a violation significantly associated with a doctor's responsibilities, duties, qualifications, and functions can result in California doctors facing professional discipline.

The harshest discipline a doctor can face is the medical board’s revocation or suspension of their medical license. If you are subject to medical license revocation or suspension, you must be cautious about continuing your practice of medicine and triggering criminal charges under BPC 2052. As a nurse, your license can also be revoked due to certain criminal convictions in California.

Practicing Law When You Are Not Authorized

You can only practice law in the state if you are a State Bar of California member. This rule applies to attorneys whose membership has been revoked or suspended and to those who have never been attorneys.

Practicing law without authorization results in harsher criminal punishment, just like practicing medicine without authorization does. It is mostly deemed a misdemeanor offense but converts to a wobbler violation with felony punishment if perpetrated by a disbarred or suspended state lawyer.

Using Letters or Title Without Authorization

If you do not hold a California medical license, it is an offense to use these terms on letterhead, signs, business cards, or advertisements:

  • The term "doctor."
  • The term "physician."
  • The initials "M.D."
  • The prefix "Dr."
  • Other letters or terms insinuating you are a surgeon or physician.

This crime is deemed a misdemeanor, and its possible penalties upon a conviction include a maximum of six months in jail and a fine not exceeding a thousand dollars.

Find an Criminal Attorney Near Me Experienced In Fraud Crimes

If the prosecutor has filed charges against you for violating 2052 BPC or you are being investigated, you want to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer quickly. While these charges are severe, various possible defenses are available. Being a step ahead of the investigation can help you present your account of events and mitigate the possible professional and criminal consequences. Since the prosecution may use your words against you, having a lawyer help you defend your legal rights is essential.

At the California Criminal Layer Group, we offer expert legal representation and counsel for people accused of practicing medicine without a license in Anaheim. For any case we handle, we mount a solid strategy to handle every element making up the case. One of our strategies is convincing the D.A. not to bring criminal charges in the first place through pre-filing intervention. For a free consultation or to learn about our defense strategies, contact us at 714-766-0965.