Disciplinary Guidelines of Licensing Agencies

California law requires all licensing agencies to issue Disciplinary Guidelines.  (Business and Professions Code, sections 481, 482.) These Disciplinary Guidelines are similar to Sentencing Guidelines in criminal law. They provide for the proposed terms of license discipline and the probation that the licensing agency deems appropriate for particular violations of the law. The specific codes violated depending upon the agency involved, and may include:

  • California Business and Professions Code
  • Corporations Code
  • Education Code
  • Government Code
  • Health and Safety Code
  • Insurance Code
  • Labor Code
  • Penal Code
  • Vehicle Code
  • Welfare and Institutions Code
  • California Code of Regulations (“Regulations”)

Disciplinary Guidelines are intended to facilitate due process and uniformity. This is in reviewing applications, investigating alleged violations of the underlying law governing the agency, as well as investigating, pursuing and instituting administrative actions against licensees. They are designed to assist every person involved in the administrative law process, from the applicant/licensees, attorneys prosecuting or defending them, and the administrative law judges hearing their case. They are also designed to assist the licensing agency itself as it ultimately decides what discipline to impose. Finally, they also serve their purpose before the courts – where many cases end up via writ of administrative or traditional mandate. The disciplinary guidelines are revised from time to time by the underlying licensing agency, some more often than others. The more recently revised versions often split the guidelines into three parts:

  • Guideline Rules – the rules governing the guidelines
  • Penalty Guidelines – the identification of the types of violations and range of penalties, for which discipline may be imposed
  • Model Disciplinary Orders – model language for proposed terms and conditions of probation

The Guideline Rules most often describe the test used by the agency to determine whether the alleged misconduct bears a substantial relationship to the underlying profession. They will also include a description of different types of evidence in aggravation, which warrants increasing the harshness of the model discipline; as well as its counter, evidence of mitigation, which warrants decreasing the severity of the discipline. The Guideline Rules may also include alternatives to license discipline that the licensee could pursue (i.e. petition for monetary penalty in lieu of suspension, etc.) They may also describe emergency acts permitted to be engaged in by the particular licensing agency (i.e. Temporary Suspension Order, etc.) or the impact rehabilitation or expungement of a criminal offense has on potential discipline.