Achieving a profession is a milestone that most, if not all, people want to experience at some point in their lives. Indeed, there is nothing more fulfilling than finally manifesting the results of your hard work, perseverance, and dedication. Having that short yet powerful abbreviation in your name can be quite impactful in your quality of life -- but it is something that is unfortunately being exploited by corrupt and dishonest individuals.
There are people who wilfully put the terms “Dr.” or “M.D.” in their names despite the fact that they are not even licensed medical practitioners at all. The motives of doing so vary widely, but the unauthorized use of professional terms and titles are usually done to deceive other people into believing that they are what they claim they are. As a result, these misled individuals will find themselves in the hands of people who actually do not care about their well-being. It is such a simple yet terribly dangerous maneuver that could literally cost the lives of many -- which is why the state of California imposed BPC 2054. In this law, it is illegal to:
- Use the words “doctor”, “physician”, “Dr.”, “M.D.”, or any other terms or letters that would imply that the person practices, entitled to practice, or represents as a physician, surgeon, or practitioner
- In any sign, business card, letterhead, or advertisement
- That at the time of doing so, the person did not have a valid, unrevoked, and unsuspended license or certificate as a physician, surgeon, or practitioner.
In short, unauthorized use of any of the terms mentioned above is a violation of California Business and Professions Code BPC 2054 and shall therefore be sanctioned accordingly.
But of course, there are exceptions to this law. The Medical Board of California previously amended the statute to allow the following individuals to use the terms in statements of publications:
- Graduates of recognized medical schools currently enrolled in an approved post-graduate training program;
- Graduates of recognized medical schools who have an unrevoked or unsuspended license to practice medicine issued by any jurisdiction. This is on the condition that they entitle themselves to practice medicine to the extent authorized by the law;
- Physicians practicing medicine outside of the state that they were licensed in on the condition that such license is unrestricted; and
- Physicians training as fellows.
A few examples that violate BPC 2054 are as follows:
- A well-known local physician had just been permanently suspended from practicing medicine after sabotaging the production of the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite this, however, he still continues to advertise his services and refers to himself as “Dr.” in business letters.
- Your brother had always wanted to be a surgeon as it had been your grandfather's dying wish. He took up a degree to become a doctor of medicine (M.D.) but failed to meet the standards needed by the school. Out of frustration, he stopped attending his classes and decided to set up his own small clinic. He then started handing out business cards with the title “M.D.” attached in his name even though he never graduated from college.
- A woman had become so interested in herbal science and medicine that she decided to set up her own YouTube channel dedicated to discussing topics, discoveries, and facts about it. However, she knew that people would question her credibility if they knew that she is not a certified physician or medical practitioner. In an attempt to solve this problem, she resorted to calling herself “Dr.” in her videos and social media posts.
There are several similar violations to BPC 2054, such as:
- Unauthorized practice of medicine;
- Unauthorized practice of law;
- Fake advertisement;
- Identity theft;
- Forgery; and
- Medical malpractice.
Penalties for Unlawful Use of Professional Terms and Titles
A violation under California Business and Professions Code 2054 is a misdemeanor offense. This means that the penalties include:
- A county jail sentence of up to 1 year; and/or
- A fine of not more than $1,000.
Keep in mind that these are only the minimum and estimated penalties. If you happen to violate more than one law, the consequences will obviously be greater than what were stated above.
Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Are Here To Help You
If you are accused of unlawfully using professional terms and titles, we highly encourage you to give us a call as soon as possible. This is to ensure that you are properly represented during trial. Our experienced and skilled criminal defense lawyers have handled many cases similar to yours; you don't ever need to worry about landing on the wrong hands.
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