Doctors and other health professionals in California can be disciplined or lose their licenses for criminal conduct such as possession of illegal drugs even if they complete a pretrial treatment program and have the case erased from their record, under a ruling that has now become final.
The state Supreme Court unanimously refused Wednesday to take up a physician’s appeal of a ruling that said a licensing agency, such as the California Medical Board, can rely on arrest records as evidence that a license-holder committed professional misconduct, even if the underlying criminal case no longer exists.
That ruling, by a San Francisco appellate panel, is now a binding precedent for all trial courts in California. Besides doctors, it applies to other licensed medical professionals such as nurses and pharmacists.
The case involved a Southern California physician, Brandon Erdle, who was arrested in September 2013 on suspicion of possessing cocaine. His lawyer, Mitchell Green, said Erdle was actually arrested for an unrelated minor crime and was carrying bags with small amounts of the drug that he was about to drop into a medical disposal unit.
The case never went to trial, and the drug charge was dismissed in January 2016 after Erdle went through a treatment program known as pretrial diversion. In the meantime the Medical Board, citing his arrest report, accused Erdle of unprofessional conduct, then issued him a public reprimand in 2016 and placed him on probation.