Administrative Law: Business and Professional Licenses

by Adam G. Slote
Updated October 20, 2009, Originally published June 5, 2002

This Web site is for California businesses and professionals who face the denial, suspension or revocation of a business license or professional license.


License Law Overview  

California has approximately 50 regulatory agencies that license businesses, occupations and professions. Examples of business licenses and professional licenses (under their common names) include:

Accountant's License / CPA License
Dental License Nursing Home License
Auto Repair License / Smog Check License / BAR License
Insurance License Registered Nursing License, R.N. License
Chiropractors License
Hearing Aid Dispensers License Pharmacy License or Pharmacist's License
Community Care Facilities License
Liquor License / Beer and Wine License Psychology License, Psychiatry License
Contractors License Medical License Real Estate License, Real Estate Broker's License
Daycare License Moving and Storage License, Household Goods Carrier's License (PUC Permit) Social Worker's License / Marriage, Family and Child Counselor's License, MFCC License

California regulatory agencies include Commissions, such as the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Departments, such as the Department of Insurance and Department of Real Estate, and dozens of Boards, Committees and Bureaus operated by the Department of Consumer Affairs, such as the Medical Board of California and the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Most healthcare professions are regulated by Boards under the Department of Consumer Affairs, such as the Medical Board, Dental Board, Board of Registered Nursing, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Chiropractic Examiners and Board of Behavioral Sciences. Healthcare facilities are licensed by the Department of Health Services.

Outside of healthcare, major agencies include the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Bureau of Automotive Repair, the Contractors' State License Board, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Department of Insurance, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the Department of Real Estate, and the Department of Social Services.

  License Denials, Suspensions and Revocations: The Legal Process

Disciplinary actions generally arise from customer complaints, undercover investigations (in the case of the Bureau of Automotive Repair), civil judgments or criminal convictions. An investigation by the licensing agency generally commences the process. The investigation may or may not include communication with the licensee. If the agency decides to move forward with the denial, suspension or revocation of a license, a report is submitted to legal counsel. Boards, bureaus and committees under the Department of Consumer Affairs are represented by the California Attorney General. Departments, such as the Department of Insurance, Department of Real Estate, etc., are represented by in-house counsel.

In the case of discipline against an existing license, legal counsel prepares a document called an Accusation. An Accusation is a formal document that sets forth the alleged misconduct, the laws that were violated, and the discipline sought, e.g. suspension or revocation. In the case of the denial of a new license application, a Statement of Issues sets forth the reasons for the license denial. The Accusation or Statement of Issues is normally accompanied by a Statement to Respondent, which provides information about the legal process, and a blank Notice of Defense Form. The licensee is entitled to a hearing if he or she returns the completed Notice of Defense within 15 days of the mailing date.

Upon receipt of the Notice of Defense, the agency's attorney notifies the California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). The Office of Administrative Hearings is the court system for administrative hearings with offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Administrative law judges preside over pre-hearing scheduling, optional settlement conferences, and the hearing itself. At the hearing, each party presents evidence in the form of live witness testimony and documents. Within thirty days after the hearing, the administrative law judge submits written Findings of Fact and a Proposed Decision to the agency. The agency has 30 days to adopt or reject the Proposed Decision. If the agency issues an order adopting the Proposed Decision, then the Proposed Decision becomes the agency's order. The agency also has the option of rejecting the administrative law judge's proposed decision. Upon rejection of the proposed decision, the agency reviews the transcript of testimony and documents offered in evidence, and then issues its own findings and decision.

The licensee has the right to appeal the agency's final decision and order through a Writ of Administrative Mandamus to the Superior Court of California. The time for filing an appeal depends on a number of factors, but it can be as little as 30 days from the order of denial, suspension or revocation.

For answers to frequently asked questions, see FAQ's.

Learn more about the author, attorney Adam G. Slote.

Licensing Agencies
Healthcare Agencies

Acupuncture Committee

Behavioral Science Examiners, Board of Marriage, Family and Child Counselors, Social Workers
Chiropractic Examiners, Board of Chiropractors
Dental Board of California Dentists, Dental Auxiliaries, Registered Dental Assistants, Registered Dental Hygienists
Health Services, Department of Healthcare Facilities, Hospices, Pediatric Day Health and Respite Care Facilities, Clinical Laboratories, Dieticians, Audiometrists, Nursing Home Administrators, Home Health Agencies, Private Duty Nursing Agencies, Home Dialysis Agencies, Tissue Banks, Referral Agencies for Extended Care, Skilled Nursing Homes or Intermediate Care Facilities
Hearing Aid Dispenser Bureau Hearing Aid Dispensers

Medical Board of California (Includes Board of Podiatric Medicine and Osteopathic Medical Board)

Physicians, Surgeons, Osteopaths, Podiatrists, Perfusionists, and Licensed Midwives, Physicians Assistants
Occupational Therapy, Board of Occupational Therapists
Optometry, Board of Optometrists
Pharmacy, Board of Pharmacists, Pharmacy Technicians
Physical Therapy Board of California Physical Therapists
Psychology, Board of Psychologists
Registered Nursing, Board of
Registered Nurses
Veterinary Medical Board Veterinarians, Registered Veterinary Technicians
Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, Board of Licensed Vocational Nurses, Psychiatric Technicians
Agencies (Non-Healthcare)
Accountancy, Board of Public Accountants, Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), Department of Stores, Bars, Restaurants, Wineries, Breweries, Caterers, etc.
Arbitration Certification Board Arbitration boards for Lemon Law claims and disputes arising from the sale of new motor vehicles
Architects Board (Landscape Architects Technical Committee) Architects, Landscape Architects
Athletic Commission Boxing: Promoters, Matchmakers, Managers, Boxers
Automotive Repair, Bureau of Automotive Repair Facility, Automotive Repair Dealer, Lamp and Brake Adjusting Stations, Brake and Lamp Adjusters, Auto Body Repair Shop, Smog Check Stations, Smog Technicians
Barbering and Cosmetology, Bureau of Barbershops, Barbers, Cosmetologists, Tanning Facilities
Cemetery and Funeral Bureau Cemeteries, Funeral Directors, Funeral Establishments, Embalmers
Contractors' State License Board General Engineering Contractor, General Building Contractor, Specialty Contractors including Electrical, Plumbing, etc.
Court Reporters Board Certified Shorthand Reporters (C.S.R.)
Corporations, Department of Escrow Agents, Check Sellers, Bill Payers, and Proraters, Finance Lenders,
Electronic and Appliance Repair, Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair Dealers
Engineers and Land Surveyors, Board for Professional Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors
Fish and Game Commission Commercial Fishing, Fish Packers, Fish Wholesalers, Fish Processors, Fish Receivers
Geologists and Geophysicists, Board for Geologists and Geophysicists
Guide Dogs for the Blind, State Board of Instructors, Trainers and Schools for the training of guide dogs and the instruction of blind persons in the use of guide dogs.
Insurance, Department of Insurance Brokers, Salespersons, Insurance Agents
Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation, Bureau of Upholstered furniture, Bedding, and Thermal Insulation Industries
Justice, Department of Card Rooms, Pawnbrokers, Secondhand Dealers, Estate Jewelry
Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Commercial Drivers, Vehicle Salespersons,
Privacy Protection, Office of Credit Grantors and Utilities
Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Institutions
Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Moving and Storage
Real Estate, Department of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons, Real Estate Agents
Security and Investigative Services, Bureau of Alarm Companies, Locksmiths, Private Investigators, Private Patrol Operators, Private Security Services, Repossession Agency
Secretary of State Notary Public
Social Services, Department of Day Care Centers, Family Daycare Homes, Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly, Residential Care Facilities for Persons with Chronic Life-Threatening Illness, Community Care Facilities, Foster Care
Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Board Speech-Language Pathologists, Audiologists
State Bar of California Attorneys
Structural Pest Control Board

Pest Control, Exterminators, Fumigators

Teacher Credentialing, Commission on Teachers and School Administrators
Telephone Medical Advice Services Telephone Medical Advice services
Transportation, Department of Outdoor Advertising

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This Web site is for general information only. Consult an attorney for legal advice. Specific information may not be accurate, or it may be out of date.