Practicing Medicine Without a License (California Penal Code 2052)
When you think of a doctor or medical practitioner, you probably think of someone with years of expensive training, a white lab coat, someone who is capable of understanding even the most complex medical issues. We trust doctors to guide us through some of the most confusing and terrifying moments in our lives.
With the high risk that medical treatment entails, California punishes those who practice medicine without a license very harshly. Under California Penal Code 2052, it is a crime for any person to practice, attempt to practice, or advertise practicing, any treatment of the sick including diagnosis, operation, or prescription for an ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or any other physical or mental condition without a valid certificate or authorization for doing so.1 Likewise, it is a crime to conspire with others to commit such acts under Penal Code 2052.2
Prosecution of Unauthorized Practice of Medicine
In order for you to be convicted of violating Penal Code 2052, the prosecution must prove all of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You practiced, attempted to practice, or advertised practicing any treatment of the sick in California; or
- You diagnosed, operated, or prescribed treatment for an ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or any other physical or mental condition; and
- You did so without a valid, unrevoked, or unsuspended certificate or authorization to perform such acts3
It is important to keep in mind that in order to be convicted of violating Penal Code 2052, you do not have to have caused any harm or bodily injury. If harm of injury did occur, however, this can lead to additional charges.
Sentencing and Punishment for Practicing Medicine Without a License
Violating Penal Code 2052 is a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony based on the particular circumstances of the crime and your prior criminal history.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code 2052, you face a sentence of up to 364 days in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both fine and jail.4 If you are convicted of a felony violation of Penal Code 2052, you face a sentence of 16 months, two or three years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both fine and imprisonment.5
Possible Legal Defenses to Unauthorized Practice of Medicine
If you have been charged with violating Penal Code 2052, a skilled criminal defense attorney at may be able to raise several defenses on your behalf. These defenses may include:
- You were not practicing medicine as defined by California law – With people increasingly seeking alternatives to western medicine, there are now multitudes of treatments which do not fit the legal definition of medical practice. If the practices you performed were not “medical practices” as defined under California law, then you should not be convicted of this crime.
- You were engaging in a “self-help” group – Self-help groups are run by members of the group often at the exclusion of licensed healthcare professionals. Arguing that you were not practicing medicine, but rather engaged in a self-help or support group, can be a viable defense against practicing medicine without a license.
- You were falsely accused – Often patients who are unhappy with their prognosis make false allegations that can lead to a person being accused of this crime. If this happens to you, it is critical that you immediately contact our office so we can help you.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Penal Code 2052
At Wallin & Klarich, we frequently receive questions from those facing charges of Penal Code 2052 violations. These include:
Can I be charged with violating Penal Code 2052 if I am a medical assistant?
Medical assistants are typically unlicensed, and may only perform administrative or technical support services. If a medical assistant diagnoses or treats individuals, they can be charged with violating Penal Code 2052.6
Is it a violation of Penal Code 2052 to conduct or run a “silicone party”?
Yes, if you are the individual injecting the silicone. Even minor cosmetic procedures require adequate licensing.
Can I be charged with violating Penal Code 2052 for referring a patient to an unlicensed doctor?
Yes. Penal Code 2052 makes it a crime to conspire, aid, or abet another to practice medicine without a valid license or authorization. Knowingly referring patients or engaging in collaborative medical practices with unlicensed or unauthorized individuals can put you at risk of being charged with violating Penal Code 2052.
Contact Wallin & Klarich if You Have Been Charged with Practicing Medicine Without a License
Wallin & Klarich has been successfully defending those facing Penal Code 2052 violations charges for over 40 years. We can help you, too. If you have been charged with unauthorized practice of medicine in California, you need to contact the experienced attorneys at Wallin & Klarich immediately.
With office locations in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is a skilled Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.