Formal Hearings vs Informal Hearings in Administrative Law
Administrative law falls somewhere outside of criminal or civil court litigation, although at times it may run concurrent to these other legal processes, depending on what violations or circumstances have occurred. Administrative law in Florida refers to rules governing state agencies that determine such things as violations against statutes outlined for state board licenses and certifications.
All professional licenses are awarded, maintained or sanctioned through administrative law hearings, which are presided over by administrative law judges within the realm of whatever board rules over a given profession in the state.
Formal and Informal Hearings
These administrative hearings before the designated board for your profession provides for due process, so a person accused of a violation has the opportunity to defend themselves. Chapter 120 of the Administrative Procedure Act for the state of Florida authorizes two types of hearings.
- Informal Hearing – When there is no dispute regarding the material facts of the violation, the hearing is deemed informal. Essentially, the defendant agrees with the facts and conclusions presented by the agency board when reviewing their violation or charges. They also relinquish their right to further dispute the charges after the informal hearing. The only purpose of an informal hearing is to decide the penalty for the violation. The defendant uses an informal hearing to introduce mitigating factors that might influence a lighter punishment or even to avoid disciplinary sanction of their license. Some mitigating factors would involve successful treatment program completion as well as current ability to safely function in the professional practices of that certification. A good attorney can advise you regarding the advantages and risks attached to going with an informal hearing.
- Formal Hearing– When the defendant denies allegations or accusations of violations that could call for sanctions of their professional license, they might opt for a formal hearing before their governing board or agency. The defendant will be required to identify and dispute specific facts presented in the agencies investigation and determination of charges. This type of hearing runs similarly to criminal trials with some of the same rights, including invocation of the 5th The agency must be able to prove their case using Florida’s Rules of Evidence. The standard of proof can often be higher than the agency can provide, while the defendant doesn’t need to prove anything. The standard of proof for a hearing where an agency is seeking to revoke or sanction a license typically requires higher proof than a civil suit would, though not always quite as high as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of a criminal court.
Administrative Law Provides Choices
You have choices in how to address the case against you from a government agency. Either type of hearing can be fraught with pitfalls, depending on your circumstances. You need an experienced and knowledgeable team on your side to untangle all the processes and decisions surrounding a potential disciplinary sanction of your license you’ve worked hard to attain.
Don’t go in alone and don’t give up without a fight. Tison law Group can make sure you know your rights and understand your choices so you are treated fairly by the agency governing bodies. Let us walk you through the processes by giving us a call and going over your options today.