All states make the unauthorized practice of medicine a criminal offense with potentially serious penalties.
Since states are responsible for providing medical licenses, each state has a slightly different legal definition for the practice of medicine. In general, a person practices medicine when he or she tries to diagnose or cure an illness or injury, prescribes drugs, performs surgery, or claims he or she is a doctor.
Depending on the circumstances of the case and the state in which the crime occurred, practicing medicine without a license can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. Because of this, the severity of the potential penalties associated with this crime differ significantly among states, and even among cases in the same state.
- Jail or prison. A person convicted of a misdemeanor practicing medicine without a license crime faces a maximum jail sentence of up to one year. Felony offenses have more significant penalties associated with them, and anyone convicted of a felony offense can face eight years or more in a state prison.
- Fines. Illegally practicing medicine will also result in a potential fine. As with incarceration sentences, the amount of the fine differs among states and depends on whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony. Misdemeanor fines will typically be no more than $1,000, though larger fines are sometimes possible. Felony fines arm much higher, and can exceed $10,000.
- Probation. If you are convicted of practicing medicine without a license, you may also face a probation sentence. Probation is designed to allow someone convicted of a crime to serve his or her punishment outside of a jail or prison setting. Probation is not a “get out of jail free” sentence, and it imposes significant limitations on what a convicted person is allowed to do. Probation sentences will last at least one year, but multiyear sentences are very common. During that time, a probationer must comply with court imposed restrictions. These commonly include making regular reports to a probation officer, allowing the officer to search your home at will, asking the officer’s permission before you leave the jurisdiction or move, paying all required fines or restitution, and not committing any more crimes.
- Restitution. Any time someone illegally practices medicine and charges someone else for those services, or the illegal actions result in a victim suffering a loss, the court will also order restitution. Restitution payments go to victims to compensate them for any losses they have suffered, and amounts differ from case to case.