What should you do if you operate a state-licensed business and receive a letter from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) alleging a complaint against you? Typically, these complaints claim that you violated a rule or law that covers businesses licensed by the DBPR. As a small business owner, handling the time and expense of enduring a DBPR investigation and fighting for your license may be frustrating or frightening .
In this post, the business law team at BrewerLong will guide you through how to handle a DBPR license investigation. We will describe the process from complaint to initial investigation to Probable Cause Panel (PCP). We will also tell you what to expect at each stage of the process. If you are facing a DBPR license investigation, contact the BrewerLong business team today.
What Is the Complaint Process for a Florida DBPR License Investigation?
Complaints about Florida-licensed businesses are usually submitted to and handled by the DBPR. If a complaint is filed against you or your business, the DBPR must notify you. Receiving notice of a complaint may be surprising since complainants are permitted to remain anonymous. The DBPR complaint forms do not even require a complainant to have done business with you to file a grievance!
After you receive and review the complaint, DBPR permits you to submit a written response. You must do so within 20 days after you receive the letter. Make sure to include your case number in any correspondence to DBRP. A business law attorney can help take the weight off your shoulders and assist you in preparing your written response.
What Does the Initial Investigation by DBPR Look Like?
The initial investigation by DBPR has several parts. The first stage begins after the complaint is filed. It is reviewed by either a DBPR investigator, an investigator from the particular board or department that licenses your business, or an investigating attorney from a law firm under contract with the state to complete the investigation.
Next, the investigator will attempt to verify the information in the complaint. This helps DBPR determine whether or not to proceed further. An investigator may:
- Interview complainants who have not chosen to remain anonymous,
- Speak with witnesses,
- Issue subpoenas for documents or interviews,
- Compile documents and other evidence, and
- Prepare a case report.
If the investigator determines probable cause to proceed with the complaint, your case will be referred to a PCP.
How Do I Handle the PCP in a Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation License Investigation?
If the complaint is serious and substantiated, the DBPR will typically convene a PCP to determine the outcome of the complaint against you. The PCP’s job is to review all evidence presented and determine if a violation occurred. The PCP may also address the severity of such violation and decide whether or not it merits disciplinary action. The PCP typically determines the case to have one of three results.
No Probable Cause
If the PCP determines there is no probable cause to proceed, that means the facts gathered during the initial investigation do not support a complaint against your business. Sometimes, this means that documents or witnesses were unavailable or the complaint simply has no merit.
Letter of Guidance
Letters of Guidance are usually issued when the panel has determined that some violation has occurred, but the violation was minor and does not require disciplinary action. Your Letter of Guidance may provide recommended actions to improve, but these recommendations are non-binding.
If the PCP refers your case to an administrative complaint, it means that a violation has occurred and believes it requires disciplinary action. If the PCP has notified you that you are now facing an administrative complaint, a Florida business lawyer can help. Contact the BrewerLong team today to discuss your options.
Voluntary Relinquishment of License
Sometimes, you may be asked to sign a settlement agreement to relinquish your license voluntarily. An investigator will ask you to sign this if they believe you have violated law or policy. In other cases, they may simply be trying to cut corners on performing a thorough investigation.
Voluntary relinquishment agreements are an issue in all types of license complaints and disputes, including contractors’ licenses, real estate licenses, and even medical licenses. Be aware that if you do sign a voluntary relinquishment agreement, you may never be able to get your license back—in Florida or another state! Be sure to consult an attorney before signing something so life-changing.
The BrewerLong Difference in Handling a DBPR License Investigation in Florida
Protecting your business license is serious business. Properly handling a DBPR license investigation can mean the difference between losing your license and continuing to run a profitable business. If you are facing the DBPR for any reason, contact the BrewerLong team today to discuss how we can help.
Our experienced lawyers have handled sensitive business investigations and administrative litigation for over 15 years. Call the office or contact us online to schedule a consultation for your commercial litigation needs.
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