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Is Practicing Medicine Without a License a Crime in Texas?

In Texas, you need to be a licensed physician to engage in the “practice of medicine.” Without an active medical license, you cannot act as a doctor. This raises an important question: Is it a crime to practice medicine without a license in Texas? The answer is “yes”—in fact, it is a serious felony offense that can carry up to ten years in state prison. Here, our Galveston criminal defense attorney provides a more comprehensive overview of practicing medicine without a license in Texas. 

Know the Law: Tex. Occ. Code § 165.152

The criminal code for practicing medicine without a license in Galveston County, Harris County, or elsewhere in Texas is Tex. Occ. Code § 165.152. The statute clearly stipulates that any individual engaging in medical practice without the appropriate state authorization is committing an illegal act. A violation is a “is a felony of the third degree.”

What Does it Mean to Practice Medicine?

In Texas, the definition of practicing medicine extends beyond simply diagnosing illnesses and/or prescribing medications. It encompasses any act that implies that you are licensed and qualified to practice medicine or surgery. Some examples include offering to treat diseases, physical conditions, or disorders through any medium, including in-person consultations, digital communications, or suggesting the use of any medical treatment or procedure. 

That being said, what constitutes the practice of medicine is far from straightforward. There are many exempted acts that people are allowed to do in Texas that are related to health, including applying home remedies, offering general opinions, and writing about medical options. Giving advice can sometimes blur the line between a non-professional opinion and practicing medicine without a license. A key factor is how a person is presenting himself or herself. 

The Penalties for Practicing Medicine Without a License in Texas

Practicing medicine without a license is a very serious criminal offense in Texas. Any person charged with this crime could face serious penalties. Among other things, a conviction under Tex. Occ. Code § 165.152 could result in: 

  • A fine of up to $10,000 (per each offense); and
  • Two to ten years in state prison. 

A person who causes harm to another while practicing medicine without a license may also face a civil complaint. As this is a serious crime that carries the risk of stiff penalties, it is imperative that any person facing such a charge seeks immediate professional legal representation. 

Defense Strategies Against Unauthorized Practice of Medicine Charges

How do you defend a charge for practicing medicine without a license in Texas? It depends entirely on the specific circumstances of the case. A criminal defense should be narrowly tailored. Here is an overview of some of the most common defense strategies in these cases:

  • Good Faith Error: Mistakes can occur due to administrative errors, misunderstandings regarding licensing renewal dates, or incorrect information about licensure requirements. A person who had a genuine, good faith, and reasonable belief that they held a valid medical license may have a valid defense on the grounds of no criminal intent. It could allow the matter to be resolved at a lower level. 
  • No Practice of Medicine: The most common defense against this charge is arguing that the conduct under review by prosecutors does not constitute the practice of medicine under Texas state law. Remember, what constitutes the practice of medicine is not always a bright line. Providing educational information, general wellness advice, or non-specific health recommendations are not the practice of medicine. 
  • Lack of Evidence: In Texas, prosecutors always have the burden of proving every element of a criminal charge. A defense may also focus on the prosecution’s inability to provide sufficient evidence that the defendant was, in fact, practicing medicine without a license. 
  • Plea Agreement: In cases where the evidence against the defendant is substantial, negotiating a plea agreement may be the best path forward. A plea bargain could potentially keep a person out of prison. A Galveston, TX defense lawyer can help you negotiate with prosecutors to determine the best solution.  

Contact Our Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our Galveston criminal defense attorney is an aggressive, effective advocate for clients. If you or your loved one was arrested and charged with practicing medicine without a license, please do not hesitate to contact us today for a confidential consultation. With offices in Galveston, League City, and Houston, we defend misdemeanor and felony criminal cases throughout Southeast Texas.