Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Practicing without a license

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Practicing without a license (American English) or practising without a licence (British, Irish, and Commonwealth English) is the act of working without the licensure offered for that occupation, in a particular jurisdiction. Most activities that require licensure also have penalties for practicing without a valid, current license. In some jurisdictions, a license is offered but not required for some professions.



Fields where practicing without a license may carry civil or criminal penalties include lawyer, physician, physician assistant, surgeon, coroner, medical examiner, paramedic, funeral director, osteopath, chiropractor, dentist, pharmacist, engineer, pilot, broadcasting, nurse, veterinarian, midwife, teacher, psychologist, surveyor, detective, social worker, architect, barber, hairdresser, electrologist, tattooist, cosmetologist, real estate agent, plumber, florist, accountant, and masseuse. If a person offering their services is licensed in one of these professions, any member of the public has a right to know if that person is validly licensed or not by the licensing authority. Anyone who claims to have a license and refuses to identify themselves properly by first and last name can possibly lose any one or all of their licenses. In many jurisdictions, it is illegal for service providers to hide their identities for purposes of making it difficult to verify licensure and past disciplinary actions or license violations.

License requirements vary widely with jurisdiction, sometimes even within a single country. Practicing a professional discipline without a license may be legal in some jurisdictions. For example, nine U.S. states have passed health freedom laws that protect alternative practitioners such as herbalists from prosecution for "practicing medicine without a license." In the area of mental health, Oregon offers broad licensing exemptions for professional counselors and marriage and family therapists, allowing people to practice these professions either with or without a license. Colorado requires registration but not licensing for psychotherapists. Other states also have exemptions or registration requirements instead of, or in addition to licensing for some professions.

Other unlicensed activity

Other occupations, such as operating a business or working as a professional driver or mariner, may require specialized licensure as well. Operating a business without proper licenses can result in financial and sometimes criminal penalties. These licenses can include a general business license, a liquor license, a specialized drivers license, and other types regulated by local, regional, state, or federal requirements. Certain occupations may require obtaining appropriate intellectual property licenses, such as music licensing, brand licensing, patent licensing, software licensing, and other permissions for use.

Non-professional activities may also require licenses for participation. These include driver's license, amateur radio license, dog license, firearms license, hunting license, marriage license, pilot license. Using certain products or services may also require obtaining a license, such as a software license. Operating without these licenses can lead to civil and criminal penalties.

Penalties vary depending on the severity of the infraction, but practicing without a valid, current license may be punishable by one or more methods, including community service, fine, restitution, probation and temporary or permanent loss of the license. Criminal charges can lead to incarceration, as they can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the severity of the infraction.

Noted incidents

On July 6, 1885, Louis Pasteur, a chemist who was a pioneer in microbiology, treated Joseph Meister after the boy was mauled by a dog infected with rabies with a vaccination treatment that had thus far only been tested on animals. This deed was technically illegal considering Pasteur was not a licensed physician, but he and his colleagues agreed that it was necessary considering his treatment seemed the only way to save the boy from a likely death. Fortunately, the treatment was successful, Pasteur was feted as a hero, and charges were never filed.

Another more modern example is the case of Frank Abagnale, who was accused of impersonating an airline pilot, lawyer, and teaching assistant.

The "yogurt defense" was made famous by the trial of Carol Downer, one of the developers of menstrual extraction. She was arrested at her self-help group and charged with practicing medicine without a license, as she inserted yogurt into the vagina of another woman to treat a yeast condition. Carol Downer was acquitted; the jury did not equate inserting yogurt with practicing medicine.

In fiction

Black Jack is a Japanese comic book series created by Tezuka Osamu that is about the world's greatest surgeon, who chooses to remain unlicensed. This allows Black Jack to charge extortionate amounts of money instead of the standard fees agreed upon by the Japanese Medical Association. It also lets him perform extremely dangerous, often medically implausible or impossible operations, that are not legally allowed. Black Jack is often viewed as the Japanese equivalent to Batman, in his willingness to routinely break laws to save lives for which he is frequently imprisoned by the police. It is notable that Black Jack actually completed his college medical education and carries a driver's license, though he encourages other unlicensed doctors who have no such formal training. Like many of Osamu's works, Black Jack is extraordinarily critical of the medical establishment, and is notable for raising Japanese public awareness of medical corruption.

The majority of superheroes in comic books investigate crimes without detectives' licenses. In Detective Comics, The Question, Dick Grayson, Detective Chimp John Constantine and John Jones/Martian Manhunter are all licensed detectives or police officers, while Wally West, the third Flash is a professional crime scene investigator. Jonah Hex is a bounty hunter operating under the loose legal framework of the wild west. The Green Lantern Corps patrol the D.C. universe and enforce the ancient intergalactic laws of the guardians of Oa. In Marvel Comics, Frank Castle used to be a policeman, but after his wife and child were shot to death, he left the force forever and became the mass murdering vigilante The Punisher.

Batman is one of only three members of the Justice League with any medical training, but is the only who lacks an official doctorate and license to practice medicine. Nevertheless, he occasionally performs surgery on his teammates despite being the son of doctor Thomas Wayne. In Marvel Comics, the former neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, in desperate search of a cure for his crippled hands, wasted all of his money on alternative medicine, which did not heal him. Homeless, Doctor Strange performed back alley surgeries for cash, barely able to hold the instruments.

Victor Frankenstein, though often incorrectly referred to as a doctor, is only a medical student, and as such operated on his monster without a license. Prior to its vivification, Frankenstein and his assistant Igor were also acting as unlicensed morticians.

The USA Network drama Suits' protagonist, Michael "Mike" Ross, gets a high-flying job at the fictitious Pearson Hardman law firm without having the necessary licence to practice law.


Practicing without a license Wikipedia

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