Facing an administrative hearing where a panel of board members determines the fate of your professional license can be daunting. One of the first thoughts that has probably crossed your mind is how you are going to defend yourself against the allegations. When we are accused of something, the gut instinct is to say anything you can to try to convince the accuser that the allegations are not true or what they said happened is not the full story. A hearing is the time and place to do this. Before going into an administrative hearing, it is important to at least consult with an attorney but it is also important to be aware of what types of evidence can be presented in defense of allegations in an administrative hearing.
Evidence at Administrative Hearings
“In contested cases: (1) Any oral or documentary evidence may be received, but the agency shall, as a matter of policy, provide for the exclusion of irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence.”
Important documents, records, physical evidence, witness statements, patient history, and video surveillance are the types of oral or documentary evidence that the board can receive during the hearing. Keep in mind that evidence will be presented against you and having evidence that could rebut or contradict the evidence that supports the allegations against you is important.
The statute goes on to say that, “(2) agencies shall give effect to the rules of privilege recognized by law; (3) when a hearing will be expedited and the interests of the parties will not be prejudiced substantially, any part of the evidence may be received in written form; (4) documentary evidence may be received in the form of copies or excerpts, if the original is not readily available, and upon request, parties and the agency conducting the proceeding shall be given an opportunity to compare the copy with the original.”
Evidence can also be taken and combined with the board’s own knowledge. This means that generally accepted scientific facts, the customs in that particular field, and specialized knowledge can be taken into account. The board can also evaluate the evidence in light of “the agency’s experience, technical competence, and specialized knowledge…”
In reviewing the evidence, the board does not need to strictly follow the rules of evidence that are used in courts of law. The board can follow rules that are well-established in the practice of administrative law. For example, evidence that may be considered “incompetent” in a court of law could be considered “competent” in an administrative hearing.
Hearing the Evidence
The hearing of evidence is much less formal than the hearing of evidence in a court of law. In criminal cases, the admission of evidence that is not allowed could result in a mistrial or a favorable termination of the case for the defendant. Mistakes in evidence could result in prejudice to the defendant and could tamper with the jury. However, administrative hearings do not take these extraordinary measures for the erroneous admission of evidence. In fact, errors in admitting evidence do not cause issues in the hearing unless it is shown that the evidence caused substantial prejudice. It is the plaintiff’s burden to show that the evidence caused this substantial prejudice by showing that the hearing officer or board abused its discretion or made an illegal or arbitrary evidence ruling. Presenting evidence in an administrative hearing is not free for all, but it is definitely not as strict as it is in a court of law.
Compiling and presenting evidence in front of a board can be difficult because sometimes it is unclear what documents and records are actually relevant and critical for defending against the allegations. If you are facing the possibility of going in front of a board at an administrative hearing, contact our office to speak with an attorney who can help you.