If you’re a licensed Florida landscape architect who’s received a complaint from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), you’re probably feeling unsettled about the future of your career and disconcerted on how you should proceed. A complaint against any licensed professional in Florida can arise from a variety of situations. If left unresolved, it can have serious consequences, including limitation of services, financial penalties, corrective education, and, at worst, a suspension or revocation of license.
An investigation derived from a complaint against an Orlando landscape architect is an adversarial situation. After years of dedication and hard work, a loss of license would be a devastating setback to your reputation and career. If you’re a licensed landscape architect facing a complaint, it’s important that you take swift action to respond and resolve the complaint with competent legal counsel to protect your future vocation.
Landscape architects design aesthetically pleasing and efficient public parks, gardens, residential lawns, college campuses, and public areas. They combine skills in both the arts and science to study, design, manage, and cultivate the human-made and natural environments. The creations of landscape architects can significantly impact the living environment of those who get to enjoy it.
Florida Statute 481.303(6) defines the professional services of landscape architecture as:
“Consultation, investigation, research, planning, design, preparation of drawings, specifications, contract documents and reports, responsible … development of land and incidental water areas, including the use of Florida-friendly landscaping… the dominant purpose of such services or creative works is the preservation, conservation, enhancement, or determination of proper land uses, natural land features, ground cover and plantings, or naturalistic and aesthetic values…”
Landscape architects must guarantee that the technical and aesthetic design meets the requirements in the contract agreement made with the owner. Before beginning a project, it’s essential that landscape architects have a clear and detailed contract on tasks they’ll complete.
Without a valid license, landscape architects cannot practice their profession. Florida administrative rules and laws that govern these professionals are highly complex. It often doesn’t take much for a professional to become the subject of an investigation or disciplinary action. However, a loss of license can permanently damage your reputation and future livelihood.
If you believe that a complaint has been lodged against you, your future career depends on resolving it swiftly and effectively. We strongly urge you not to go before a licensing board alone and secure knowledgeable legal counsel — no matter how groundless the complaint might seem.
In Florida, the Board of Landscape Architecture is the authority that licenses and regulates landscape architects. The Board is supervised by the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) that oversees and regulates over one million professionals and businesses in the State of Florida. The Board meets regularly to review applications for new licenses, complaints, and disciplinary cases.
A landscape architect might face complaints about a variety of reasons. Irrigation is a common issue in terms of management and the costs of renovations and upgrades. Trees with deep roots might not get enough water if the irrigation only delivers water to shallow-rooted plants.
Often, landscape architects have issues meeting small time frames or tight budget restraints. Clients and contractors may underestimate the time necessary for beautiful and sustainable landscape design. Landscape architects might face complaints if their contracts fail to detail the time required to complete the job. Any irrigation or design flaw in the contracted property is the landscape architect’s responsibility.
According to Florida Statute 481.325, licensed landscape architects in Florida can face disciplinary actions if any of the following occurs:
If someone wanted to file a complaint against a licensed landscape architect, they would contact the DBPR and complete a Uniform Complaint Form. Anyone who files a complaint that’s groundless or makes a false statement with the intent to mislead an investigation may be found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor.
When a landscape architect receives a complaint, an investigation is opened by the DBPR. The inquiry consists of procuring enough evidence to determine whether the claim can move on to the next step.
Information gathered during an investigation typically includes:
As a professional landscape architect, it’s highly recommended that you secure experienced professional license legal defense to help you develop a response to the investigation procedure. Often, an experienced attorney can end the investigation process at its earliest stages, preventing you from withstanding further harm to your business or reputation.
If the investigation acquires enough proof to move the allegation to the next stage, the complaint will be reviewed by a Probable Cause Panel. That will usually involve members on the Board of Landscape Architecture who review the documents and evidence associated with the complaint.
During this process, it’s essential that you have your trusted legal defense counsel, and you do not attempt to handle the situation alone.
The Panel Review can result in three possible outcomes:
A finding of “no probable cause” is a dismissal of the case, which means there was not enough evidence proving that you violated any rule or regulation. A “letter of guidance” is not a disciplinary action, but it’s issued when the panel finds that a minor violation did occur. The most severe outcome is when a formal Administrative Complaint is issued against you.
An Administrative Complaint against you describes the statements and evidence against you reviewed during the investigation, along with the specific laws or regulations that you’re charged with violating. After consulting with your attorney, you can choose to attend either an Informal Hearing or Formal Hearing.
If you choose to proceed with an Informal Hearing, that means you do not wish to dispute any of the allegations against you, nor do you intend to bring any new evidence to light. Instead, you’re accepting the complaints, and you’ll face the Board again, where they’ll make a final decision on what penalties will be imposed against you.
If you wish to dispute the allegations and facts found against you during the investigation, you proceed with a Formal Hearing. This hearing is before Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) and presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ hears the evidence from both sides and makes a final Recommended Order to the Board. The Board then makes a final decision concerning disciplinary actions.
You can appeal the decision by filing a petition for judicial review if your building contractor’s license is suspended or revoked. Your lawyer is your most valued ally when going through this process – always consult with them before making any decisions.
At The Umansky Law Firm, our professional license defense team investigates every case in detail to learn the facts and the best way to secure your architect’s license. In general, some complaints against landscape architects can go to criminal court, and you can face criminal charges. Having an experienced criminal lawyer who handles professional license defense is paramount. Our combined attorneys are prepared to defend you against allegations of professional misconduct, ethics violations, professional incompetence, and more.
Umansky lawyers can help you in various ways, including:
When your professional license is in jeopardy, you need an attorney who can put years of knowledge and experience defending professionals to work for you. If you’ve been accused of committing an act that may prompt the Board of Landscape Architecture to revoke your license, call The Umansky Law Firm to fight aggressively. As accomplished trial attorneys, we have a unique understanding of the evidence code. We can help you prepare a strong defense that may include dismissal of the allegation or complaint against you.
Attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm include former prosecutors and defense lawyers, and some worked directly with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). We will vigorously protect you in defense of your right to practice your landscape architecture profession. To speak with an administrative lawyer, complete an online contact form or call today.
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