What Happens to Medical Professionals in PA Who Are Accused of Sex Crimes? | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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What Happens to Medical Professionals in PA Who Are Accused of Sex Crimes?

Whether it involves doctors, nurses, or dentists, when medical professionals in Pennsylvania face accusations of sex crimes, the repercussions are devastating, affecting not only their personal lives but also their careers and professional standing.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we understand the gravity of these charges and the complex intersection between criminal defense and professional licensure. Our comprehensive, statewide Pennsylvania sex crimes defense practice is dedicated to protecting the rights and reputations of medical professionals.

Keep reading to learn more about what medical professionals need to be aware of if they are accused of sexual misconduct in Pennsylvania and the importance of qualified legal representation.

How Sex Offense Allegations Happen to Medical Professionals

Understanding the various ways allegations can arise is crucial for medical professionals, as it underscores the importance of maintaining professional boundaries and adhering to ethical standards in all interactions with patients and colleagues.

Sexual misconduct allegations against medical professionals can originate from various sources, each triggering a unique investigative process:


Patients may file complaints if they feel they have been mistreated or abused during medical care. These allegations often arise from perceived violations of personal boundaries or inappropriate conduct during examinations or treatments.

Complaints from patients can lead to both internal investigations within healthcare facilities and external inquiries by licensing boards and law enforcement.


Co-workers or other medical staff might report suspicious or inappropriate behavior they witness or hear about. This can include actions such as inappropriate touching, suggestive comments, or other forms of sexual harassment.

Reports from colleagues are taken seriously because they are presumed to understand professional boundaries and can provide detailed accounts of the incidents.

Third Parties

Family members, friends of patients, or even anonymous sources can lodge complaints. These individuals might learn about potential misconduct through conversations with the patient or by observing interactions that raise concerns.

Anonymous reports, while more challenging to investigate due to a lack of direct testimony, are still thoroughly investigated to determine their validity. Such reports can come through hotlines or other anonymous reporting mechanisms by medical institutions or regulatory bodies.

Pennsylvania Sex Offenses for Doctors, Nurses, Etc.

The legal process for PA medical professionals accused of sex crimes typically follows these steps:

  • Report and Initial Inquiry: The police are notified of the allegation and begin an initial inquiry to assess the credibility of the complaint.
  • Formal Investigation: If the initial inquiry finds sufficient grounds, a formal criminal investigation is launched. This may involve interviews with the accuser, the accused, and potential witnesses and the collection of physical evidence.
  • Arrest and Charging: If there is probable cause, the accused may be arrested and formally charged with the crime. An arrest warrant is issued, and the accused is taken into custody.

If police ever question you about sexual misconduct regarding a patient, call a lawyer immediately – trying to explain things yourself is a mistake that can jeopardize your defense.

Sex Crime Charges for PA Medical Professionals

Medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, medical assistants, and related professionals, may face a range of charges depending on the nature of the allegations:

Sexual Assault

This involves non-consensual sexual contact or activity with a patient or colleague. For medical professionals, sexual assault can occur during examinations or treatments where inappropriate touching or forced sexual acts are alleged.

Indecent Assault

This charge applies to cases where there is non-consensual touching of intimate parts. In the medical context, indecent assault might involve inappropriate touching during routine check-ups or procedures without consent or beyond the scope of medical necessity.


Voyeurism applies to watching or recording someone in a private setting without their consent. In a medical setting, this could involve using hidden cameras in treatment rooms or bathrooms to capture images or videos of patients undressing or undergoing examinations.

Institutional Sexual Assault

This applies when a medical professional engages in sexual conduct with a patient who is in the care of a state or licensed facility. Institutional sexual assault recognizes the inherent power imbalance and the professional’s responsibility to maintain boundaries.

Unlawful Contact with a Minor

When a medical professional has inappropriate sexual communication or physical contact with a minor. This can happen in settings like pediatric care or school-based health services.

Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse

IDSI usually refers to forced oral or anal sexual intercourse with another person. This can be a severe charge in the medical profession if a healthcare provider is accused of such acts during treatment.

Criminal Penalties If Convicted

If a medical professional is convicted of a sex crime in Pennsylvania, like anyone else, the penalties will be severe and life-altering.

Prison sentences vary based on the severity of the crime, with sexual assault carrying potential sentences of 10 to 20 years. Additionally, those convicted in PA must usually register as sex offenders. This registration imposes significant restrictions on where someone can live and work. 

The Professional Impact of a Sex Crime Conviction

Beyond the legal penalties, a sex crime conviction for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can have catastrophic implications.

Medical professionals often face suspension or revocation of their licenses by the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine or Nursing. This can effectively end their careers, as re-entering the medical field after a conviction and losing licensure is extraordinarily difficult. The lifelong stigma associated with a sex crime conviction can also severely limit future employment opportunities, both within and outside the healthcare sector.

The PA Medical Board Disciplinary Process for Sexual Misconduct

When a sexual misconduct complaint is filed against a medical professional, the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine or Nursing investigates. This disciplinary process begins with an initial review to determine its validity.

A formal investigation is conducted if the complaint is found to have merit. This involves gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and possibly conducting a hearing where the accused can present their defense.

Based on the findings, the Board may impose various disciplinary actions:

  • Medical License Suspension: Temporary removal of the right to practice.
  • License Revocation: Permanent loss of the medical license.
  • Probation: Continued practice under specified conditions and monitoring.
  • Reprimand: Formal statement of disapproval placed on the professional record.

The Rights of the Accused Doctor or Nurse

The accused medical professional has the right to legal representation, to present evidence, and to cross-examine witnesses during the hearing. To navigate this complex process effectively, it is crucial to have an experienced attorney who understands criminal defense and professional licensure laws.

The Burden of Proof for Disciplinary Action

A criminal conviction is not always required for the Board to take disciplinary action. The Board can act based on the preponderance of evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that the misconduct occurred. This lower burden of proof compared to criminal cases means that even without a conviction, a medical professional can face severe professional consequences.

Medical Professionals Must Take Sexual Offense Charges Seriously

As a medical professional, you have invested years into your education and career, building a reputation and a practice you can be proud of. Allegations of sexual misconduct threaten not only your professional standing but also the very foundation of your personal and professional life.

Treating these charges with utmost seriousness and seeking immediate legal advice is crucial. Consult a criminal defense attorney experienced in sex crimes as soon as you become aware of the allegations. Avoid discussing the allegations with colleagues, patients, or on social media, as any statements can be used against you.

Sex Crime Defenses for Healthcare Professionals

Effective defenses against such allegations include questioning the accuser’s credibility and reliability, providing evidence of an alibi, or demonstrating that any interaction was consensual. Strategic tactics involve gathering supporting documents, messages, or witnesses, using expert testimony to challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and negotiating plea deals or reduced charges.

Worgul, Sarna & Ness Can Help

If you’re a medical professional facing sex crime charges in Pennsylvania, you need a defense attorney now. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we handle sex offense cases across the state and craft effective defenses to protect your reputation, rights, and freedom.

Don’t wait to protect yourself, your medical license, and your livelihood. Call (412) 281-2146 or submit a request 24/7 for a free consultation. An experienced sex crime lawyer in Pennsylvania will explain your options and guide you through the next steps.