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Practicing without a license

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Title: Practicing without a license  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Property law, Health professional requisites, Easement, Defeasible estate, Alienation (property law)
Collection: Business Law, Licenses
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Practicing without a license

Practicing without a license is the act of working without proper licensure for that occupation, as required in that jurisdiction.[1] Most activities that require licensure also have penalties in place for those who practice them without valid, current licenses.[2] Practicing without a license is often a crime.[3]


  • Types 1
    • Other unlicensed activity 1.1
  • Noted incidents 2
  • In fiction 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


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.

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.[4]

Noted incidents

One famous incident was on July 6, 1885 when 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 was thus far only 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. As it happens, the treatment was successful and Pasteur was feted as a hero and possible criminal charges were waived under the circumstances.[5]

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

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.[6][7]

In fiction

Black Jack (manga) is a Japanese comic book series created by Tezuka Osamu that is about the worlds greatest surgeon; whom 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 would not legally be allowed to be performed. Black Jack is often viewed as the Japanese equivalent to The 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.[8]

The majority of superheroes in comic books investigate crimes with out a detectives license. 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 neuro-surgeon doctor 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.

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

See also


  1. ^ Springhouse Corporation (2004). Nurse's legal handbook. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, ISBN 9781582552804
  2. ^ Galaty, Fillmore W. et al. (2001). Modern Real Estate Practice in Illinois. Dearborn Trade Publishing, ISBN 9780793142576
  3. ^ Golder, Daniel T. (2000). Practicing dentistry in the age of telemedicine. The Journal of the American Dental Association June 2000 vol. 131 no. 6 734-744
  4. ^ Circo, Carl J. [ed.] (2009).A State-by-state Guide to Construction & Design Law: Current Statutes and Practices. American Bar Association, ISBN 9781604425543
  5. ^ Murphy, Timothy F. (2004). Case Studies Biomedical Research Ethics. MIT Press, ISBN 9780262632867
  6. ^ Ruzek, Sheryl Burt.(1978)."The Women's Health Movement Feminist Alternatives to Medical Control,"New York:Praeger Publishers.p.57
  7. ^ “Menstrual Extraction” WorldHeritage Contributors, WorldHeritage, The Free Encyclopedia accessed 11/14/2013 available at: https://articles/Menstrual_extraction
  8. ^ Cian O'Luanaigh (2010). "Osamu Tezuka: Father of manga and scourge of the medical establishment". Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
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