Frequently Asked Questions before Filing a Complaint

  1. What happens when I file a complaint?

    Your complaint will be reviewed by a complaint analyst who will examine the facts you allege and then review all applicable laws governing the profession or occupation to determine if there is a possible violation of law. It is important to understand that LLR is an administrative agency that investigates administrative violations regarding a professional or occupational license holder's license. Although some of LLR's administrative investigations may relate to criminal proceedings or civil litigation matters involving a license holder, LLR is not authorized under South Carolina law to pursue criminal or civil matters against license holders.

  2. How do I find the license holder so I can file a complaint?

    If you are unsure of the license number for the individual against whom you wish to file a complaint, please use LLR's Licensee Lookup application to help you find the correct license holder. Please do not file the same complaint multiple times or the same complaint for every license an individual may hold as this will delay the review process.

  3. Is the license holder permitted to work when a complaint is filed against them?

    Yes. The license holder is entitled to due process before being prevented from practicing/working. This means the allegations in a complaint must be investigated and presented to a board/commission/panel to determine the facts and the law and whether those establish that a violation of a practice act has occurred. The license holder must also be given an opportunity to present evidence and arguments as to why a violation did not occur. After this, a board/commission/panel can decide whether to impose a sanction limiting or prohibiting a license holder from practicing/working.

    The only exception to this is if a board/commission/panel decides that the public health, safety or welfare imperatively or urgently requires emergency action. Even in those instances, however, a license holder may request a hearing on the appropriateness of suspending their license without a hearing.

  4. Are all complaints investigated?

    No. If the complaint analyst determines your complaint, as alleged, does not fall within the board’s jurisdiction, then there is no legal authority to investigate. You will be notified stating that an investigation will not be opened.

    Sometimes a complaint does not provide sufficient information for the complaint analyst to determine whether a licensing law may have been violated. If that happens, you will receive a request for additional information. Timely responses to requests for information are critical to complaint processing. Absent extenuating circumstances, if the requested information is not received within 10 business days, the complaint will not be opened for an investigation. If the additional information still does not provide a sufficient legal basis to process your complaint, LLR will notify you that the matter cannot be opened for an investigation.

  5. Will I know if Office of Investigations and Enforcement (OIE) opens an investigation based on my complaint?

    Yes. You will receive an acknowledgement letter that will explain the investigative process and provide you with contact information for the investigator who will be assigned to the case. Importantly, as the complainant, you are not a party to the case. The State of South Carolina and the license holder are the parties to the case. You may be a potential witness in the case, however. Please note that LLR's attorneys do not represent you or the license holder. The governing board, commission, or panel will determine the outcome of the case.

  6. Will my name be kept confidential?

    South Carolina law generally requires that the license holder who is the subject of a complaint investigation be provided a copy of the complaint, the complainant's name, and all materials filed with the complaint. In certain limited situations, a board may determine that good cause exists to withhold the complainant's name.

  7. How long will the investigation take?

    LLR makes every effort to complete investigations as efficiently as possible. Typically, complaints are investigated in order of receipt, but the time it takes to conduct a thorough investigation can vary depending on several factors. These may include the complexity of the case, the evidence that must be collected and the time it takes to receive that information, the number of investigations pending, and the number of witness interviews, among other factors.

  8. What happens during the investigation?

    The investigator will gather evidence and interview witnesses including the license holder, and may issue subpoenas.

    As a potential witness, you may be asked to cooperate with the investigation, which could include providing a written statement, providing additional supporting documentation, allowing access for an inspection, and/or providing testimony before the professional board, commission, or panel. Please keep in mind that failure to cooperate or be forthcoming during the investigation or to provide information as requested in a timely matter may negatively impact the investigation.

  9. Will I be kept up to date on the case?

    While the assigned investigator may provide you an update on the process, s/he will be be limited in their ability to share full details of an investigation with you due to confidentiality restrictions mandated under state law and/or to ensure the integrity of the investigation. You may contact the investigator if you have a question during the investigative process, or to provide/update information for the investigator.

    If you file your complaint anonymously, the investigator will not be able to provide updates or receive confirmation of whether a case has been opened. Additionally, anonymous complaints can be more challenging to process and investigate because the investigator will not be able to contact you if additional information is needed.

  10. Can I get updates on a complaint filed by my friend/neighbor/co-worker/third party?

    Generally, no. Most investigations of license holders are confidential by law. This means that LLR cannot disclose the status of a complaint or investigation to anyone. If you are a witness in a case, you may be contacted by LLR to discuss your knowledge of the allegations or asked to testify at a hearing. Even then, however, you will not be provided updates as to the details or status of the complaint or investigation. Public orders sanctioning a license holder are available on LLR's website.
  11. What happens when the investigation is complete?

    At the conclusion of an investigation, the case proceeds to an Investigative Review Committee (IRC). See #13 below for more information about the IRC process. If a case is dismissed, you, as the complainant will be notified, but you may not receive a detailed explanation of the dismissal because of confidentiality restrictions under South Carolina laws. In some cases, a Letter of Caution or Letter of Concern (LOC) may be issued to a licensee. An LOC is non-disciplinary action, but it remains in the license holder's file and is not subject to public disclosure. If a board approves a case for further legal action after an investigation, the matter will be referred to LLR's Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

  12. How does the board make a decision regarding an investigation?

    Because a board cannot both investigate and adjudicate a case, an Investigative Review Conference (IRC) is established for each board. A board will review and vote on the IRC recommendations. The IRC is comprised of: (1) an attorney from LLR to give legal advice regarding the cases presented, (2) at least one subject matter expert who is a licensee and a non-board member who provides expertise in the area of practice, (3) the board executive who provides information as to how the board has handled similar cases historically for consistency purposes, and (4) the Lead Investigator who keeps the meeting on schedule. The IRC recommendations are presented to the board for their decision. A board can dismiss a case or refer for further proceedings if supported by the evidence. If a case is referred for further legal action through the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, a consent agreement may be offered to a license holder to resolve the case or a hearing may be set where evidence and testimony may be presented.

  13. What disciplinary actions can a board take regarding a professional license?

    While a board has a wide range of sanctions it can impose if it determines that disciplinary action is appropriate, a sanction will be based on several factors including the severity of the violation, the disciplinary history of the licensee, and consideration of any aggravating or mitigating evidence presented. Discipline can range from a monetary penalty, probation with conditions, restriction of an area of practice, up to suspension and revocation of a license.

  14. Will I be notified when the case is concluded?

    Yes. You will receive notice when the case is resolved. If designated as public, Disciplinary Board Orders and Consent Agreements may be obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request. Information regarding FOIA requests is available on the agency’s website.

  15. Can I appeal a decision regarding the complaint if I disagree with it?

    No. As mentioned above, as the complainant, you are not a party to the case, so you do not have standing to appeal a board decision to the Administrative Law Court. If you have a dispute with the license holder that is beyond the jurisdiction of LLR, you may wish to seek legal advice from an attorney who can advise you on other potential remedies that may be available.

  16. Can the license holder appeal?

    Yes. A license holder against whom an order is issued has 30 days to appeal a board decision to the Administrative Law Court.
  17. Can I get a copy of the investigation file?

    The Agency is limited in its legal authority to release most information related to a complaint and/or investigation. Most boards have language in their laws that specifically states information is confidential or privileged. However, all public actions taken against a license holder, such as a final order, can be released. You can send a FOIA request for the investigative file, and you will receive the information that LLR is legally allowed to release.