The Purpose of Engineering Licensure
In the interest of public health, life, property, and safety, the Florida Legislature determined to regulate the practice of engineering in Florida. To accomplish this task, the Legislature created Chapter 471, Florida Statutes.
Licensees are expected to know the laws and rules governing their profession, and are expected to provide services in accordance with current regulations, codes, and ordinances, and recognized standards. When appropriate, the Florida Board of Professional Engineers has the authority to discipline those individuals and firms (licensed and unlicensed) that offer or practice engineering in Florida. The Board has the power to suspend, revoke, or refuse to issue, restore, or renew an engineering license for an individual or a Certificate of Authorization for a firm, or place on probation, fine, or reprimand any professional engineer, individual, or firm found guilty of violating Florida Statutes and Rules.
The legal department — consisting of the chief prosecuting attorney, investigators, and a paralegal/compliance officer — manages the complaint and disciplinary processes. The department’s duties include review of complaints, coordination of investigations, preparation of Probable Cause Panel and Board meeting materials, preparation of administrative complaints and orders, litigation of cases at the Division of Administrative Hearings, handling appeals to the court system, and assuring compliance with Board decisions.
For detailed information on how to file a complaint, review individuals currently being disciplined, and access Florida’s current laws and rules, refer to their pages under the Legal section on the FBPE website.
Unlicensed Practitioners Affect Everyone
The unlicensed practice of engineering is a serious threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the general public and to the profession itself.
Typically, FBPE receives cases involving firms practicing without a Certificate of Authorization, individuals using the protected title Professional Engineer or any variation thereof, and individuals practicing without a Professional Engineer license. In most cases, the violations occur due to a lack of knowledge of the laws and rules by the offenders, as well as the public.
Generally, FBPE issues a notice to Cease & Desist for first-time offenders. A second offense is investigated and presented to the Probable Cause Panel. Historically, a second offense results in a fine.
To file a complaint involving either licensed or unlicensed activity, download a copy of the Uniform Complaint Form located on the Complaints page under the Legal section on the FBPE website, or request a form from the Board’s office.
If you want to talk to someone about a potential violation, please call the Board office at (850) 521-0500 and ask to speak to an investigator.
The Complaint Process Defined
Complaints are filed with the Florida Board of Professional Engineers from many sources; any member of the public may file a complaint. The majority of written complaints received by FBPE are from consumers of engineering services and building department officials. Professional engineers and professionals from related fields, such as contractors, surveyors, and architects, also file many of the complaints that form the basis for investigations. You may file a complaint if you feel that a licensee, firm, or individual has violated the provisions of law outlined in Chapter 455, F.S., Chapter 471, F.S., and Chapter 61G-15, Florida Administrative Code.
Once you file a complaint, it is forwarded to a Florida Engineers Management Corporation engineering consultant for review. The preliminary opinion and complaint documents are analyzed to determine if what you have alleged is against the law. If your complaint is not a violation of law, you will receive a letter indicating the file is being closed. If it is determined that the allegation you have made would constitute a violation of the engineering laws or rules, you will be notified that an investigation will take place.
Following the investigation, the case will go to the FBPE Probable Cause Panel, which is similar to a grand jury, and it will determine if the case should be recommended to the full Board for discipline. FBPE then serves as jury in the case and decides guilt or innocence, as well as the level of discipline if the accused is found guilty.
The Board does accept anonymous complaints. However, the Board encourages a complainant to include his or her name and phone number in case additional information is required.
Please understand that if you file an anonymous complaint, the investigator will be unable to contact you for clarification or for further information. It is important that you include all of the information necessary to prove that a violation has occurred. Too much information is better than not enough information.
Further understand that if you file an anonymous complaint, you will not be notified of the results of the investigation.
Additionally, it is important to note that Section 455.225, F.S., states: “A privilege against civil liability is hereby granted to any complainant or any witness with regard to information furnished with respect to any investigation or proceeding pursuant to this section, unless the complainant or witness acted in bad faith or with malice in providing such information.”
To file a complaint, go to the Complaints page under the Legal section on the FBPE website, and download the Uniform Complaint Form, or request a form from the Board’s office.
How Can I Tell if an Engineer Has Been Disciplined?
If you would like to verify whether or not an engineer or firm has been previously disciplined, please go to myfloridalicense.com.
Any member of the public may request information about disciplinary or enforcement actions. Information, records, and transcriptions regarding such actions are available to the public for inspection or copying except information that is otherwise confidential or exempt from Section 119.07(1), F.S., when the investigation ceases to be active, when probable cause has been found, or when a case is closed by the Probable Cause Panel or FEMC.
In the results of your search at myfloridalicense.com, you may see various closure methods for complaints filed. Definitions are provided below.
Complaint Closure Methods
Cease & Desist: When an unlicensed individual or company has either practiced engineering without a license or a company has offered engineering services without a Certificate of Authorization, a Cease & Desist will be issued advising the offender to cease the activity. Once compliance occurs, an affidavit is executed by the subject of the complaint.
Citation: A Citation is issued in lieu of disciplinary action for certain relatively minor transgressions, which the Board has determined can be resolved by the payment of a fine and compliance in the future.
Legally Insufficient: A complaint that has been filed and reviewed can be deemed to be Legally Insufficient when:
- No facts were found to justify investigating the complaint, or
- The complaint alleged a violation of law that was outside the purview of the Board to take action.
This is most often used when a complaint is filed regarding something that is not within the Board’s jurisdiction, for example, an engineer is practicing another profession, unlicensed activity when no unlicensed activity has occurred, or an issue that is not a violation of Board laws and rules.
Closing Order: When a complaint is legally sufficient, has been fully investigated and reviewed by the Probable Cause Panel, and found to have no violation of Board laws and rules, a Closing Order will be issued.
Letter of Guidance: A Letter of Guidance (LOG) will be issued when there is probable cause for the Probable Cause Panel to believe that a violation of Board laws or rules occurred, that the violation is relatively minor, and, in the PCP’s opinion, does not rise to the level of having an Administrative Complaint issued. A LOG generally gives the Professional Engineer a written warning of certain behaviors to avoid in the future. A LOG does not constitute discipline of a PE’s license.
Final Order: A Final Order means that disciplinary action has been taken against a Professional Engineer or a company that holds a Certificate of Authorization. Depending on the seriousness of the violation, the penalties and terms imposed may vary.
Pursuant to Rule 61G15-37.001(11), F.A.C., current cases where a final order has been issued are summarized and posted on the Board’s website until the offender completes probation and other recommended penalties imposed by the Board, or until the licensee becomes inactive, retires, relinquishes the license, or permits the license to become null and void. If you are aware of an engineer that has been disciplined but cannot locate them on the current list of Disciplinary Actions under the Legal section of our website, you can submit a public records request.