Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP
Criminal Defense Attorneys for Doctors Indicted for Prescribing Controlled Substances
Criminal Defense Attorneys Representing Doctors and Medical Professionals Charged with Federal Drug Crimes
Doctors' Convictions Overturned in Ruan v. United States
The United States Supreme Court's recent decision overturned the convictions of two doctors under 21 U.S.C. § 841 establishing a stricter mens rea requirement to convict doctors under the statute. The Supreme Court has held that in order to convict a doctor under the statute, once a doctor has established that his or her conduct was authorized, "the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly or intentionally acted in an unauthorized manner." This decision helps to protect doctors who have been wrongfully accused of criminal conduct and finally allows doctors to adequately present evidence that their conduct was for a legitimate medical purpose.
Legal Representation for Doctors Charged Under the Controlled Substances Act
Increasingly, doctors are being criminally indicted under the Controlled Substances Act. Generally, the indictment will cite violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841 and this charge is usually accompanied by a conspiracy charge under 21 U.S.C. § 846. Medical professionals who have never been in any trouble with the law are finding themselves swept up in criminal investigations aimed at tackling the nation's growing drug epidemic. Unfortunately, doctors who were prescribing medications to treat patients in chronic pain now find themselves being accused of running illicit pill mills. These charges are being made even when doctors have been using their best clinical judgment and following the medical guidelines established for treating patients. Even if you feel that you have been fully compliant with the Controlled Substances Act in your prescribing practices, these charges need to be taken very seriously and you should retain counsel as soon as possible.
The Best Criminal Defense Lawyers for Doctors Charged with Illegal Prescribing Practices
The best criminal defense attorney for doctors charged with violations of the Controlled Substances Act is a lawyer who understands the complexity of the case. Unfortunately, doctors often look for lawyers who have experience handling drug charges, but medical professionals need to understand that criminal prosecution of doctors for prescribing practices is something entirely more intricate. Generally, a criminal defense attorney who represents individuals accused of selling drugs is dealing with a situation in which all of the drugs are illegally obtained and sold. As such, the litigation and trial prepration is often entirely different from medical professionals who are authorized to prescribe these medications.
Unlike other types of drug charges, doctors are authorized to prescribe the medications that are at the center of the drug charges. A medical professional's authority to prescribe medications is permitted pursuant to certain provision of the law. The Controlled Substances Act provides that: “Except as authorized by this title, it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally - (1) to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance.” See 21 U.S.C. § 841. This provision is read in conjunction with 21 C.F.R. § 1306.04 which provides in relevant part: "A prescription for a controlled substance to be effective must be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his professional practice. The responsibility for the proper prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances is upon the prescribing practitioner, but a corresponding responsibility rests with the pharmacist who fills the prescription. An order purporting to be a prescription issued not in the usual course of professional treatment or in legitimate and authorized research is not a prescription within the meaning and intent of section 309 of the Act (21 U.S.C. 829) and the person knowingly filling such a purported prescription, as well as the person issuing it, shall be subject to the penalties provided for violations of the provisions of law relating to controlled substances."
These laws can be arbitrarily applied to medical professionals to secure criminal convictions even though doctors were prescribing lawful medications pursuant to the standards set forth by medical boards and the dosages set forth by pharmaceutical companies. Doctors will see accusations that prescriptions were given outside the course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. This is why criminal cases against doctors should be handled differently than most criminal cases. Unlike drug charges against individuals who are selling illicit drugs on the street, drug charges against doctors require an understanding of what is legitimately prescribed looking at medical judgment, individual patient treatments, titration levels, screening practices, established safeguards, etc. Obtaining the proper expert witnesses are essential in these cases. Another issue that arises is that different jurisdictions have different laws governing these charges. In certain jurisdictions, the knowledge requirements for securing a criminal conviction are more stringent while other jurisdictions have a more lax knowledge standard. Moreover, in certain jurisdictions chronic pain or intractable pain laws were in effect at the time the prescripitions were given which also influences what prescriptions were deemed to be within legitimate medical practice.
In addition to being accused of running pill mills, doctors can also find themselves being charged with the deaths of patients. Sometimes these charges are sought as enhancements for sentencing purposes. However, there has been an increase in charging doctors with murder in addition to the drug charges. Accompanying charges also often include white collar crimes such as health care fraud and insurance fraud. Unlike a routine drug charge involving street drugs, medical professionals and pharmacists need a more intricate defense strategy. In addition to the constitutional issues involved in every criminal case, charges against doctors and pharmacists require expert testimony and a full throttled understanding of the prescription practices at the time the pills were prescribed.
If you are a medical professional who is facing criminal charges, contact our firm to speak with an attorney regarding your matter.
Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP
136 Madison Avenue
6th Floor - #3007
New York, NY 10016
Phone: (646) 942-1798
Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP
265 Franklin Street
Boston, MA 02110
Phone: (617) 959-1628
If you would like to speak with an attorney regarding your criminal litigation, call either the New York Office at (646) 942-1798 or the Boston Office at (617) 959-1628.