If you are a healthcare provider and government investigators visit you, be aware! Speaking with them and giving them any records can seriously jeopardize you. Norman Spencer Law Group federal health providers attorneys are here to protect you. Call us before as soon as you know you are under investigation!
Visits to Health Providers by Federal Agents and Investigators
Government agents often pay visits to healthcare providers’ places of business – without prior notice. Sometimes they want to talk, and in many cases, they ask the provider to give them documents. If this happens to you, you need to be prepared. Read on. In this short guide, we share the best advice on how to handle government investigators who seek documents.
When Health Providers Are Served a Subpoena
If government investigators show up at your clinic looking for documents, you need to know if they have a subpoena or a search warrant. There is a difference. A “subpoena” is a written demand signed by a judge. It orders you to produce documents or even testify at the grand jury. If the agents serve you with one, you need to show it to an experienced lawyer immediately. There are different ways to handle subpoenas and an early start is always helpful.
What is a Search Warrant?
Unlike the subpoena, which the government uses to fish for evidence, prosecutors use a search warrant where they believe they will find evidence of the crime. All they have to do is go to court and convince the judge that there is probable cause that evidence of a crime will be found.
With the search warrant, agents have the right to enter private property without notice or permission. They can look for evidence of criminal activity, and seize the documents listed or described in the warrant. This is an important point to remember. The agents cannot seize anything they want, only what the warrant identifies. Also, they may only search the premises listed on the warrant.
During the search, the employees do not have to speak to the investigators. However, they have to turn over the documents specified in the warrant. Search warrants usually happen during regular business hours and cause tremendous stress and disruption. If the government investigators are at your door with a search warrant, call our law firm immediately.
Larger entities may have developed protocols for cases like this. Smaller providers are generally unprepared. It is not much you can do to prevent the agents from searching your premises, but following these simple steps will help and help you protect your rights, the rights of your employees, and your business.
As Health Providers, Be Prepared
This is crucial that you call legal counsel as soon as you see the investigators at your door and see the search warrant. If possible, ask the lawyer to come to your business. Because it is often impossible, ask the agent to tell the lawyer what documents and premises the warrant specifies.
You should instruct your employees to be prepared for such events. If you are not on the premises when the agents arrive, the employee should call you immediately and ask the agent to wait for you to come.
Hopefully, you already have an attorney on the retainer. If this is the case, make sure the employees know the attorney’s name and contact information. They should inform the agents that they would contact a lawyer. That does not mean the investigators will wait for the lawyer or you to arrive, but they may.
If you see the agents, you should tell them that you want to speak you’re your attorney. If they refuse, tell them that this is a violation of your constitutional rights.
Protect Your Employees
You should tell the investigators to direct all questions to your attorney. Ask them not to interview your employees without a lawyer. Let the agents know that the employees have no authority to consent to any search or seizure. Moreover, you should instruct your employees not to make any statements to the investigators that could be interpreted as giving consent to searching beyond the scope of the warrant.
Remember that you are not allowed to tell your employees not to speak to the agents, but you can certainly tell them that they have the right to have their attorney present and that that they are not required to speak with the agents other than as required to help the agents conduct the search as the specified in the warrant.
It is a good idea to send most staff home for the day except for some people who would watch the agents. You should never leave the investigators alone. Always make sure they are watched. And make sure that no employee is left alone with them.
Cooperate as Health Providers to the Extent Required
You and your employee should cooperate with the investigators. However, that doesn’t mean that you should do something beyond of what you have to.
Here are the things you should never do during the search. First, do not speak with the agents under any circumstances. Second, do not attempt to interfere with them by hiding or destroying any documents, or denying them access. If you speak with them, you could incriminate yourself. If you interfere, you will be charged with obstruction of justice.
Get a Copy of the Search Warrant Affidavit
A search warrant affidavit is a document which prosecution needs to show the court to demonstrate why they believe they need a search warrant. Usually, one of the agents on the case will prepare and sign it. Under the law, you have the right to have the copy of this affidavit. The agents will give you a copy during the search. Have it handy when you speak with a lawyer, hopefully before the search begins.
A Search of Privileged Documents
The agents are not allowed to exceed the scope of the warrant. If they do, object and tell them that they are not supposed to do that. Make sure the agents do not search privileged information. This includes attorney/client communications or attorney work product documents.
If you have been speaking with an attorney before the search, under some circumstances, the attorney could protect some of the most sensitive documents by arguing that the documents are privileged.
Keep Track of All Health Providers Documents
Ideally, you should be keeping track of anything you give the agents. You should always try to make copies of all documents so that your attorney can have them. You will also need many documents, such as medical records, to run your practice. So, document management is extremely important.
What Norman Spencer Law Group Can Do
When the government raids your practice, we need to deal with this the best we can under the circumstances. Our lawyers will call the prosecutor immediately to discuss the terms and scope of the subpoena or warrant. We will also try to find out the nature of the investigation and whether the prosecutors see you as the target or subjects of their investigation.
We could ask the government to stop the search. If successful, we can negotiate alternatives to the search and seizure. If they refuse, some of the available options are asking for the delay so that we can ask the federal court to hold an emergency hearing for a stay of execution of the warrant.
That would give us time until the full hearing.
Our criminal defense lawyers will do what is necessary to negotiate an acceptable solution with the government so that your business operations are not disrupted and you get resume work
Call our HealthCare Defense team as soon as the search begins or ends. The sooner you retain us the better the outcome of your case will be. Norman Spencer Law Group is dedicated to protecting the rights of healthcare providers anywhere in the country. Call us today to speak with one of our lawyers!