Criminal Defense for Physicians
The healthcare industry is one of the most regulated sectors in the U.S., with a number of federal and state laws for physicians to regulate. Healthcare workers often bear the brunt of navigating these laws and their consequences. Any accusation for a breach of these rules could be a devastating blow to a physician’s practice, with the aftermath ranging from a revoked license to criminal charges. At the Norman Spencer Law Group, our attorneys have decades of experience in criminal defense for physicians.
The results of a criminal case can ruin a doctor’s career and cause problems for years after the initial accusation. When we need doctors more than ever, it is essential to make sure that a capable law firm can defend physicians facing criminal allegations or charges.
Our healthcare legal team has defended cases involving criminal law, medical malpractice, license disputes, negligence, and disciplinary actions, to name a few. We have the credentials to protect you and your practice.
What Are Some Criminal Allegations and Cases a Physician Can Face?
A number of factors can lead to an accusation or an investigation into a physician. Most of these stem from a complaint from a patient, a co-worker, or the result of another investigation. It is essential to keep in mind that criminal and civil misconduct can jeopardize your practice. Common cases that may arise include:
- DUI: A DUI can quickly end a doctor’s career. If not handled properly, it can lead to a revoked license and prolonged disciplinary action. It often leads to being entered into a state impairment program.
- A Positive Drug Test: Like a DUI, a positive drug test will be reported to the state medical board and carry the risk of license suspension, disciplinary action, monitoring, and being entered into the state impairment program.
- Practicing Under the Influence: A physician has easy access to pain and anxiety medication. This raises the risk of addiction but practicing while drunk is also a potential problem. Any combination of these can lead to criminal charges.
- Drug Trafficking: A common charge in the field is drug trafficking, which can come from prescribing medication without a legitimate medical need. In some states, it is required to prove that there was actual intent to traffic drugs. In others, all it takes is a single violation of a state or federal statute.
- Drug Diversion: Drug diversion is the movement of drugs legally prescribed to one person then diverted to another for illicit use. These accusations can come up in many ways, including improper disposal, theft, or errors in storage systems.
- Fraud: Any instance or accusation of fraud can result in a criminal investigation. The main types of fraud a physician can be accused of are insurance fraud or healthcare fraud. Healthcare fraud can include Medicare or Medicaid fraud, billing for services not rendered, and unbundling. These cases are often handled under the False Claims Act.
- Stark Law Violation: Also known as a self-referral, this is when a physician refers someone for a healthcare service for which the physician or their direct family has ownership, investment interests, or is somehow otherwise compensated.
- HIPAA Violation: Any breach of protected health information for a patient, including failure to follow adequate procedures to protect that information, can constitute a HIPAA violation. This includes data breaches and lack of training.
- Kickbacks: A kickback is when a physician accepts payment to influence the sale of healthcare-related goods or services.
Criminal Defense for Physician Case Penalties
There are several outcomes of a criminal case that a physician may face due to accusations or a healthcare law violation. The consequences range from disciplinary action to criminal charges. Either way, there is a risk for severe long-term reputational damage if a physician is accused or found guilty. Criminal defense for physicians lawyers can help avoid the consequences for violating such laws, including:
- A prison sentence of up to 20 years
- Hefty fines
- Civil monetary damages
- A probationary period
- Revocation or suspension of your medical license
- Losing staff and executive privileges in your practice
- Removal from federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid
- Being barred from all government contracting activities
The Department of Justice (DOJ) oversees any federal or civil cases, and administrative regulations are enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). Any violations of state laws are handled by that state.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that healthcare whistleblowers can bring Qui Tam suits against an organization in place of the government. These suits fall under the False Claims Act and have a chance to get the federal government directly involved.
Additionally, any case taken before a state medical board is usually put on the public record. Even if no serious criminal charges were filed, disciplinary actions taken by the board would be available for the public and any potential employer to see. These records are readily available online and will follow you to any future jobs.
How a Healthcare Criminal Defense for Physicians Lawyer Can Help You
The numerous regulations a physician has to follow, besides the damaging accusations that can be leveled against one, can create a precarious situation for healthcare practitioners. Adding in the layers of state and federal laws in the mix only complicates matters further. A competent attorney is a must when dealing with a criminal defense case, especially in healthcare.
Many physicians and healthcare providers rush into disclosing vital information about their cases before ever consulting a lawyer. An experienced healthcare attorney can navigate your situation and help you organize key aspects of your defense before it gets out of hand.
The Norman Spencer Law Group’s team of criminal defense for physicians attorneys is here for that purpose. We have the skillset to handle the most complex healthcare defense cases, with over 70 years of criminal defense experience under our belts. We pride ourselves on achieving the best outcomes for any healthcare worker that comes to us.
If you are a physician or healthcare provider that is facing a criminal accusation or charge, do not wait to contact us. Call us to set up a free consultation, whether it is in person, over the phone, or online through ZOOM and other video call apps.