Criminal Defense for Pain Clinics, Pain Management Doctors
Pain management doctors and pain clinics are subjected to a vast array of regulations and laws, and failing to comply can result in significant penalties. With the increase of drug task forces at the state and federal levels, many pain management physicians may feel as if they are being targeted for prosecution. And many have.
Thousands of physicians have been charged with criminal violations related to prescription narcotics of the past 10 years, with a number of them wrongly charged. In such cases, prosecutors either misunderstood state standards or moved forward with violations that should have been handled by the state licensing board.
Even if physicians are exonerated for such charges, the accusations may have already severely damaged their reputation and overall career. License sanctions may have already been put in place, even though none were warranted.
Defending pain management doctors and pain clinics is one of the focus areas of Norman Spencer Law Group, and we’ve been representing licensed healthcare professionals for the past decade. We defend New York licensed physicians against charges of drug diversion, drug trafficking, unlawful prescribing and other allegations related to the idea of “pill mills.”
Why Pain Clinics are Targets
The war on prescription drugs in the U.S. has made pain clinics prime targets, due to the increased attention on placed on eliminating prescription narcotics abuse. Although prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions, the line between providing adequate healthcare and prescription abuse has become increasingly blurry.
Under the fear of federal prosecution, doctors are more likely to turn away legitimate patients with chronic pain. They’re also more likely to under-prescribe pain medications for fear of being flagged as a pill mill by MAPS, OARRS, E-FORCSE and other state prescription monitoring systems.
As more drugs containing hydrocodone are moved into the Schedule II narcotics category, doctors are facing heightened scrutiny, increased criminal exposure and the risk of inflated sentencing for convictions associated with narcotic prescriptions.
Federal standards say doctors are guilty of criminal misconduct if they prescribe without a “legitimate medical purpose” the reaches beyond their “usual course of professional practice.” Yes, the standard leaves ample room for interpretation, as well as ample room for prosecution if a doctor dares depart from the standard of care.
Pain Clinic Investigations and Raids
State and federal narcotics investigations typically begin with investigators monitoring prescription habits of a clinic or doctor. Obtaining help from an experienced attorney is a must the moment an investigation begins. The healthcare lawyers at Norman Spencer Law Group can protect your rights at every stage of the investigation, which may serve to prevent criminal charges from even being filed in the first place.
If your pain clinic is raided by the DEA or other local, state or federal law enforcement agency, it’s even more imperative that you contact an experienced lawyer immediately. Seasoned criminal defense attorneys have several different actions that can take within the first 24 to 28 hours after a raid that may improve your ultimate success against any charges.
Common Pain Clinic Criminal Charges
Some of the most common criminal charges we’ve seen against pain clinics and pain management doctors include:
Drug Trafficking, defined as the prescription of controlled substances without a “legitimate medical purpose” and outside the “usual course of professional practice”
RICO, which is a conspiracy between two or more individuals working in tandem to perform a legal act using illegal methods. This charge can be launched if doctors are referring multiple patients to a pain clinic or physician under investigation.
Healthcare Fraud, often through accusations of over-prescribing Medicaid or Medicare patients and assisting the patient with prescription reimbursement.
Federal investigations rely on data from a host of electronic data to pinpoint statistical deviations in prescription habits. If found, the state typically begins an audit to look more closely at your prescription habits. The investigation may eventually lead to an authorized search or a raid, which is generally done with little warning and while alerting the media of the accusations.
Pain Clinic Penalties and Consequences
Investigations related to deviations from the standard of care are complex and can result in criminal and other consequences. These may include:
- Suspension or loss of DEA registration, medical license, dispensing licenses
- Suspension or revocation of CMS privileges to participate in federal healthcare programs
- Imprisonment of up to 20 years
- Civil monetary penalties
- Fines in the millions of dollars
Because the charges extend beyond criminal law, it’s important to seek out an attorney familiar with both criminal law as well as state and federal administrative law. The lawyers at Norman Spencer Law Group are at your service.
The best way pain management physicians can protect themselves is to seek legal counsel at the earliest stages of an investigation. You can also have our attorneys perform an independent audit to assess your practice and determine what areas can be improved to decrease your potential for criminal exposure. Schedule a consultation by contacting the offices of Norman Spencer Law Group today.