DEA Investigations and Audits
Although DEA audits may be routine, they are not something licensed healthcare professionals should take lightly. Audits can result in administrative action against your DEA registration and even criminal prosecution if certain violations are uncovered.
Protecting your rights during a DEA audit or investigation is crucial, and the attorneys at Norman Spencer Law Group are here to help. With more than a decade representing healthcare professionals, our lawyers are experienced defending DEA registrants during investigation as well as against subsequent DEA actions. Our clients include pharmacies, distributors, doctors and other healthcare practitioners that need to protect their DEA registration.
It’s advised that healthcare professionals that are targeted for DEA audits or investigations contact an experienced lawyer immediately. Our healthcare attorneys can advise you of your rights, outline how to proceed, and represent you during the audit. We aim to not only protect your DEA registration, but to also safeguard your state license, your reputation and career against the detrimental impact DEA investigations and noncompliance allegations can cause.
DEA Audit and Inspection Frequency
DEA investigations and audits are regularly launched to determine compliance with the CSA, or Controlled Substances Act. An inspection into a healthcare practice can be triggered by a variety of activities. These include:
- Tips from patients or pharmacies regarding prescription activities or practices
- Deviations in prescription patterns when compared to other prescribers
- Random inspections to ensure compliance
Most healthcare professionals are inspected every three years, but inspections may be more frequent in certain cases. Professionals that prescribe buprenorphine or have a waiver of the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 may more frequently find themselves the subject of DEA inspections. Distributors, narcotic treatment programs and other non-practitioners are typically subject to inspections every five years.
DEA Notices of Inspections and DEA Warrants
Unlike searches conducted for criminal matters, the DEA does not need a search warrant to launch an inspection to determine CSA compliance. When the DEA is partnered with other agencies in a criminal investigation, a search warrant is required. DEA diversion investigators conduct the searches, and the search is predicated when an administrative inspection warrant or Notice of Inspection of Controlled Premises (DEA Form 82) is presented to the DEA registrant.
Before the DEA inspection or audit can begin, the registrant must give informed consent. This is a written statement saying the registrant has been informed of their rights, that any incriminating evidence found can be used against them, and that they voluntarily consent to the search.
Informed consent is not required to conduct an inspection without an administrative search warrant. Administrative search warrants are not required for inspection of records or books as per an administrative subpoena, in cases where imminent danger to the public health or safety exists, or when initially applying for DEA registration.
Administrative Search Warrants
If registrants do not give informed consent to conduct a DEA audit, the DEA can obtain an administrative inspection warrant from U.S. federal district court. The DEA does not need to show probable cause to obtain an administrative search warrant. It just needs to describe the nature and extent of the inspection, along with any items they intend to seize.
Administrative inspection warrants are routinely granted by the courts, and DEA registrants must comply with the warrants. Refusing to comply with an administrative search warrant is grounds for an arrest.
The best course of action to take if served with an administrative inspection warrant is to contact an experienced healthcare attorney as rapidly as possible. The lawyers at Norman Spencer Law Group have handled DEA investigations and enforcement actions, and we can provide immediate guidance to help protect your DEA registration, your practice and your career.
Even though the DEA is apt to obtain an administrative search warrant when a registrant refuses to provide informed consent, consent may be withheld for several reasons. For instance, the DEA registrant may want to contact an attorney before the audit or search begins. DEA inspections are conducted without warning, and contacting an attorney before consenting may be a wise move.
Our healthcare lawyers can help ascertain if it’s in a registrant’s best interests to provide informed consent for an audit or inspection. We can also help if the DEA delivers an administrative inspection warrant and the investigation is underway. Our attorneys can help ensure the scope of the search warrant is not exceeded. We can likewise identify areas of concern within your practice to present it in the best possible light before the DEA.
DEA Inspection Scope
The DEA has limits on what it can inspect with an administrative search warrant. The agency may also try to interview you or your staff. Any information you or staff members give to the DEA may be used against you in criminal or administrative proceedings. Contacting an attorney from Norman Spencer Law Group before speaking with the DEA can help you ensure your rights are retained and the scope of the investigation is not exceeded. Call our office to schedule a consultation today.