Prescription Drug Diversion: How Criminal Defense Lawyers Defend Doctors & Nurses
Prescription Drug Diversion: How Criminal Defense Lawyers Defend Doctors & Nurses
Prescription drug diversion is a growing problem in the United States. It refers to the illegal distribution or misuse of prescription medications. Healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are often the targets of prescription drug diversion investigations. If accused, they face serious criminal charges that can ruin their careers.Criminal defense lawyers who specialize in healthcare cases are critical for protecting the rights of medical professionals. They understand the complex laws and regulations in this area. They can build a strong defense to fight the charges. Or negotiate alternate resolutions that avoid harsh penalties.This article will examine prescription drug diversion issues for doctors and nurses. It covers common diversion crimes they get charged with. As well as effective legal defenses criminal lawyers use on their behalf.
What is Prescription Drug Diversion?
Prescription drug diversion happens when legal prescription drugs get transferred illegally. This includes theft, forgery, doctor shopping, and improper prescribing or dispensing. The most commonly diverted drugs are opioids, stimulants, and central nervous system depressants.Diversion crimes violate federal and state laws. Such as the Controlled Substances Act and state medical practice acts. Penalties range from fines and probation to many years in prison.Healthcare workers get charged for diverting drugs for personal use or profit. But many have no criminal intent. They make honest mistakes or get set up by dishonest patients. Skilled criminal defense lawyers can show this to avoid convictions.
Why Doctors & Nurses Get Targeted for Diversion
Doctors and nurses have easy access to controlled substances. This makes them obvious targets for diversion investigations. But there are other reasons the DEA, FBI, and state agencies go after them.Pressure to curb the opioid crisis is a big one. Blaming healthcare providers deflects responsibility from the government’s lack of regulation. And pharmaceutical companies that aggressively pushed addictive painkillers.High-profile prosecutions also bring big rewards for ambitious investigators and prosecutors. Convicting respected physicians generates headlines and career advancements.Healthcare workers who blow the whistle on diversion by co-workers may avoid charges themselves. Some investigations start when staff report suspicious activity by doctors or nurses. Whether the reports are valid or just malicious is for a defense lawyer to determine.
Common Diversion Crimes Doctors & Nurses Get Charged With
There are many federal and state laws that prohibit prescription drug diversion. Here are some of the most common crimes doctors and nurses get charged with:
- Improper prescribing – Prescribing without a legitimate medical purpose, in unsuitable amounts, or to patients with no medical need.
- Recordkeeping violations – Inadequate or falsified patient records related to controlled substances.
- Prescription forgery – Creating fake prescriptions for oneself or others.
- Drug theft – Taking medications from a clinic, hospital, or other regulated facility.
- False statements – Lying to investigators about diversion activities.
- Obstruction of justice – Destroying evidence or urging others to provide false information.
- Obtaining drugs by fraud – Using deception to acquire prescription medications.
- Prescription fraud – Creating fraudulent scripts or phoning in unauthorized refills.
- Doctor shopping – Obtaining controlled drugs from multiple providers without their knowledge.
The most serious diversion charges come under federal law. But state medical boards also pursue disciplinary sanctions. Like revoking a doctor’s license or a nurse’s registration.
Building an Effective Legal Defense Strategy
Skilled criminal defense lawyers have many strategies to defend doctors and nurses against diversion charges. Their goal is getting charges reduced or dismissed. Or keeping the case out of court entirely.An effective legal defense depends on the specific allegations and evidence. But some common defense strategies in prescription drug diversion cases include:
- Lack of criminal intent – Many diversion violations by doctors and nurses are unintentional. Solid recordkeeping and proper prescribing procedures can show a lack of criminal motive.
- Entrapment – Undercover patients or informants trick providers into improper prescribing. Experienced lawyers can argue entrapment.
- Improper procedures – Challenging how evidence was gathered or statements obtained from the accused. Violations of due process rights can suppress evidence.
- Misinterpreted medical records – Incomplete or inaccurate patient files can falsely suggest diversion. Thorough records reveal adherence to regulations.
- Mistaken identity – Another person used the accused’s DEA registration or prescription pad without their knowledge.
- Coerced statements – Seeking to exclude self-incriminating statements made under duress. Especially if Miranda rights weren’t given.
- Unnecessary medications – Patients lied about medical conditions to obtain drugs for diversion. Doctors prescribed in good faith based on misinformation.
- Mitigating factors – Presenting the accused’s background and character to the judge. To show the actions were an aberration and not likely to be repeated.
- Cooperation and restitution – Admitting fault and assisting the prosecution against others involved. Makes conviction less likely and reduces penalties.
- Diversion treatment programs – Arguing for court-supervised addiction treatment as an alternative to incarceration. If substance abuse caused the criminal behavior.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer thoroughly investigates the allegations. They identify the strongest defenses for getting charges dismissed. Or reducing the penalties if conviction can’t be avoided.
Negotiating Alternate Resolutions
Rather than risk trial, it may be best to negotiate an alternate resolution. Skilled criminal defense attorneys have several options for this:
- Plea bargains – Plead guilty to lesser charges or fewer counts to get a lighter sentence.
- Deferred adjudication – Charges dismissed after completing probation and other requirements.
- Pretrial diversion – Similar to deferred adjudication but done before entering a plea.
- Pretrial intervention – Charges dropped after completing rehab, community service, or other conditions.
The strongest negotiation tactic is having viable defenses ready for trial. Prosecutors offer better deals if they aren’t confident of winning at trial.An experienced lawyer determines which option is best. The goal is avoiding jail time and preserving the ability to practice medicine. Settlements allow this in many cases.
Defending Against Medical Board Discipline
Apart from criminal penalties, diversion charges bring professional discipline. Doctors face medical board sanctions. Nurses can lose their licenses through the Board of Nursing.Skilled lawyers defend clients before these boards also. They challenge allegations and present mitigating evidence. Often they can negotiate reprimands or restrictions as an alternative to revocation.This preserves the client’s ability to continue practicing. And avoids the career devastation of losing their professional credentials.
Finding the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer
Facing prescription drug diversion charges is frightening. But experienced criminal defense lawyers can guide doctors and nurses through the process. And build an aggressive defense to achieve the best possible outcome.Don’t leave freedom and career in the hands of an overworked public defender. Hire an attorney who specializes in healthcare law. They understand diversion crimes and medical regulations.Look for an experienced lawyer with a proven record of success. One who has defended many doctors and nurses facing similar allegations.Prescription drug diversion charges can ruin promising careers and reputations. But an experienced criminal defense lawyer can protect the rights of medical professionals. And help prevent mistakes or misconduct from destroying their ability to practice medicine.