Doctors need to understand that investigation for departures from the standard of care starts a very complex process in multiple areas — not just criminally.
DEA and State Licensing Issues and Collateral Consequences
First, doctors may see the suspension of their DEA license. While there is an administrative remedy to appeal the DEA suspension, many are caught off-guard by the rapid suspension of their license immediately after allegations of unlawful prescribing/dispensing are levied.
Second, doctors may see their CMS privileges suspended or revoked pending criminal charges and/or administrative proceedings. This means that doctors primarily billing Medicare or Medicaid will immediately lose any source of revenue expected from previous billings not already paid by CMS and may face clawback of prior fraudulent billings.
Third, doctors may face immediate suspension of their medical license and/or dispensing license. Doctors practicing in multiple states must also be aware that those states will be notified and will likely also take administrative action against their medical license.
A doctor facing a criminal investigation, charges for unlawful dispensing or prescribing, or pill mill allegations, will immediately face an administrative battle on three fronts. This is in addition to the criminal complaint or indictment that is likely pending.
Sentencing guidelines for what amounts to drug trafficking under state and federal law vary and are heavily determinate upon the individual charged and the circumstances of the particular offense(s). However, even one count of unlawful prescribing is likely to subject a physician to jail time, or at least a very lengthy probationary period, in addition to licensing sanctions.
While some damage may be prevented by aggressive criminal defense and professional licensing defense, your attorney must be knowledgeable about all of these areas in order to adequately defend your interests.
Too often, physicians overlook the complexity of these areas and hire an attorney only skilled in criminal law. However, an attorney skilled in state and federal criminal law, as well as state and federal administrative law, will be more economical than hiring multiple attorneys; will provide better care due to a knowledge of the interplay between all areas; and will be prepared to aggressively protect your rights, your livelihood, and your freedom.
Possible Sanctions and Collateral Consequences
- Imprisonment of up to 20 years (and sometimes more)
- Loss of medical license
- Loss of DEA Registration
- Loss of dispensing license (state and DEA)
- Fines in the millions
- Civil monetary penalties
- Exclusion from participation in federal health care programs