Prior to revocation, the Attorney General must provide you with an “Order to Show Cause” why your registration should not be denied, revoked, or suspended. You must respond within 30 days of the order and administrative proceedings will commence pursuant to Section 1301.41.
In certain “emergency” situations, the Attorney General may suspend any registration simultaneously with the institution of proceedings where he or she finds that there is an “imminent danger to the public health or safety.” Therefore, if you refuse to voluntarily surrender your DEA controlled substance registration certificate, the DEA will be required to submit an order to show cause and provide you with an opportunity for a hearing.
Conversely, if you surrender your DEA registration, you are waiving your right to a hearing and you would be required to reapply for your registration after the resolution of the criminal, civil or administrative proceedings against you. Resolution of these matters could take a significant amount of time — possibly years.
In May 2014, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report citing extreme delays in the adjudication process for suspensions, revocations, and denials of DEA registrations. The OIG concluded that “delays in the adjudication of registrant actions create risks to the public health and safety” as well as to the licensee.
The OIG found that adjudication could take more than one year between notification of hearing and agency action, which it deemed “very lengthy.” The OIG also noted that the Agency has “consistently failed to meet its own timeliness standards in adjudicating immediate suspension orders.”
As a result of the OIG’s review, it is clear why DEA agents routinely try to convince registrants they should surrender their DEA registration voluntarily and waive their right to a hearing. Given the extreme backlog of cases pending adjudication, a practitioner may continue prescribing until final adjudication by the agency is completed. As noted, this could take over a year.
If the Agency proceeds with an immediate suspension order, the significant delays in DEA adjudication could impact the practitioner negatively. In 2012, the DEA took 459 days to adjudicate an immediate suspension order. However, when faced with the choice of voluntary DEA registration surrender without a hearing and immediate suspension, the practitioner should almost always exercise their right to due process and request a hearing, because:
- there is a chance that the DEA will not file an immediate suspension order; and,
- the practitioner may have some likelihood of success at an administrative hearing.
Finally, if you voluntarily surrender your license and seek reinstatement, these delays will further impact your ability to return to practice after the completion of your pending administrative, criminal or civil matter.