Those in the medical profession are held to extremely high standards by insurance companies, licensing agencies, boards, and the federal government. Even minor violations of regulations can lead to severe consequences that can mean loss of job and reputation or even jail time. If you find yourself charged with pharmaceutical diversion, proving your innocence will be critical to preserving your career and your freedom. While the most critical thing you can do is hire a skilled defense attorney, there are other steps you can take to ensure a favorable outcome at trial.
Understand Your Charges
Pharmaceutical diversion is a serious charge based on laws defined by the federal government. The definition of this charge is basically the misappropriation of a controlled substance, most commonly narcotic, opioid, or prescription medication. This crime is not specific to medical professionals- any user or dealer can be charged with drug diversion when there is evidence of stolen medication or schemes to divert controlled substances.
However, recent years have seen drug diversion treated more like a white-collar crime, with defendants usually representing physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers. Examples of these accusations can include:
- Writing a prescription that you know is medically unnecessary
- Falsifying or exaggerating medical conditions to justify pain medication
- Prescribing more medication than is required
- Delivering or prescribing medication to the wrong patient
- Keeping all or some of a patient’s medication for yourself or a third party
- Forging a prescription or giving it to someone else
- Stealing a prescription pad
- Stealing narcotics from a hospital, clinic, or DEA-registered facility
Once you are charged, you will be given some idea of what exactly the accusation is. This will allow you to begin providing your lawyer documentation relevant to your case.
Involvement in the Investigation
You may not be aware when an investigation involving you begins. Agents often approach you in a friendly manner and say they are gathering routine information, or they may even claim to be investigating another party entirely. If this ever occurs, even if you do not believe you are involved, you do not have to volunteer any information to these agents.
Any small piece of information you divulge during these conversations can be used against you in eventual trials. Even if the investigation is centered around another party, saying the wrong thing could launch an investigation into you as well. You always have the right to contact an attorney before speaking with investigators.
If a search warrant has been issued, you cannot prevent investigators from seizing property. However, you should avoid making any statements over the course of a search or a raid for the same reasons.
It is common for these investigations to become conspiracy charges that implicate a group of providers working together. In these cases, all providers can be charged even if only one person is directly responsible. If you find yourself embroiled in someone else’s investigation, be cautious about speaking with authorities in a way that could make you liable as well. Even slightly covering for someone or a small omission can make you appear to be involved. This could lead to charges, even if you did not commit pharmaceutical diversion directly.
When to Contact a Lawyer
What do you do first if you are involved in an investigation? As soon as you suspect an investigation or suspect you may be the subject of one, it is the right time to hire a criminal defense attorney. In this time period, a lawyer can help you navigate the investigation and avoid incrimination, as well as ensuring everything happens legally.
The process of criminal investigations, especially federal investigations, can take a long time, and you may not receive a formal notice for a long period of time. Using this period to be proactive and begin providing your lawyer with evidence and information can give you an advantage over the prosecution. It will be critical during this time to disclose everything to your lawyer, whether it is incriminating or not.
Lawyers can also assist early on by negotiating reduced charges or dismissal of charges, or even by shutting down an investigation in the early phases. Having a lawyer on your side from the outset can be critical in avoiding serious charges.