Doctors are regulated by a huge number of laws and regulations, both state and federal, affecting their profession directly. They are also subject to the penal code of each state, which can affect their professional license. Any time a doctor is affected or involved in a criminal proceeding or investigation, it is advisable to seek out the professional advice of an attorney who is experienced in both criminal defense and administrative law. That’s because any outcome of the criminal justice experience can have a direct impact on their professional license.
Make sure the attorney you hire also has experience in the type of crime that you have been accused of. One common crime that affects physicians is drug trafficking – usually prescribing controlled substances in excess of what is a reasonable or valid medical need. You might think of pain management clinics and chiropractors as the people who are typically in the crosshairs of drug trafficking investigations. Another huge crime that doctors must be aware of is healthcare fraud. In recent years, the FBI and Department of Justice have made investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud a top priority. Attorney can step in extremely early in these kinds of investigations – even at the issuance of an audit. Attorneys will be able to help you form a response, object if an administrative search is excessive, and develop a strong criminal defense strategy in the event the investigation progresses to criminal charges against you. Healthcare fraud can encompass a huge amount of other, ancillary crimes, like RICO violations, kickbacks, violations of the False Claims Act, and even HIPAA privacy violations. IF you are accused of healthcare fraud, it is important to find an attorney who is not only familiar with both criminal and administrative procedure, but also familiar with the vast amount of statutes that can be involved with accusations of healthcare fraud.
Attorneys can also help you negotiate a much more beneficial deal in the event a conviction is handed down. Some of the sanctions facing physicians who are convicted of these crimes include imprisonment (sometimes up to twenty years), fines (massive fines, up to the millions of dollars), civil monetary penalties, and importantly, the loss of a medical license. A doctor’s very ability to make a living can be affected because of criminal behavior. Your attorney must always keep collateral damages to your license at the forefront of his or her mind during the course of your criminal defense.
Sometimes defenses can be effectively leveraged, particularly if the statute in question requires a showing of intent or ill will. If it was a true mistake, then your attorney must be able to show either neglect or ignorance, and you may only face civil charges. While the civil charges can still affect your license, or cost you a lot of money, the sanctions are usually less severe than if you had been convicted of a crime. In New York, doctors are affected not just by the federal government instigating criminal investigations, but also state entities attempting to crack down on state healthcare fraud, as well as other drug trafficking crimes. You should find an attorney that is licensed in both state and federal court to ensure their expertise for every angle in the case.