Medical Professionals Charged with Drug Distribution
Prescription drug distribution has come under heavy enforcement due to the current opioid epidemic. Earlier this month Philadelphia doctor Richard Ira Mintz pleaded guilty in federal court to eight counts of illegally distributing prescription drugs. According to federal investigators, Dr. Mintz wrote and sold oxycodone prescriptions for approximately two years, some of which were sold to people he had never met or examined. He is facing a considerable prison sentence and heavy fines.
Law enforcement takes prescription drug distribution cases very seriously and the consequences can be severe. If you’re a medical professional who is under investigation and facing charges, the sooner you contact a criminal defense attorney the better chance you have of avoiding conviction. The attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can help you face these charges with an aggressive defense. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 or send an online request request to schedule a free consultation with one of our drug distribution defense attorneys.
Prescription Drug Distribution Charges Under Pennsylvania Law
The sale and distribution of prescription drugs are tightly regulated in Pennsylvania, perhaps for good reason – medical professionals have access to drugs that can be very dangerous or addictive when abused. Pennsylvania law 35 P.S. 113 governs the sale and distribution of prescription drugs. Medical professionals can face charges under the statute for violating the following sections:
- 35 P.S. 113(a)(12): Prohibits anyone, including medical professionals, from obtaining prescription drugs by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge. Law enforcement could charge you with a crime under this section if it is alleged that you stole or gained access to the drugs by deceptive means.
- 35 P.S. 113(a)(13): Prohibits providing prescription drugs to someone that you know or have reason to know is drug dependent without a valid prescription. You could be charged under this section for providing drugs to someone you have reason to believe is seeking a prescription because of addiction rather than medical need.
- 35 P.S. 113(a)(14): Prohibits medical professionals from providing prescription drugs unless they are prescribed (i) in the good faith course of their professional practice; (ii) within the scope of the patient relationship; and (iii) in conformance with the general treatment principles of the medical profession. This provision is the one that most often results in charges for medical professionals. Note that the criteria are largely subjective, and medical professionals who are trying to help their patient can be wrongly charged with a violation of this section.
There are a number of other provisions in the statute that could also result in charges, but the above sections are the most common.
Medical professionals involved in the distribution of prescription drugs also face possible federal charges under the Controlled Substances Act. Generally speaking, medical professionals are exempt from the Controlled Substances Act, provided that they are prescribing drugs for a “legitimate medical purpose” in the “usual course of his professional practice.” If federal law enforcement agents believe that you have provided prescription drugs without a valid medical reason or outside the scope of your practice, you could face charges under the Controlled Substances Act.
The possibility of federal charges can be very worrisome. Federal agents often have much broader powers and authorities than state law enforcement, and defendants may face an exhaustive investigation followed by an aggressive prosecution.
Prescription drug charges can carry serious consequences and are often prosecuted as aggressively as a case involving illegal drugs. Under Pennsylvania law, the severity of the penalty will depend on the nature of the drugs involved and other factors surrounding your case. For example, distribution of Schedule I or Schedule II drug (which includes many opiates, opium derivatives, and morphine) is a felony charge with up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Federal charges under the Controlled Substances Act carry similarly heavy consequences, but will also give significant consideration to the amount of drugs involved. Federal sentencing guidelines will also require the judge to consider whether your case involved serious injury or death.
Being charged with the illegal distribution of prescription drugs can also severely impact your ability to practice as a medical professional. Simply being charged can prompt disciplinary proceedings and result in the revocation or suspension of your license, even if your charges are dismissed or you are acquitted. Licensing boards have broad authority to investigate the circumstances of your case and make their own determination that you have violated their ethical or professional standards.
Contact a Pittsburgh Drug Charge Defense Attorney
As a medical professional, you have a lot to lose if you are convicted of illegal prescription drug distribution. You could be facing years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, and loss of your medical license. Don’t delay and jeopardize your future – contact an experienced drug defense attorney before it’s too late. The attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can help you face these charges and get a fair result. Call us at (412) 281-2146 or contact us via our online contact form to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.