Amanda S. Marshall Former U.S. Attorney (Local Counsel)
Lynette Byrd Former Assistant U.S. Attorney
Roger Bach Former Special Agent (OIG & DEA)
Joe Brown Former U.S. Attorney
Substance Abuse Defense
Legal Representation for Doctors & Nurses Accused of Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who are dealing with substance abuse or addiction issues — or who are suspected of using drugs or alcohol in connection with their jobs — will usually face one of three types of legal issues:
Criminal investigation & prosecution for drug crimes
Loss of federal privileges, such as DEA registration
Suspension or revocation of medical license
Of course, governmental agencies tend to share information and referrals with one another (often by default), so it doesn’t take long for one of these legal issues to trigger the others.
Drug and alcohol-related issues have become a serious problem for healthcare providers all across the country. They’ve also created something of a prosecutorial field day for law enforcement agencies at both the state and federal level.
Each passing month brings with it new stories in the press of doctors or nurses who’ve been caught, investigated, exposed, or suspended because they were found drunk on the job, diverting a patient’s narcotics, or driving under the influence.
This, in turn, highlights another dimension of the substance abuse problem for physicians – these cases tend to attract significant media attention, community scrutiny, and professional embarrassment.
But investigators don’t always get it right. In our experience, substance abuse investigations are frequently rushed or based on misleading “red flags,” the result of an intense federal push for agents to “crack down” on substance abuse, as well as eagerness on the part of state medical boards to “protect the public.”
The reality is that, in many cases, healthcare providers accused of substance abuse are hard-working and conscientious people who either:
said the wrong thing to an investigator or witness at the wrong time; or
simply made a mistake.
We are all human, we all make mistakes, and a single error does not mean you aren’t an outstanding care provider with a career worth preserving and defending.
At Oberheiden, P.C., we are committed to defending physicians, nurses, and medical care providers against accusations of drug and alcohol abuse. We recognize that allegations of this nature can quickly end a career, ruin a reputation, or even lead to lengthy prison sentences.
If you’re dealing with a substance abuse issue that has attracted the government’s attention, you can count on our attorneys to treat you with respect, compassion, and discretion.
We don’t care what you’ve done or which mistakes you’ve made. You deserve help when the stakes are high, and that’s what we offer.
The substance abuse defense attorneys in our office have years of experience and a long record of successfully saving medical licenses, ending healthcare investigations, and minimizing or defeating criminal prosecutions for our clients.
Put our highly experienced team on your side
Dr. Nick Oberheiden
John W. Sellers
Former Senior Trial Attorney U.S. Department of Justice
Joanne Fine DeLena
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney
Lynette S. Byrd
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney
Former U.S. Attorney
Aaron L. Wiley
Former Federal Prosecutor
Former Special Agent (OIG)
Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)
Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)
Kevin M. Sheridan
Former Special Agent (FBI)
Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)
Dennis A. Wichern
Former Special Agent-in-Charge (DEA)
The Stakes Are High
Do not trust an inexperienced or overburdened lawyer with your license or your freedom.
Do not assume that the government will see your side of the story.
Prosecutors are not particularly interested in whether you’re innocent, nor do the Boards of Medicine particularly care about the impact they’ll have on your life and career.
While the legal standards of proof are in your favor, the government nonetheless does have a record of winning these types of cases. Hiring an experienced and aggressive attorney in your defense can make the difference.
Contact the substance abuse law defense lawyers at Oberheiden, P.C. today.
State & Federal Drug Crimes Facing Healthcare Providers
Law enforcement agents have a wide range of criminal statutes available to them when investigating white-collar professionals for controlled substances. Below, we profile several of the drug felonies most commonly implicated in the healthcare setting.
A doctor or nurse commits the crime of drug diversion when he or she steals or otherwise misappropriates a controlled substance. While any medication could lead to a drug diversion case, most involve opioids or other prescription painkillers.
Naturally, pharmacists and certain healthcare providers are expected to have access to appropriate controlled substances in the course of their professional duties. But in cases of suspected substance abuse, healthcare professionals can be charged with felony drug possession.
Drug trafficking is usually associated with high-level drug dealers and suppliers who sell illicit substances on the streets. But doctors, pharmacists, and nurses can be charged with drug trafficking too. In fact, if prosecutors believe they have evidence that you supplied even one patient with a medically unnecessary prescription medication, they might pursue drug trafficking charges.
In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of pain management clinics, pharmacy employees, chiropractors, and nurses being investigated for drug trafficking and distribution.
Prosecutors can build conspiracy cases on surprisingly little evidence. All it takes is evidence of an agreement between two parties to commit an illegal act.
Because the agreement itself is the crime, it is possible to be convicted of a drug conspiracy even if the illegal drug-related activity never happens.
Doctors and nurses have been convicted on drug conspiracy counts in situations where they were only accused of playing a very small and distant role in the grand scheme of things (or did not even know the people who committed the illegal act itself).
Drunk or Drugged Driving
Doctors arrested for DUI or DWI can find themselves falling down a rabbit hole of red tape and allegations as one proceeding leads to another. In addition to the staggering penalties associated with conviction (enormous monetary penalties, prison sentences, the loss of your driving license, etc.), you could also lose your job, your ability to prescribe medications, or even your medical license.
If you’ve been accused of driving under the influence, you should talk to a substance abuse law defense attorney as soon as possible.
Substance Abuse Defense in a Medical Board Hearing
If a patient, co-worker or employee suspects that you’re drinking or using on the job, they might notify the state medical board. Alternatively, federal investigators might refer any evidence they’ve gathered to the licensing board. In any event, if you have received an administrative complaint or notice of impending sanctions from your Board of Medicine, your license could be in jeopardy.
The substance abuse law defense lawyers at Oberheiden, P.C. have represented white-collar professionals in front of licensing boards across the country.
Our mission in these cases is clear:
End the investigation.
Resolve the hearing.
Save your license.
Clear your reputation.
Keep you in practice.
In many of our cases, we’ve achieved these results through the process of negotiation, often during the early stages of an administrative complaint.
However, we are always willing and ready to defend our clients in formal administrative hearings before an Administrative Law Judge and/or on appeal in a District Court whenever necessary. We are proud to have a long record of success in administrative proceedings and at trial.
Substance Abuse and the Loss of DEA Registration
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is not an organization to take lightly. Their agents are formidable investigators. And as a federal agency engaged in both regulation and law enforcement, the DEA wields substantial power.
DEA Enforcement Proceedings are serious matters that are chiefly concerned with violations of the Controlled Substances Act. They can proceed separately from other drug-related criminal procedures, so it is important to seek legal representation with broad experience in substance abuse defense.
When you hire Oberheiden, P.C., our attorneys will work as a team and fight hard to bring your investigation to an end. We will advance every available legal strategy toward keeping your DEA registration in good standing and sparing you the difficulties of a criminal trial.
Red Flags of a Controlled Substances Act (CSA) Violation
The DEA and other federal agencies actively monitor medical clinics for potential violations of the Controlled Substances Act (not to mention other healthcare violations, such as fraud).
Their system for finding red flags includes automated software monitoring, human audits, and routine investigative tactics. Every patient you treat, every prescription you write, and every claim for payment your office submits will travel through a system of high-level screening and review.
In more serious cases, investigatory tools might include undercover agents, telephone and video surveillance, and more.
Red flags of a possible CSA violation include:
A physician who shows a history or pattern of prescribing the same controlled substances (or combination drug therapies)
Treating a high number of patients from other states or other towns
Treating a high number of patients who pay with cash
Prescriptions for multiple people residing at the same physical address
Diagnosing an unusually high number of patients with similar conditions (particularly conditions for which narcotics or other sensitive controlled substances might be prescribed)
Seeing an especially large number of patients
Operating at unusual hours.
But while the government has flagged these as indicators of substance abuse or drug crimes, none of these things are illegal acts and none of them mean that a doctor is engaging in a crime.
The reality of your local community might be such that many patients pay with cash because of their economic circumstances or because of cultural preferences. Doctors practicing in more rural areas or near state borders might naturally treat an unusually high number of patients from far away. And in some situations, it might simply make good business sense to operate outside of normal business hours, treat as many patients as possible, or express a preference for cash payments.
And in many cases, if someone is engaged in illegal behavior, it is the patient. After all, doctors are only interested in treating their patients based on their symptoms and medical histories — as they should be. Physicians are not detectives, and it is not their job to read their patients’ minds or administer lie detector tests.
Unfortunately, prosecutors and police don’t always make an effort to see the situation from the healthcare provider’s point of view. They fixate on “red flags” and, in so many cases, try to pin patients’ addictions on the doctors and nurses who treat them.
As experienced substance abuse defense attorneys, we understand these common problems in healthcare investigations. No two situations are alike, and yours may look different from the situations we’ve described here. But whatever you’re facing, we know that law enforcement might fail to see the whole picture. Our office is ready to provide vigorous and strategic defense, even against a laundry list of alleged “red flags.”
Meet Our Substance Abuse Defense Attorneys
We believe in combining passion with experience and insight. The attorneys who head the substance abuse defense team at Oberheiden, P.C. are former federal prosecutors. We know law enforcement agents investigate these situations. We understand how they negotiate, what they look for, and the tactics they’re likely to use. We also know first-hand that they will be both relentless and aggressive.
Today, we use our insider’s perspective to help nurses, pharmacists, physicians, and medical executives as they face the most frightening chapters of their professional lives.
Whatever you might have done, or however impossible the odds might seem, please give us a call. With our team, you’re in good hands.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Oberheiden, P.C. Today
If you’re facing a healthcare investigation, pending criminal charges, a DEA enforcement proceeding, an administrative hearing, or any other urgent legal matter, please contact our team of substance abuse defense lawyers right away. Time matters. So does a strong, strategic defense.
This information has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information may constitute attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Reading of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Prior results cannot guarantee a similar future outcome in your case. Oberheiden, P.C. is a Texas PC with headquarters in Dallas. The attorney on record limits his practice to federal law.
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