Determined Legal Defense and Trusted Advice for Protecting Your Best Interests in DEA Inspections
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is one of the most powerful agencies in the country, so when they coming knocking on the front door of your clinic, you want to take the situation seriously – and proceed with caution.
While the DEA is best known for its work in busting big street dealers and smugglers who sneak illicit drugs into the country, the agency has another major focus that doesn’t always get as much attention: busting doctors, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and medical business executives who they believe might be involved in issuing prescriptions or medications unlawfully.
Make no mistake about it: the DEA’s agents can be every bit as plotting and ruthless against well-educated, white-collar medical professionals as they are against rough street criminals. So aggressive, in fact, that they often cast an overly wide net, and innocent health care providers get caught up inside.
In most cases, it all begins with a DEA audit or inspection. Agents might arrive at your clinic with very little warning, and their mission is to look for any potential evidence of a crime (violations of the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA, in particular).
If you are currently facing a DEA audit or inspection, do not panic. Most of these inspections are routine in nature. They generally occur once every three years or so, and do not indicate that you are under any suspicion of having committed a crime.
Even in routine inspections, though, health care providers need to proceed most carefully. Saying the wrong thing, or revealing a small and altogether accidental error, can have frightening, lifelong repercussions.
You must remember that the DEA is a federal law enforcement agency. It can and will use any evidence it finds against you. Even if you have not done anything wrong, the DEA might still look for what it calls “suspicious patterns” or behaviors in your practice’s prescribing history. These “red flags” can lead to real trouble in otherwise innocent situations.
That’s why it is in your best interest to get an experienced DEA defense attorney on your side as quickly possible. A lawyer can guide you through DEA audits and inspections, advise you on how to respond (or not to respond) to the Administrations’ requests or recommendations, and can defend you against any potential enforcement actions.
Oberheiden, P.C. is a law firm comprised of former federal prosecutors who now represent doctors and health care providers all across the United States. With decades of experience on both sides of these cases, we’re often able to guide our clients to total success in the face of the DEA.
Don’t risk the future of your practice or the vitality of your career on the chance of a DEA audit or inspection going the wrong way. Call Oberheiden, P.C. today.
What Triggers a DEA Audit or Inspection?
There are a few reasons the Drug Enforcement Agency might initiate an audit or inspection of your practice. These can include the following.
- Deviations in the way your practice issues prescriptions as compared to other medical practices
- Unusual business activities in your practice (e.g., staying open later, having a small support staff, serving a large number of patients from a different state)
- Tips or reports from patients, doctors, pharmacists, insurers, or other organizations that could cast suspicion on you or your practice
- Random or routine inspections to ensure compliance with the Controlled Substances Act
Of course, deviations in your prescription practices or business manner do not necessarily indicate a crime. You might simply have a different business strategy, or perhaps your office happens to serve a unique market. These things should not trigger undue scrutiny, but unfortunately, that has been the case for far too many practices in the past.
Once the DEA’s suspicion is aroused, its agents might begin to scrutinize your practice’s patterns and records through a distorted lens. That’s why it is so important to have a deeply experienced and passionate attorney to protect you and defend your interests — ideally, as soon as the process begins.
Can the DEA Conduct an Audit or Inspection Without a Warrant?
Generally speaking, the DEA does not need a warrant for audits and inspections, provided that:
- They are investigating potential violations of the CSA, and
- They are not working with another law enforcement agency as part of a criminal investigation, and
- They receive your written informed consent
If you refuse informed consent, the DEA will need to get either a formal search warrant (which requires probable cause) or a more limited administrative inspection warrant (for which probable cause is not required, meaning the warrant is much simpler for the DEA to secure). Your lawyer can help you decide whether to refuse consent in your case.
If the DEA is working with another agency in a criminal investigation, then it will need to demonstrate probable cause to a federal court and secure a formal criminal search warrant prior to any audit, inspection, or raid.
Otherwise, the DEA can proceed without a warrant. This surprises many doctors and other providers, who are hardworking and widely respected professionals in their fields and never dreamed they would be under a federal microscope.
When acting without a warrant, the DEA will file a Form 82 (Notice of Inspection of Controlled Premises) and can then proceed with audits and inspections.
Whether a warrant is involved or not, it is a good idea to talk with a lawyer about the most effective strategies for navigating the inspection process as soon as possible.
Our DEA Audit and Inspection Defense Attorneys
Dr. Nick Oberheiden is an accomplished attorney, author, and legal correspondent for numerous major media outlets. He is renowned as an authority on issues pertaining to federal health care law, including health care fraud, DEA audits and inspections, and federal enforcement actions. He has successfully defended numerous individuals and corporate clients against federal criminal charges and regulatory enforcement actions, including his work in defending doctors and health care clients against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (among other federal entities). Dr. Oberheiden holds a PhD in law, a Juris Doctor degree from the UCLA School of Law, and has been trained in negotiation at Harvard Law School.
Lynette S. Byrd defends both individual and corporate clients who are accused of federal crimes, or who are under investigation by state and federal agencies, such as the DEA. Ms. Byrd is a former federal prosecutor and served for several years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. While representing the United States government, she worked in a number of a high-profile cases (including one of the largest health care fraud cases in her district at the time) and collected millions of dollars in restitution for taxpayers. Today, she puts her experience as a former prosecutor to work for physicians and organizations targeted in investigations or enforcement actions by the DEA and other federal entities.
Contact the DEA Audits and Inspections Defense Lawyers at Oberheiden, P.C.
If you are currently facing a DEA audit or inspection, we encourage you to contact our office right away. Remember: the federal government takes these cases very seriously and proceeds aggressively. You should too. In fact, by the time you find out that you are under investigation, the government may already be building a case toward revoking your DEA registration or filing criminal charges.