The DEA and FBI are aggressively investigating and prosecuting pill mill crimes across the United States. They are committed to bringing charges against physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other medical professionals who over-prescribe narcotics.
However, determining what’s medically appropriate for pain medication isn’t always clear, and pill mill cases aren’t straightforward to defend. It takes an expert pill mill attorney to go up against the government.
What Is a Pill Mill?
The term “pill mill” can refer to any number of things, from a single doctor to a full ring of clinics and pharmacies. Regardless of the size, all pill mills prescribe or dispense narcotics for non-medical purposes or in excess of patient needs.
Though pill mills come in many shapes and sizes, there are a few red flags that government investigators look for when identifying possible pill mills, such as:
- Clinics that only accept cash payments
- Clinics or pharmacies that use security guards
- Physicians, clinics, or pharmacies that regularly attract large crowds
- Clinics or physicians that attract young patients from far away
While all of these signs can point to a pill mill operation, none of them are definitive proof that a pill mill exists.
If the government agency suspects a physician, clinic, or pharmacy is operating as part of a pill mill, they’ll launch an investigation and collect prescription records. Then, they’ll assign their own expert to analyze the findings.
If the expert agrees that the doctor or medical professionals prescribe or dispense medications that patients don’t need, the government will investigate further. If they find more evidence of any sort, they may raid the clinic or pharmacy and arrest the physicians and their staff.
Why are Pill Mills Considered a White Collar Crime?
The term “white-collar crime” was coined in 1939 and referred to fraud committed by a business or government. Typically, white-collar crimes are financially motivated and non-violent.
True pill mills are always financially motivated, and they’re not directly violent. Though patients addicted to narcotics are at risk of overdose and death, the medical professionals involved in the pill mill aren’t killing or injuring with their own hands.
That said, pill mills aren’t victimless. The opioid epidemic has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths due to overdose, and pill mill operations are a significant contributor. Given the recent increases in opioid abuse, government agencies are very interested in finding and stopping pill mills.
Federal law states that physicians may not prescribe pain medications without a legitimate medical need. If they do, they’re going directly against the Controlled Substances Act and can be charged with drug trafficking.
Drug trafficking is a felony that can result in a lengthy prison sentence. So, even though pill mills are a non-violent, white-collar crime, conviction comes with severe costs.
On top of that, the government may pursue other charges in relation to pill mills, such as healthcare fraud, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. All of these can add years to sentencing.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Prescription opioids are vital tools that doctors and medical professionals use to treat chronic pain, but they’ve come under intense public and government scrutiny in recent years.
In many cases, a physician that’s well within their legal rights still ends up in a pill mill investigation. In the eyes of the government, pill mills are akin to drug traffickers, so claims are generally taken seriously. The government agency may have been tipped off by various “red flags” or received a report from a former disgruntled employee.
In those cases, a pill mill attorney can help physicians and other medical professionals receive a not-guilty verdict.
Mounting a Thorough and Vigorous Defense
A knowledgeable attorney who defends doctors and other health care personnel against pill mill allegations can make a significant impact on the ultimate disposition of the charges. When you retain a skilled lawyer, she or he will work on your behalf to:
- Gather all available evidence, including relevant medical records for the patients
- Retain expert medical professionals to review the patients’ medical records, as well as the government’s expert opinions
- Secure expert testimony that explains why the doctor or medical professional was medically justified to prescribe or dispense the medications, rebutting the government’s claims that the prescribed treatment was illegal
- Interview the government witnesses to identify any bias or dishonorable motives
Beyond that, a physician or pharmacist attorney can act quickly to contest the forfeiture of the doctor’s or pharmacist’s assets and property, including personal property like a car or home, as well as bank accounts and other financial assets.
Usually, the government will seize these assets right away in pill mill cases, and even if the trial ends with a not guilty verdict, the property isn’t returned. A lawyer can contest the forfeiture so the doctor, pharmacist, or other medical professional doesn’t lose their assets.
Zoukis Consulting Group is Here to Help
As is the case with many federal criminal charges, pill mill cases can be difficult to defend. Medical evidence is complicated, and medical professionals that stand accused are often tried by a judge and jury who have little medical knowledge. Unfortunately, the stakes are high. If you are facing pill mill charges, your medical license and professional reputation are on the line.
Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys
Choosing a criminal defense attorney or firm that typically practices only in state courts could be a mistake. That’s because the intricacies of the federal court system and criminal proceedings can be complex and sometimes differ from similar state proceedings. The legal professionals at Zoukis Consulting Group understand these differences and are adept at advocating for clients’ rights at every step of the federal criminal legal process.
Whether your pill mill charges end up being litigated before a judge and jury or a settlement is reached for your case prior to a trial, your defense attorney will work strategically on your behalf to help you avoid self-incrimination. Your lawyer will evaluate the facts and circumstances surrounding the government’s charges, identify weaknesses in the case, and seek to refute the charges, asserting all available defenses. Your defense attorney’s goal will be to help you obtain the best possible outcome. If you are convicted, your lawyer will advocate for reduced sentencing.
If you’ve been accused of a pill mill crime, you need to hire a Zoukis Consulting Group lawyer for your defense. Our experienced attorneys can secure expert medical testimonies and witnesses to help you build your case. At the same time, we can protect your home, vehicles, bank accounts and investments, and other personal assets. If you have already been sentenced, we may be able to help with a direct appeal or a habeas corpus petition.
Contact Zoukis Consulting Group today to learn more about what we can do for you and to schedule a consultation with a physician or pharmacist license defense attorney.
Published Feb 16, 2022 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Feb 2, 2023 at 10:33 am