DEA controlled substance registration is one of few valuable assets in your possession if you practice medicine. It so happens, that this possession and your practice may depend on the DEA’s good graces. There may be many circumstances under which the physician may lose the DEA registration, and sometimes it is out of his or her control. However, you should never voluntarily surrender it to the DEA as this will have a dramatic negative effect on your practice and career. Federal criminal and healthcare attorneys with Norman Spencer are here to help you when you are targeted by the DEA, no matter where you are.
How the DEA Targets Physicians
Most DEA-related problems begin with the investigation. You may be visited by a duo of DEA agents. They often visit medical practices during regular business hours, disregarding your schedule and the fact that you may be busy with patients. The agents will ask you if they can speak with you and of course, you agree. The interview begins, and you are asked many questions about your controlled substance prescribing practices. Like countless others before you, you think that this is just a regular review.
You have nothing to hide and are eager to provide the information to the agent. At some point during the interview, the DEA agent will tell you that you violated a variety of regulations and that you are going to face some serious consequences. However, to save you some trouble, the agent will suggest that you just surrender your DEA controlled substance registration certificate. Why would you do that? Because if you don’t, the agent informs you, “the DEA will revoke it.”
If you are like most physicians faced with this situation, you are likely baffled, terrified, and are afraid of what the future holds for you. Unable to deal with the stress, you are likely to take the good agent’s advice and just sign off at the bottom of the surrender page. Actually, unlike your expectations, this is when your troubles really begin. Norman Spencer Law Group DEA lawyers are here to make sure this does not happen to you!
Why is this a bad idea to take legal advice from the federal agents? The answer is obvious: would you take advice from a car thief on where to keep your car keys? Would you ask a cigarette seller whether smoking is bad for you? If you think the agent is your friend, you are wrong. Federal Agents are professionals trained and paid for building cases against their targets. They don’t solve your problems, they create them!
Why You Should Never Voluntarily Surrender Your DEA Certificate of Registration
This is why you should always refuse to surrender your DEA certificate of registration. There are three main reasons:
- First, if you surrender your DEA registration, you can rest assured that this will lead to further investigations and administrative action against your other assets such as your medical license by your state’s Medical Board.
- Second, in all probability, you are not able to restore your DEA controlled substance registration certificate.
- Third and final point: if you chose to fight the DEA, you can benefit from the long delays in the DEA adjudication process. In other words, you could be able to practice while your DEA matter is pending.
Can the DEA Revoke or Suspend Your DEA Registration?
It is possible the DEA will summarily suspend or revoke your DEA registration, but that cannot be done arbitrarily and capriciously. For that to happen, the government must establish that one of the following took place:
- You submitted materially false information on any application filed pursuant to or required by subchapter I of Section 823 the Title 21 United States Code Controlled Substances Actor subchapter II of this chapter.
- You have a felony criminal record relating to any controlled substance.
- Your medical license or registration was suspended, revoked, or denied in any state
- You are not authorized by state law to manufacture, distribute or dispense controlled substances or list I chemicals
- Your registration is not in the public best interest (usually because of certain acts you committed)
- You were excluded from participating in some federal programs.
Before the revocation, the Attorney General will serve you with an “Order to Show Cause” why your registration should not be denied, revoked, or suspended. At that time you will have 30 days to respond. If you received the DEA Order to Show Cause, call Norman Spencer Law Group right away!
In some “emergency” situations, the Attorney General is authorized to summarily suspend the registration as soon as the DEA initiates proceedings. This can be done if the government can demonstrate that there is an imminent danger to public health or safety. Therefore, if you chose not to voluntarily surrender your DEA certificate, the DEA will have no choice but to submit an order to show cause and give you an opportunity for a hearing.
On the other hand, if you surrender your DEA registration, you automatically give up the right to a hearing. It will be all over. You will have to wait until the criminal, civil, or administrative case against you (that triggered the DEA action) is resolved before you can reapply for your registration. This can take a really long time. During this period you will not be able to practice.
It is a known fact that the DEA adjudication process is notoriously slow and long. This means that cases involving DEA suspension, revocations, and registration denials can take years. The Office of Inspector General issued a scathing report pointing to the DEA inefficiency and bureaucratic hurdles that result in significant backlogs in the adjudication of the case pending before it. The DEA doesn’t need more pending cases resulting in even longer backlogs, and this explains why the DEA agents are notorious for pressing physicians into giving up their rights to a hearing.
If you need to choose between voluntarily surrendering your DEA Certificate surrender without a hearing and immediate suspension, we would normally advise you to request a hearing, because there is always a chance that the DEA is bluffing and will not file an immediate suspension order and also you may have a chance to prevail at the hearing. However, if you voluntarily surrender your license and later want to get it reinstated, these delays will complicate your ability to practice after your criminal, civil, or administrative matter is resolved.
A Voluntarily Surrender of DEA Certificate Could Trigger Actions
When a healthcare practitioner voluntarily surrenders his or her DEA registration, that is likely to cause of snowball of collateral consequences. The worse and most likely result of a DEA registration surrender is that the local state board will take an action against the practitioner’s professional license, leading to revocation, suspension, or other negative results.
However, if you refusing to voluntarily surrender your DEA registration, one benefit will be delaying or perhaps even avoiding this snowball effect. Also, having an active DEA registration is required by most hospital credentialing bodies and medical insurers. You must have the DEA registration to be employed or to participate in the plan. If you voluntarily surrender your DEA registration, you will be reported to your credentialing body and medical insurers, which will result in a credentialing action and loss of privileges.
The main point to take home from all of the above is that voluntarily surrendering your DEA registration will not benefit you. Don’t listen to promises from DEA agents that it’s better for you to surrender the certificate. The only time a surrender could be beneficial to you is if your lawyer negotiates it as part of a global resolution where you will actually benefit from it.
We Can Help You With Your DEA Certificate Registration Problems Nationwide
When the DEA agent tries to sweet talk you into signing a “Voluntary Surrender of Controlled Substances Privileges”, do not buy it. Tell them that you will not sign anything before speaking with a lawyer and call the Norman Spencer Law Group attorney who has experience with DEA and criminal healthcare matters.
At Norman Spencer Law Group, our team of DEA defense attorneys represents healthcare practitioners in all DEA matters, from investigations to administrative and criminal actions. Our clients come from a wide array of healthcare disciplines. We defend physicians, pharmacies, and all other DEA registration nationwide from losing their DEA registration.
The national healthcare criminal defense lawyers at Norman Spencer Law Group have broad experience in all DEA matters, administrative and criminal such as drug trafficking and diversion and other matters. Call us immediately to start protecting yourself!