If doctors are charged with prescription drug trafficking in the state of Florida, they are typically charged with a first-degree felony, and if they are found guilty of such criminal charges, they face up to 25 years in prison. However, Florida has a law regarding medical practitioners and their prescribing practices that defense attorneys argue is more appropriate in certain instances.
This law is specific for physicians and specifies that they be charged with a third-degree felony. Under this law, doctors who prescribe inappropriate amounts of prescription medications would face penalties of up to five years in prison. Cases have been presented in which defense attorneys have requested that the less severe charge be applied.
A circuit-court judge ruled that “charging decisions are within the purview of the State” when a challenge was made to the charges in a physician-drug-trafficking case. This means that based upon the evidence, prosecutors can choose to pursue the class-three felony rather than the stricter drug-trafficking felony; however, if there is sufficient evidence, the class-one felony will be pursued. Prosecutors want to send a message that they view physicians who traffic prescription drugs the same as they view drug dealers on the streets.
Medical practitioners facing charges for their prescribing practices need experienced and knowledgeable representation to protect their rights. When allegations of improper medical practices are made against physicians, a criminal conviction can result in a prison sentence, loss of a medical license, fines and probation. A skilled attorney may be able to negotiate for a lesser sentence or reduced penalties.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Rx for danger: Legal maneuver could help doctors in pill-mill cases,” Amy Pavuk, Jan. 25, 2013
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