How to Choose the Right Lawyer to Defend against a DEA Case
Would You Use a Dentist to Operate on Your Spine?
Just like you would not necessarily choose a dentist to operate on your spine (or a real estate attorney to handle child custody issues in a contested divorce), you should also not consider just any attorney when aggressive DEA and FBI agents are challenging your life, your livelihood, and your freedom.
Since the Department of Justice’s announcement to target physicians who regularly prescribe controlled substances as causers and contributors to the national opioid crisis, the practice of pain medicine has drastically changed in light of hundreds of DEA search warrants, arrests, and indictments.
Who can protect me? No matter where you live in the U.S., there’s unlikely a shortage of lawyers. The purpose of this article is to provide some guidance how to identify and select qualified and experienced counsel in case your practice is under DEA investigation or in case you have questions about pill mill and drug diversion investigations.
Which Lawyer Is Right for My Situation?
To start with, it is important to narrow down the search to those lawyers that have experience with federal cases and health care fraud investigations in particular. Not every health care lawyer that drafts contracts or supervises business transactions behind the scenes may have the experience to lead tough face-to-face negotiations with health care prosecutors, Department of Justice trial attorneys, or federal special agents.
Similarly, not every lawyer specializing in health care law appears adequate to argue and defend a client’s case in front of prosecutors, juries, or federal judges. By the same token, a skilled and experienced courtroom litigator may lack the specific understanding embedded in countless health care laws and regulations governing the administration and issuance of pain medications. For example, a federal health care prosecutor specializing in opioid prosecutions may not perceive a threat to his arguments if the appearing defense lawyer does not know what medication amounts are deemed excessive under federal regulations or how to apply the important “accepted standards of medicine” test when reviewing and discussing specific patient charts and treatment protocols.
At the end of the day, you and your lawyer will not have a second chance to persuade the prosecutor in charge or the members of the jury. Put simply, if your lawyer does not understand the critical provisions contained in the Controlled Substances Act and related regulations, no jury and no prosecutor will ever be persuaded that the government’s allegations are unsubstantiated and untrue.
What it comes down to in the selection of a trusted lawyer is not whether he/she lives next door, whether he/she is a recommended family friend, or whether he/she is the best DUI defense attorney in town. What it comes down to is the specific experience and success record the lawyer candidate can offer in cases similar or identical to your situation and that lawyer’s reputation among Department of Justice health care prosecutors.
Ask These Questions Before You Hire an Attorney
Here are the three golden questions to ask your attorney before engaging legal services.
- (1) How much of your practice is dedicated to federal criminal defense and how much of your practice is dedicated to health care fraud defense cases?
- (2) What is your track record in the last 100 health care fraud investigations to avoid jail time, criminal charges, and civil liability for your client?
- (3) How many cases similar or identical to mine have you handled when it comes to DEA drug diversion, search warrants, and DEA pain prescription investigations?
The advantage of this nail-it-down approach is that you can ask and confront the candidate with specific questions requiring specific answers. Don’t ask how many DEA cases have you handled and be satisfied with an answer such as “some,” “quite a few,” or “many.” Specific questions call for specific answers.
Meet DEA Defense Attorney Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Consider Nick Oberheiden. DEA defense attorney Dr. Nick Oberheiden has no problem disclosing his track record or to provide concrete examples of DEA matters he has handled. Nick limits his practice to federal government investigations, in particular health care fraud and DEA defense matters. Anyone interested in detailed answers to specific questions should contact Nick directly at (214) 692-2171. Nick does not use secretaries, paralegals, or junior lawyers and clients receive Nick’s undivided attention and commitment.
Nick has represented physicians and pharmacies in virtually every corner of the United States and has demonstrated over and over how impactful a skilled and forceful intervention can be to end or derail a DEA or FBI investigation. Here are the three most recent examples:
- DEA Grand Jury Investigation. Nick represented a doctor in a grand jury investigation involving allegations of issuing medically unnecessary pain medications. The doctor was accused to have violated the Controlled Substances Act and various federal health care fraud statutes by administering controlled substances that the government deemed unnecessary, excessive, and dangerous. After a lengthy interview of his client and learning about his practice, Nick analyzed close to 100 patient charts, and identified a logical and ethical protocol as to why these patients (but not others) received the medications in question. With the conviction of his own findings and the comfort of having solved the governments misconception, Nick began a series of presentations at the U.S. Attorney’s Office with agents of the DEA, the FBI, the Department of Defense, the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as Justice Department prosecutors attending. While everyone ultimately agreed that the doctor should revisit and reconsider the issuance of these medications moving forward, everyone equally agreed with Nick’s arguments that Nick’s client did not commit a criminal act and deserves an end of the investigation.
- DEA Patient Files Subpoena. Nick’s client was contacted by a team of DEA agents with a request to surrender his DEA license, his medical license, and to report to law-enforcement authorities. The agents described the doctor situation as hopeless and insinuated “life behind bars” for having caused the deaths of several patients due to the physician’s opioid dispensing. Desperate for help, the physician reached out to Nick to turn his case around. While the doctor’s previous lawyer thought that sitting back to see what happens would be the right approach, Nick radically disagreed and initiated a zealous, proactive approach and engaged in intense discussions and negotiations with the DEA. At the end of those meetings, the DEA agreed that a mere administrative sanctioning would be sufficient and enough to end and close this investigation. Nick’s client was never charged, was never fined, and he continues to practice medicine.
- DEA Medical Office Search Warrant. Nick’s client was surprised by a team of DEA agents showing up one morning with a search warrant to search and seize the medical office. Nick was hired a few days later to make sure the case would not turn into a federal indictment. Realizing that the allegations were strong on paper but weak compared to the true facts, Nick and his team confronted the Assistant United States Attorney with the deficiencies of the affidavit supporting the warrant as well as Nick’s own findings from interviews conducted with his client and staff members. While Nick could not undo the search warrant itself, Nick was able to convince the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to pursue the case further and to close the investigation with no charges filed.