Health Care Providers: PLEASE Talk to an Attorney Before You Talk to an Investigator!

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

At The Health Law firm, we often receive calls from new clients and from potential clients, after they have already spoken to and made critical harmful admissions against their own interests to investigators. It is imperative to know that in Florida, you do not have any duty to cooperate with any investigator who is investigating you. This extends to Department of Health (DOH) investigators (who are sometimes titled “Medical Quality Assurance Investigators” or “Medical Malpractice Investigators”), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or criminal investigators of any type.

If you are being investigated, you will NOT be better off making a statement. You will NOT be better off explaining your side of the story. The investigator is NOT your friend. The investigator is NOT on your side.

You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to not make any statement that may be used against you. This is so important that in criminal cases government investigators are required to advise you of this by reciting to you your Miranda rights. To learn more about your Miranda rights, click here to read one of our prior blogs.

Know Your Rights.

In cases where you might have your medical license revoked or have your nursing license revoked or have your DEA number revoked or lose your Medicare provider status or your Medicaid provider status, the investigator is not required to advise you of your rights.

In a criminal case, there may be ways to have your statement thrown out. However, in a professional licensing case or other administrative case, it may be too late to avoid the damage. You may be the best witness the government has and you may be the only witness the government needs to prove this case against you.

In the case where you could receive a $100 criminal fine, the investigators are required to read you your constitutional Miranda rights and to be sure that you understand them before you make a statement. However, in a case where you can lose your professional license, where you could lose your livelihood and ability to make a living, where you could lose everything you have worked so hard to obtain, they are not required to do this. You must protect yourself.

Many health professionals, when confronted by an investigator, who will usually call at a very inconvenient time (to catch you by surprise) and will usually flash a badge (to intimidate you), will refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter and will fall for the bait to “tell their side of the story.” This can be fatal to your defense and fatal to your license.

You Cannot Talk Your Way Out Of It.

Remember, this is the investigators’ job and profession. This is what they do full time, every day. And they are very good at it. They are 1,000 times better at getting you to admit the crucial elements of a disciplinary infraction than you are in “talking your way out of it.” They will not be convinced by any excuses you make. You will help them by talking to them, explaining why your decisions are correct, explaining why what you did is excusable, etc. It will not work. You will merely be giving them enough rope to hang you with.

Hint: If it is a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicaid fraud.

Hint: If it is an “auditor,” “surveyor” or “investigator” from an agency or company with “integrity” or “program integrity” in its name, they are probably investigating you for “lack of integrity,” i.e., false claims or fraud.

Hint: If it is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent (investigator) they are probably investigating you to prosecute you or to revoke your DEA registration for drug or prescribing violations.

Hint: If it is an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicare fraud or Medicare false claims.

Hint: If it is a Department of Health Quality Assurance Investigator or Medical Malpractice Investigator, they are probably only investigating possible disciplinary action against your license that could result in large administrative fines or revocation of your license.
Do not believe for a second that you are smarter than the investigator. Do not believe for a second that you will convince the investigator (or anyone else) that there is a legal or medical justification for what you did or what they allege. If it were as simple as that, then why would there be an investigation and why would you be the one being investigated?

Additionally, do not believe for a second that you can lie your way out of it, either. Remember, if the government cannot prove the basic offense that it is investigating against you, it may be able to prove that you have committed perjury or lied to an investigator. In the case of a federal official or a federal investigation, merely making a false statement (oral or written) to an investigator is a criminal act. This is what Martha Stewart and many others have served time for in federal prisons.

Keep Silent.

It is much better to make no statement at all. Blame it on your attorney. Tell the investigator that your attorney will kill you if you were to talk to the investigator without your attorney being there ahead of time. “Speak to my attorney.” “My attorney can help you, I can’t.”

Far too often the health professional only calls us after he has given a statement. This is usually too late to avoid much of the damage that will have been be caused. Everything above applies to oral statements or written statements. Do not make either. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before making any statement, no matter how simple, defensive, self-serving or innocuous you may think it to be.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals in Criminal Matters and Professional Licensing Matters.

If you have been arrested, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced attorney who can advise you on the criminal proceeding, your rights and how it may affect you. Most important to a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist or other health professional are what consequences may follow this. Consequences may include loss or suspension of hospital privileges, loss or suspension of your professional license, exclusion from the Medicare Program, termination from the state Medicaid Program, termination from health care insurance panels and other severe consequences.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm routinely represent physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners in criminal defense matters. We frequently consult with criminal defense attorneys regarding defense strategies tailored to minimizing criminal sanctions while preserving the practitioner’s license.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Right to remain silent, Miranda rights, criminal law defense attorney, health care investigations, investigations against health care professionals, The Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Medical Quality Assurance Investigators, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, medical malpractice investigators, disciplinary actions against health care professionals, health care license defense attorney, physician criminal charges, health attorney, criminal trial, criminal case defense lawyer, Fifth Amendment, plead the Fifth, administrative sanctions, administrative law judges, administrative hearing, administrative trial, administrative proceedings, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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