Our Wilmington and Dover, Delaware criminal defense lawyers have significant experience defending doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who find themselves caught up in criminal and quasi-criminal legal matters.
The problem with criminal cases for medical providers is that they are like onions – often, they have many layers. Read on and we’ll explain more about what to expect if you are a Delaware physician, nurse, or other health professional who has been arrested or who expects to be arrested.
When you think about healthcare professionals getting into trouble, you might assume that the most common types of crimes would be things like healthcare fraud. But most of the criminal cases against our healthcare provider clients do not actually involve healthcare-related offenses. Rather, most criminal cases for medical providers involve things like DUI, Title 16 drug offenses like drug dealing, sex offenses (rape, unlawful sexual contact, child pornography), and tax fraud or failure to file tax returns and pay taxes due.
Public Relations and Media Inquiries When a Provider’s Arrest is Made Public
In an ideal world, when a physician or other provider is arrested or indicted, the general public would learn nothing of it until a conviction and resulting license suspension occurs. That would only be fair because an arrest or indictment that becomes known to the general public can have a devastating effect upon the professional reputation and practice of the defendant, regardless of innocence or guilt. Unfortunately, the authorities often publicize the arrest of a doctor or other professional at the time of arrest or indictment.
We would never promise a client that we can keep their name out of the news media completely because it’s not something we can truly control. That said, there have been cases where the arresting authorities agreed not to publicize our client’s arrest. If we are brought into the case early enough, one goal for representation may include working with the arresting authorities to avoid media exposure of the case.
Even when the case cannot be kept out of the media, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can assist with handling media inquiries. If you are contacted by the news media in reference to a criminal matter, you should not speak to reporters even if the conversation is going to be “off the record”. (There is no such thing as “off the record”.)
Many times, when a healthcare provider is arrested and charged with a criminal offense, it is a manifestation of the personal, emotional, and family problems that the professional may be experiencing. No one wakes up in the morning and makes a decision to get in a drunk-driving car accident. No one just happens to get indicted for not paying their taxes. The criminal arrest is often the result of underlying personal problems – emotional instability, addiction, or other difficulties – that must be confronted as part of a holistic approach to the defense of the case. If you are a healthcare provider who finds your way into criminal legal problems, our approach will likely entail working with you and your doctor, counselor, and your support network to help you get professional psychological, medical, and rehabilitative help to overcome the problems that brought about the criminal case.
Delaware Mandatory Duty to Report / Self-Reporting Laws
Delaware has mandatory reporting laws for healthcare providers. Even when the alleged criminal offense occurs outside the employment or clinical setting, the laws may apply. If you have been charged with a crime, or if you are the subject of a criminal or employer or hospital investigation, you should secure the advice and counsel of an attorney who is familiar with Delaware’s duties to report so that you are aware of your obligations in this regard.
Representation Before the Delaware Division of Professional Regulation
Often, when a provider is investigated or charged with a crime, a parallel investigation will be opened before the Delaware Division of Professional Regulation. In our experience, the two investigations may intertwine in unexpected ways. We advise our provider clients not to speak to investigators from the Division of Professional Regulation without an attorney present. We have had cases where clients were being investigated by the Delaware State Police and Delaware Division of Professional Regulation in what appeared to us to be an informal joint operation. You should assume that if an investigator from the Division of Professional Regulation is interviewing you, your statements may be turned over to Delaware State Police for use against you in criminal proceedings.
We also advise our provider clients to retain private counsel to independently investigate all complaints brought before the DPR, and assist them in responding to any board complaints – even when they consider the complaint “frivolous”. Complaints to the Division of Professional Regulation are frequently lodged by patients, employees, and other providers. Oftentimes, the complaints themselves have no legal merit. However, a board complaint can provide a window into the documentation and prescribing practices of the practitioner, and that is a fertile source for problems given the complexity of the Delaware regulations. If you are a medical provider in Delaware, it is our studied opinion that you should never go it alone in responding to a professional licensing board complaint.
Representation Before the Hospital Medical Executive Committee
If you have admitting privileges or employment with a hospital, fallout from a criminal investigation, arrest, or indictment may include adverse action by your hospital’s Medical Executive Committee. As a credentialed provider, you should keep an updated copy of your hospital’s bylaws and MEC rules and provide them to your criminal defense attorney to ensure your rights are upheld before the MEC.
If you are a medical provider in Delaware and you have been arrested, if you have been contacted by the police or the Division of Professional Regulation, or if you fear you are going to be arrested, please contact us to learn more about how we can help you.