Michigan residents, especially healthcare professionals, should take note of a recent US Supreme Court ruling. In Ruan v. United States and Kahn v. United States, the court made a ruling setting a new standard for what the DEA must prove in order to convict healthcare professionals of illegal drug distribution.
This new standard will have a significant impact on felony drug crimes convictions. Understanding the landscape of drug enforcement after this ruling is crucial for all healthcare professionals involved in pharmaceutical distribution.
What did the ruling establish?
The Ruan ruling establishes that the DEA must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a healthcare professional knew that the prescription wasn’t lawful when filling it.
This is a change from the previous standard, in which the DEA had more latitude to suggest unlawful intent from healthcare providers in charging them with felony drug offenses. In past prosecutions, the DEA has used guidance in which healthcare professionals who ignored specific “red flag” signs of illegitimacy were liable for drug crimes. If the “red flags” existed, the DEA didn’t need to prove intent beyond that.
The Ruan ruling places heavier responsibility for proving unlawful intent on the prosecuting agency. The “red flag” standard now isn’t necessarily sufficient.
Impact on healthcare professionals
The Ruan ruling isn’t likely to change the DEA’s decision-making in many enforcement actions. While they’ll be held to a higher standard of proof in showing unlawful intent, this is a threshold they should be able to clear in many cases.
However, there now may be certain cases where this heavier burden of proof will cause them to dismiss a marginal case without charges, and legal proceedings may now be slightly more favorable for certain defendants.
The coming years will provide a more detailed picture of exactly how Ruan has changed the drug enforcement landscape.