Withhold Information / Doctor Shopping
What happens when a doctor or pharmacist becomes concerned and notifies law enforcement about a possible violation of Florida Statute Section 893.13(7)(a).
A prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office will then open an investigation and send the patient a letter asking them to sign a release so that all of their medical records (during a certain time period) can be obtained.
If the release is not signed, then the prosecutor has the option of sending a subpoena to the pharmacist, doctor, or treatment facility to obtain the same records. Typically, you will be notified by the State Attorney’s Office of their intention to issue the subpoena.
It is important to talk with an attorney during that 15 day period and figure out how best to respond to the investigation underway by the State Attorney’s Office.
For clients with an addiction to prescription medication, then can help them the most effective treatment programs with an addiction specialist. This counseling will help ensure that no future problems arise.
Additionally, the prosecutor may ultimately decide not to pursue charges or to offer a better resolution when the person deals directly with the problem and voluntarily obtains counseling immediately to address the underlying addiction issues.
Once you are under investigation for any criminal offense, never talk to any law enforcement officer or detective until AFTER you have spoken with an attorney. In most of these cases, the most effective way to prosecute the case is to use the person’s statements against them.
Any statement you make can be used against you. By not making a statement, you might have the best chance of avoiding an arrest and prosecution.
Important defenses exist in these cases that may prevent the prosecution from going forward. If the prosecution does go forward, other defense might involve filing a motion to suppress the physical evidence or statements gathered during the investigation.
Attorneys for Doctor Shopping Crimes in Tampa, FL
At Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys are experienced in fighting drug charges including trafficking in prescription medication and doctor shopping (often called “withhold information from a doctor or practitioner”).
We fight drug crimes in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, and all of the surrounding counties in the greater Tampa Bay area including Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County, and Hernando County, FL.
Contact us to schedule an office or phone consultation with a criminal defense attorney in our office located in Tampa, FL.
Florida Statute Section 893.13(7)(a)(8)-(9)
Florida’s Statutory scheme for dealing with prescription drug abuse includes prosecutions under Florida Statute Section 893.13(7)(a)(8)-(9) for Withholding Information From a Practitioner (also known as “doctor shopping”).
As pain management medical clinics pop up throughout the State of Florida, more and more individuals are receiving addictive medication without receiving any treatment for their underlying medical condition.
Even worse, law enforcement officers are investigating innocent patients for simply receiving treatment legally prescribed by a licensed medical professional.
Types of Doctor Shopping Investigations in Florida
Typical investigations in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, involve an individual that visits several doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions for painkillers within a short period of time, including hydrocodone.
Two of the most commonly abused prescription painkillers are Hydrocondone and Oxycodone, which are often the most commonly obtained prescription drugs in “doctor shopping” schemes.
Law enforcement officers in Florida look for many signals or signs of doctor shopping including:
- the patient already knows which brand and dosage of medication to request at the office visit;
- the patient is in a hurry and appears nervous when trying to get the prescription;
- the patient becomes demanding when it appears that the prescription will not be issued;
- the patient tries to get the doctor to increase the number of pills prescribed each month;
- the patient claims that the pills were lost or stolen and requests more;
- a patient pays for expensive prescription medication even though the patient has no apparent source of income;
- the patient travels out of county to obtain the prescription; or
- the patient pays with cash even though the patient has insurance.
On November 1, 2011, Florida moved a complete prescription drug database is online. Doctors and pharmacists that dispense controlled substances are required to report the prescription within 15 days of filling the prescription.
The database is known as the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (E-FORCSE – Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substance Evaluation Program).
It allows law enforcement officers, doctors, and pharmacists to use the information in the database to learn more about patients who are obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors.
Penalties and Punishments for Withholding Information or Doctor Shopping in Florida
The doctor shopping scheme occurs when the individual sees a doctor for the purpose of obtaining a prescription but does not disclose to one doctor that he or she already has multiple other prescriptions filled from another doctor.
Florida’s “doctor shopping” is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine.
In many cases, the charge of “doctor shopping” also accompanies a more serious charge of prescription drug trafficking based on the possession of the prescription medication.
Even worse, individuals have even been charged with trafficking even in cases where the only proof that the individual possessed the trafficking amount of pills can be shown through circumstantial evidence that the individual filled the prescription. Although, in many of these cases the “valid prescription defense” will still be applicable.
Statutory Language for Withhold Information or Doctor Shopping in Florida
Florida Statute Section 893.13(7)(a), provides that it is unlawful for any person:
8. To withhold information from a practitioner from whom the person seeks to obtain a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance that the person making the request has received a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance of like therapeutic use from another practitioner within the previous 30 days.
9. To acquire or obtain, or attempt to acquire or obtain, possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge.
Florida’s Doctor Shopping Statute – Visit the website of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to learn more about a recent case, Knipp v. State, 35 FLW D2898a decided on December 22, 2010. The case clarified Florida’s doctor shopping statute for “withholding information from a medical practitioner” law under 893.13(7)(a)8, Florida Statutes. The statute is violated when a patient seeks and/or actually obtains a prescription and then fails to inform the doctor that he or she has already obtained a prescription for the same or similar controlled substance within the last 30 days, EVEN IF the doctor did not specifically ask the patient whether they had done so. In the Knipps case, the person obtained a prescription from a physician, and within thirty days of obtaining the first prescription, obtained another prescription for the same controlled substance from a different physician without informing the second doctor of the first visit. Although the facts of the case showed that the defendant did not affirmatively mislead the physician, or that the physician ever asked Knipp if he had received a prescription from another doctor, the statute was still violated and the conviction was upheld on direct appeal. The case also clarified the requirement that it is necessary for the state to prove that the defendant actively sought or requested a prescription for the same or similar controlled substance in order for the “affirmative duty to disclose” to apply. The case also clarified that the trafficking charge was improper because even if the drugs were illegally obtained, the “valid prescription defense” contained in 499.03, Florida Statutes was still applicable.
Florida Drug Database Is Barely Used by Doctors – Article from the Tampa Bay Times, dated October 6, 2012, about problems with the database known as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Doctors and pharmacists can use the database to see where and when their patients filled previous prescriptions, the type and quantity of drugs they got and who prescribed them. The article also discusses the fact that using the database is not mandatory and doctors in Tampa, Hillsborough County, and throughout Florida, are barely using it.
Finding an Attorney for Doctor Shopping Charges
If you have been charged with prescription drug trafficking or “doctor shopping” (often called “withhold information from a practitioner”) in the greater Tampa Bay area when call us to discuss the case.
We represent clients on a variety of felony drug charges in Tampa for Hillsborough County, Dade City or New Port Richey for Pasco County, Brooksville for Hernando County, or St. Petersburg or Clearwater for Pinellas County.
Find out what you need to do today to protect yourself against the charges. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.
This article was last updated by Jason D. Sammis on Friday, May 14, 2021.