What Are Civil Monetary Penalties?
When the DEA takes civil action against you, they will file a lawsuit to recover civil monetary penalties (“CMPs”). CMPs are a means for the federal government to impose punitive fines against you for criminal and civil violations. The DEA may impose CMPs for a variety of controlled substance violations such as:
(1) Improper recordkeeping
(2) Unlawful prescribing
(3) Failure to comply with the Code of Federal Regulations, 21 C.F.R. § 1300
These are just some of the circumstances in which the DEA can impose fines against healthcare providers. In recent years, the DEA has increased the frequency by which CMPs are issued, especially against DEA registrants for violations of controlled substances prescribing laws. Generally, the CMPs to be imposed on a healthcare provider come in the form of a letter and are grossly exaggerated in relation to the actual offense. This is because each and every individual violation is considered a separate and distinct offense for which a maximum statutory penalty may be imposed. As a result, health care providers often find themselves faced with millions of dollars in fines.
How Will I Be Notified of a Case Against Me?
Notification usually comes in the form of a letter from the Department of Justice with the caption “civil violations of the Controlled Substance Act” or something to this effect. It also states, “the purpose of this letter is to inform you of your potential civil liability prior to this office filing a civil action in the federal district court”. The letter is signed by a civil attorney with the Department of Justice or the U.S. Attorney’s office. The letter also encourages the recipient to obtain counsel and contact the attorney in response to negotiate.
It is imperative that you do not attempt to contact the Department of Justice or the DEA by yourself. This is a highly complex and technical area of law and a wrong step could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. You should contact an experienced DEA attorney who has experience defending civil monetary penalty cases against the DEA and Department of Justice.
How to Lower Civil Monetary Penalties
Despite frequent exaggerations of CMPs sought by the DOJ and the DEA. Courts often take a different approach to the calculation of civil monetary penalties, typically resulting in drastically lower fines. Our experienced DEA attorneys can fight excessive requests for civil monetary penalties.
Courts across the country have provided guidance with respect to determining the exact amount of CMPs to impose. Specifically, courts consider four factors when evaluating CMPs:
(1) the level of the defendant’s culpability,
(2) the public harm caused by the violations,
(3) defendant’s profits from the violations, and
(4) the defendant’s ability to pay a penalty.
Each court places a variety of emphasis on each standard in calculating civil monetary penalties and is often evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The result is a great deal of inconsistency as to which factors are most important. However, what is consistent is the reduction in CMPs our clients are ordered to pay relative to initial allegations.
Receiving notice of a potential civil complaint about controlled substance act violations can be shocking and stressful. However, it is important to remember the penalties sought may be exaggerated and can be negotiated down to a fraction of the maximum penalty. Should you be faced with CMPs, you should have a team of healthcare attorneys by your side. Our extensive experience in handling the defense of providers who have been ordered to pay civil monetary penalties allows us to fight for you and, if necessary, represent you in federal court to challenge the penalties sought.