As a patient, it is your right to switch doctors when you feel like a healthcare provider isn’t delivering an acceptable level of care. However, seeing multiple doctors for the purpose of obtaining additional prescriptions for controlled substances is a felony under Florida law.
About Florida’s Doctor Shopping Law
Florida Statute § 893.13(7)(a)8 is often referred to as our state’s doctor shopping law. This statute, which was passed in 2009, makes it a third-degree felony “to withhold information from a practitioner from whom the person seeks to obtain a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance when 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.”
The statute is most often used when people are accused of seeking prescription opioid pain relievers such as Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin, Roxicodone, Vicodin, Duragesic, and Actiq. However, it can also apply to benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Ativan, and Klonopin. Attempting to procure any medication with an addictive potential can result in criminal charges.
If you are convicted of violating Florida’s doctor shopping law, you face jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000. As a convicted felon, you will also lose your right to own or possess a firearm and face the social stigma that comes with having a serious criminal record.
If you obtain the pills from a doctor operating a “Pill Mill” that is dispersing addictive medication at rates much higher than what would be seen in a legitimate medical practice, the doctor may face drug trafficking charges. The state is aggressively prosecuting unethical doctors in an attempt to curb rising rates of prescription drug addiction.
Behaviors That May Be Evidence of Doctor Shopping
Prescriptions for controlled substances are reported to the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (E-FORCSE – Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substance Evaluation Program) database. Patients who are being prescribed medication from multiple doctors may be flagged for further investigation.
It’s not always easy to distinguish between someone seeking legitimate medical care and an individual who is attempting to circumvent restrictions on access to powerful prescription medications. However, the state often views the following as evidence of doctor shopping:
- Seeing a doctor located in a different city or county
- Requesting a specific brand and dosage of medication
- Asking for additional tablets to be prescribed
- Claiming an original prescription was stolen or lost without providing proof
- Asking for a “replacement” prescription claiming you are traveling and have left your original medication at home
- Being able to afford expensive prescriptions without any evidence of employment
- Paying cash when you have medical insurance
- Making an appointment with two different doctors within a short period of time and obtaining the same or a similar prescription from each provider
- Medical records showing signs of self-inflicted injury
Potential Defense Options
Every case is unique, but some of the potential defenses that may be applicable to a doctor-shopping charge include:
- Providing proof that you visit multiple doctors for different legitimate medical conditions
- Showing evidence that medications were prescribed for different therapeutic purposes
- Producing patient intake forms showing that you disclosed prior prescriptions even if you did not mention them verbally during your appointment with the doctor
- Arguing that your medical records were unlawfully obtained
In some cases, we may be able to get the charge dismissed by having you participate in a pre-trial intervention program. Transferring your case to drug court is another option that would allow for rehabilitation that addresses your addiction issues without the consequences of a felony conviction.
Often, we are asked if voluntarily seeking drug addiction treatment is beneficial. In many cases, the courts will look favorably upon individuals who are actively taking steps to address their substance abuse and be held accountable for their actions. We can assist you in finding an appropriate local program if this is an option you are interested in.
Contact an Okaloosa County Drug Crimes Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug crime in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 403-6835 for a free consultation.