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A Look at the Rule Changes Currently Pending with the North Carolina Medical Board

The NC Rules Review Commission of the North Carolina Medical Board (NCMB) regularly considers and approves changes to the rules that govern the practice of medicine in North Carolina. You can follow the latest developments and review drafts of proposed and final rule changes through the NCMB’s Rule Change Tracker.

Here are some highlights from the NC Rules Review Commission’s most recent activity:

Effective July 1, 2017: Mandatory CME on Controlled Substance Prescriptions

Beginning July 1, 2017, all licensed practitioners and physician assistants who prescribe controlled substances will be required to complete annual continuing medical education (CME) on, “controlled substance prescribing practices, recognizing signs of the abuse or misuse of controlled substances, and controlled substance prescribing for chronic pain management.” Physicians must complete at least three hours of controlled substance CME (from the already-required 60 hours of Category 1 CME); and, for physician assistants, at least two of their mandatory 50 hours of CME must be devoted to the controlled substance-related topics listed above. The revisions affect Rules 21 NCAC 32R .0101 and 21 NCAC 32S .0216.

Physicians holding a residency training license are excluded from the new requirements.

Proposed: Mandatory CME on Controlled Substances Prescriptions for Nurse Practitioners

The NCMB has also proposed a change to Rule 21 NCAC 32M .0107 that would require nurse practitioners who prescribe controlled substances to complete at least one hour of continuing education annually that specifically addresses controlled substance prescription practices and abuse. As currently drafted, the rule change would become effective upon approval.

Proposed: Changes to Prescription Refill Rules for Controlled Substances

Also pending is a change to Rule 21 NCAC 32M .0109 that would change current practices concerning prescription refills. Under the current rule, refills can be issued for a period of up to one year, with the exception that dosage units for controlled substances on Schedules II, IIN, III, IIIN, IV and V are limited to a 30-day supply. The proposed change eliminates both of these qualifications, and simply states that refills for all controlled substances are subject to the Controlled Substance Law and Regulation.

The NCMB’s Disciplinary Authority

It is critical that medical practitioners in North Carolina stay up-to-date on the NCMB’s rule changes. Failure to adhere to the revised rules, even if the failure represents an adherence to previous standards, can lead to professional discipline – up to and including license revocation. While a single, minor rule violation is unlikely to have such dire consequences, multiple violations can lead to enhanced discipline, and violations such as prescription errors resulting from a lack of CME can have severe professional implications as well.

Speak with a Raleigh Professional License Defense Attorney

If you are facing disciplinary action by the NCMB and would like to speak with an attorney about protecting your professional license, contact the Raleigh, NC law offices of Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC. To schedule a confidential initial consultation with one of our professional license defense attorneys, call (919) 833-3114 or request an appointment online today.

 

Campaign Donation Investigations Likely

Election season has just ended, so investigations into campaign donations are likely to begin.  Politically-active people and companies should be aware that these investigations often result in serious federal criminal charges.

Elections laws are complex, and even perfectly legal conduct can carry the appearance of corruption, particularly when people with business interests donate money to politicians.

Therefore, if you are approached or contacted an investigator about your campaign donations, assume that you are suspected of a serious crime and contact an experienced election law & campaign finance criminal defense lawyer immediately.  Making an unrepresented statement could ruin your future and your livelihood.

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At Cheshire Parker, we have decades of experience representing individuals under investigation for suspected political crimes.  If you have questions or concerns about your donations or other election-related activity, contact us today.

 

 

A Look at Police Mistakes That May Provide a Defense to DWI

Just like individuals who have been arrested for DWI can make mistakes that will harm their defense, arresting officers can make mistakes that will harm the State’s chances of a successful prosecution. In fact, even in cases where individuals who have been arrested have been drinking and driving, police mistakes will often provide defenses that can be used to avoid conviction at trial.

The following are four common examples of police mistakes that can provide defenses to DWI charges in North Carolina:

1. Lack of Reasonable Suspicion to Pull You Over

All police officers are subject to a number of Constitutional standards. One of these standards is that they cannot initiate a traffic stop unless they have reasonable suspicion that someone in the vehicle has been involved in the commission of a crime. If you were pulled over without reasonable suspicion, any evidence that the police obtained as a result of your traffic stop may be inadmissible at trial. Without evidence, the prosecutor’s office will be unable to build a case against you.

Keep in mind, however, that the reasonable suspicion does not have to relate to your drunk driving. If the arresting officer had reason to believe that you committed a different offense and then only discovered that you were intoxicated after pulling you over, you can still be prosecuted for DWI even though the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop you for driving while intoxicated.

2. Lack of Probable Cause to Make an Arrest

The Constitution also protects U.S. citizens from being arrested without probable cause. Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion, so the police can lack probable cause to make an arrest even after a valid traffic stop. If a reasonable person would not have believed that you were driving while intoxicated, your arrest may have been invalid, and any evidence obtained following your arrest may be inadmissible to prove that you are guilty of DWI.

3. Improper Administration of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

One way that the police can establish probable cause is by administering field sobriety tests (FSTs) after they pull you over. However, only certain FSTs have been scientifically proven to be reliable, and they are only reliable when they are administered appropriately. If the arresting officer used an unreliable test or did not follow the necessary procedures, his or her failure to do so may provide a defense to your DWI.

4. Improper Administration of Breath Test

The same also holds true for breath tests (breathalyzers). There are a number of factors that can contribute to faulty breath test results, and failure to calibrate testing equipment and other issues can taint breath test results as well. If police mistakes resulted in an inaccurate measurement of your blood alcohol content (BAC), the prosecution should not be able to use the tainted results at trial.

Arrested for DWI in Raleigh, NC? Speak with a Lawyer Today

In order to assert these defenses, you will need an experienced Raleigh DWI lawyer on your side. At Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC, we bring decades of experience to defending clients against drunk driving charges in Raleigh, NC. To learn more about what we can do to protect you, call (919) 833-3114 or request a consultation online today.

 

Steps to Take When Facing a Grievance Filed by the North Carolina Medical Board

As a physician facing disciplinary action from the North Carolina Medical Board, there are steps you should begin taking promptly in order to minimize the consequences to the greatest extent possible. Depending on the severity and extent of the allegations, you could be facing sanctions up to and including revocation of your license – so you need to commit yourself to doing what is necessary to protect your practice.

While each case is unique, the following are all general steps physicians can take to begin preparing their defense when facing a grievance filed by the North Carolina Medical Board:

1. Make Sure You Understand the Allegations

The first step toward building an effective defense strategy is to understand the allegations against you. The notice you received should provide some insights, but you may need help from an attorney to gain a clear understanding of the severity of your present circumstances. The North Carolina Medical Board pursues cases for issues ranging from misrepresentations on license applications to criminal healthcare fraud, and the nature of your case will determine what you need to do to protect yourself.

2. Start Gathering Evidence

Once you know what the case is about, then you can start gathering evidence to aid in your defense. This could include academic records, patient records, billing records or any of a number of other types of documentation. You need to be careful about whose help you solicit during this process, and the best thing you can do is to seek guidance from your attorney.

3. Advise Your Staff to Avoid Mistakes that Could Hinder Your Defense

While you are facing disciplinary action, it is important that you and your staff avoid making mistakes that could jeopardize your defense. This takes on heightened importance if there is a possibility that the allegations involved could also lead to criminal charges. Any ongoing improprieties relating to the grievance should be addressed promptly, and your staff must avoid disposing of emails, records and other evidence that may be relevant to the case.

4. Understand the Possible Consequences of an Unfavorable Resolution

In disciplinary proceedings, the North Carolina Medical Board’s authority ranges from taking no adverse action to annulling or revoking the physician’s license to practice medicine in the state. Similar to understanding the allegations against you, understanding the potential consequences will be critical to constructing your defense. Can you avoid sanctions altogether? Or, should your defense strategy focus on minimizing the consequences of an adverse decision? These are crucial questions that require you to make informed decisions as soon as possible.

5. Hire an Experienced Professional License Defense Attorney

You are entitled to legal representation during your disciplinary proceeding; and, with your professional reputation (and potentially your license) at stake, you cannot afford to try to defend your case on your own. At Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC, the attorneys in our professional ethics and licensing defense section represent physicians in Raleigh and statewide; and, if necessary, we can take action quickly to help you protect your practice.

Speak with a Professional License Defense Attorney about Your North Carolina Medical Board Grievance

If you are facing a grievance from the North Carolina Medical Board and would like to speak with an attorney about your case, contact Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC to schedule a confidential initial consultation. You have questions. We have answers. Call (919) 833-3114 or request an appointment online today.

 

What are Some Common Examples of Medicare Fraud?

Following the Department of Justice’s national $900 million Medicare fraud takedown earlier this year, the Department of Justice, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force and other federal law enforcement authorities are continuing to aggressively pursue cases of suspected Medicare fraud. Medical providers and others in the healthcare industry throughout North Carolina are increasingly at risk for becoming targets in federal investigations, with civil and criminal prosecutions having the potential to lead to huge financial liabilities, loss of eligibility for Medicare reimbursement and even time behind bars.

But, what exactly is Medicare fraud? More importantly, what can practitioners in North Carolina do to help protect themselves from facing federal charges?

Common Allegations in Medicare Fraud Investigations

“Medicare fraud” is a broad term that encompasses violations of a number of different federal statutes. Some of the most common examples of Medicare fraud allegations include:

The list goes on and on, and with the enormous complexity of the Medicare regulatory structure and billing system, it is not uncommon for physicians and others to face allegations when they have no knowledge of impropriety. Lack of knowledge can be a key defense in many Medicare fraud investigations, and you will want to promptly discuss your defense options with an experienced attorney.

Protecting Yourself (and Your Practice) in a Medicare Fraud Investigation

If you are facing a Medicare fraud investigation in North Carolina, there are several steps you need to try to take right away. Your goal should be to prevent the investigation from leading to civil or criminal charges, and the best way to do this is to hire an attorney to intervene in the investigation as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to:

Contact the Raleigh Criminal Defense Attorneys at Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC

If you would like to speak with an attorney about your Medicare fraud investigation in confidence, contact the Raleigh, NC law offices of Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC. To schedule an appointment as soon as possible, call (919) 833-3114 or contact us online today.

 

Are You Facing a Federal Investigation for Healthcare Fraud?

In recent years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other federal agencies have intensified their efforts to combat healthcare fraud. Healthcare is a multi-trillion-dollar industry, with a significant portion of that money coming from Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and other federal government programs.

The federal government’s efforts to combat healthcare fraud range from establishing an elite task force comprised of top agents and prosecutors (the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team, or “HEAT”) to using big data to identify anomalies that may be indicative of fraud. Unfortunately, while this reliance on data has saved the federal government billions, it has forced numerous innocent healthcare providers to defend themselves in unwarranted investigations as well.

What Constitutes Healthcare Fraud?

“Healthcare fraud” is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of offenses under a number of different federal laws. Three of the most common forms of healthcare fraud include:

Healthcare fraud can be charged as both a civil and a criminal offense. A finding of civil liability can mean thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in fines and penalties, while a criminal conviction for healthcare fraud can potentially mean decades of federal incarceration.

When Should You Hire a Healthcare Fraud Defense Attorney?

If you or your business is facing a federal investigation for healthcare fraud in the Raleigh area, it is critical that you speak with a federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You are entitled to legal representation during the government’s investigation, and hiring a lawyer before you get charged can have numerous benefits.

At the top of the list, if the government will not drop the investigation, your attorney will be able to argue that your case should remain civil in nature. Keeping your case civil reduces your potential exposure, and it keeps prison time off of the table.

Learn more about the benefits of hiring a lawyer during your federal healthcare fraud investigation.

Schedule a Confidential Initial Consultation at Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC

The Raleigh, NC criminal defense attorneys at Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC have decades of experience representing clients in healthcare and other federal investigations. If you have been contacted by federal agents, received a subpoena or suspect that you may be the target of a federal investigation, call (919) 833-3114 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.

 

Can Criminal Charges Put Your Professional License at Risk?

As a licensed professional in North Carolina, facing criminal charges can cause significant harm to your reputation, especially if the charges become publicized. But, did you know that, in many instances, facing criminal charges can put your professional license at risk as well?

In many professions requiring licensure, commission of a criminal act is grounds for license suspension or revocation. While the rules governing some professions only provide for discipline in the event that a professional commits a crime that is in some way relevant to his or her practice, these rules are often subject to broad interpretation. As a result, if you are a licensed professional facing criminal charges in North Carolina, you may need to defend yourself on two separate fronts in order to attempt to safeguard your career.

When Criminal Charges May Lead to Professional Discipline

The following are a few, non-exclusive examples of licensing laws and rules in North Carolina that provide for potential discipline when a professional faces criminal charges:

1. North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers

Under Rule 8.4 (“Misconduct”) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to, “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

Under Comment [2] to Rule 8.4, “[o]ffenses involving violence, dishonesty, breach of trust, or serious interference with the administration of justice,” may all warrant disciplinary action. Comment [3] makes clear that a conviction is not necessary to establish that a lawyer has committed a criminal act.

2. North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 90, Medicine and Allied Occupations

Under Section 90-14(a) of the North Carolina General Statutes, the North Carolina Medical Board (the “Board”) has the authority to revoke a physician’s license if he or she is convicted, “in any court of a crime involving moral turpitude, or the violation of a law involving the practice of medicine, or a conviction of a felony.”

Pursuant to subsection (c) of Section 90-14, a felony conviction results in automatic revocation of the physician’s license unless (i) the Board decides otherwise, or (ii) the physician submits a request for a hearing within 60 days of receiving notice from the Board.

3. North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 93, Real Estate License Law

Under Section 93A-6(b) of the North Carolina General Statutes, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission has the power to suspect or revoke the license of any licensee who, “has been convicted or has entered a plea of guilty or no contest . . . of any misdemeanor or felony that involves false swearing, misrepresentation, deceit, extortion, theft . . . or any other offense showing professional unfitness or involving moral turpitude.” In addition, to justify suspension or revocation, the offense must, “reasonably affect the licensee’s performance in the real estate business.”

Contact Our Raleigh Professional License and Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

If you are a licensed professional facing criminal charges in the Raleigh area, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential initial consultation. To speak with our professional license and criminal defense attorneys about your case, call (919) 833-3114 or inquire online today.

 

More Potential Defenses to a North Carolina DWI

If you are facing driving while impaired (DWI) charges in North Carolina, there are several potential defenses that an attorney may be able to use in order to either (i) seek a reduced charge or sentence, or (ii) help you avoid a conviction entirely. We recently discussed three of these potential defenses on our blog:

This article covers three more potential defense strategies for individuals charged with DWI:

Three Possible Defense Strategies for Individuals Charged with DWI in North Carolina

1. Suppress Irrelevant or Prejudicial Evidence

As a general rule, prosecutors can only present “relevant” evidence when seeking to obtain a conviction at trial. While this may seem like a straightforward issue, it often isn’t, and in many cases there can be a serious question as to whether the State should or should not be able to use its evidence against you.

There is a similar issue regarding evidence that is considered unfairly “prejudicial.” In short, even relevant evidence can – and should – be suppressed if it unfairly suggests an improper basis for returning a guilty verdict. Depending on the circumstances involved in a particular case, examples of irrelevant or unfairly prejudicial evidence may include:

2. Question the Arresting Officer

As the defendant in a DWI case, you have the right to question the officer who arrested you, and there are a number of important reasons to do so. In a typical DWI case, the arresting officer is the State’s key witness, and challenging the officer’s credibility or poking holes in the officer’s police report can be crucial to mounting a successful defense.

For example, some of the issues your attorney can address when questioning the arresting officer include:

3. Research and Present Exculpatory Evidence

Finally, in many cases, there will be evidence that DWI defendants can use in their favor. If there is evidence demonstrating that you should not be found guilty of DWI, your attorney may be able to use this “exculpatory evidence” to overcome any damaging evidence that the prosecutor presents in court.

Additionally, prosecutors owe a duty to disclose exculpatory evidence in their possession to the defendant. If the prosecutor in your case fails to disclose exculpatory evidence (commonly known as a “Brady violation”), this can be grounds to seek dismissal of your DWI.

Are You Facing DWI Charges in Raleigh? Schedule a Consultation Today

Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC’s defense lawyers provide experienced representation for individuals charged with DWI in the Raleigh area. For more information about the defenses you may have available, call a Raleigh DWI lawyer today at (919) 833-3114 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

 

Summary of Recent Disciplinary Actions by the NC Bar

Each quarter, the North Carolina State Bar (“NC Bar”) updates its website to include summaries and links to the most-recent disciplinary actions involving North Carolina-barred attorneys. These updates should be of interest to all practicing attorneys in North Carolina, not only as a reminder of the wide range of unprofessional (or illegal) conduct that can lead to discipline, but also for purposes of analyzing the varying degrees of discipline that the NC Bar can impose depending upon the specific circumstances involved.

For example, as you’ll see below, three of the four most-recent disbarments were the result of misappropriation of trust funds – in amounts ranging from $3,000 to over $110,000. However, another attorney who failed to maintain and properly disburse trust funds to clients received only a three-year stayed suspension. Needless to say, the NC Bar takes all allegations of unprofessional conduct extremely seriously, and any attorney who receives a Letter of Notice from the bar must take timely and appropriate action in order to protect his or her license.

Three Attorneys Disbarred in June and July for Misappropriating Client Funds

In unrelated disciplinary matters, three North Carolina attorneys lost their licenses this summer for misappropriating funds from their client trust accounts. While two of the disciplinary actions involved misappropriation of funds “totaling at least $100,000,” in the third action the attorney consented to disbarment after admitting to misappropriation of just over $3,000.

Suspensions and Stayed Suspensions

An attorney who had been licensed in North Carolina for nearly 20 years consented to a five-year suspension for mismanaging his client trust account (including unintentionally misappropriating funds) and “neglect[ing] multiple clients.” The specific findings of fact in the Consent Order included:

Following a June hearing before the NC Bar’s Disciplinary Hearing Commission (DHC), a criminal attorney received a three-year license suspension as a result of, among other things: deposing multiple State’s witnesses without notifying the District Attorney’s Office, attempting to misrepresent a client’s spouse as his “assistant” in order to conduct an after-hours penitentiary visit, and obtaining a fraudulent notarization on a Power of Attorney he obtained from one of his clients.

Finally, an attorney licensed for decades received a three-year stayed suspension (subject to compliance with various conditions) following a DHC hearing in April during which it was found that the attorney had, among other things:

Of note, the DHC acknowledged that the attorney (i) suffered from a medical condition which caused her to wind down her practice, and (ii) had closed her client trust account subsequent to the violations.

Speak with a Raleigh Professional License Defense Attorney at Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC

Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC’s professional ethics and licensing defense section represents attorneys facing disciplinary action throughout North Carolina. If you need to speak with an attorney about protecting your license, call (919) 833-3114 or request a consultation online today.

 

I Received a Letter of Notice From the NC Bar Grievance Committee – What Now?

If you have received a Letter of Notice from the Grievance Committee of the North Carolina State Bar, you need to take it seriously. Even if you believe that the allegations contained in the letter are unfounded, you have a professional obligation to respond, and failure to respond is itself grounds for discipline under the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC).

However, absent a failure to respond, receiving a Letter of Notice is not necessarily a precursor to facing discipline from the Grievance Committee or a referral to the Disciplinary Hearing Commission (DHC). Many client grievances are unfounded, and in many cases attorneys will have sound defenses to what would otherwise be discipline-worthy allegations.

What is a Letter of Notice?

A Letter of Notice is exactly what it says it is – a letter that puts you on notice that a client has filed a grievance against you. It does not reflect the position of the Grievance Committee (other than its determination that the allegations, if proven, would constitute a violation of the RPC), and it does not mean that any disciplinary action is being taken against you. The Letter of Notice, essentially, is your opportunity to respond to the allegations before they go to the Grievance Committee for a determination of misconduct.

Responding to a Letter of Notice

You have fifteen days from the date of service to respond to a Letter of Notice. The response should contain, “a full and fair disclosure of all facts and circumstances pertaining to the alleged misconduct,” including copies of all relevant documents from the client’s file. If you need more than fifteen days (as is typically the case), you can request an extension, and as noted on the State Bar’s website, “extensions of time to respond are regularly granted.”

You are, of course, entitled to representation throughout the disciplinary process, and it will typically be in your best interests to hire an attorney who regularly practices in professional license defense. The more apt your response to the Letter of Notice, the greater your chances of securing a favorable resolution prior to full consideration by the Grievance Committee. If your response is incomplete, appears evasive, or raises more questions than it answers, the Grievance Committee is more likely to find probable cause to consider the grievance – and possibly open an investigation.

Potential Discipline Following a Letter of Notice

Upon considering a client’s grievance and the attorney’s response, the Grievance Committee can take a number of different actions. These include:

Contact a Raleigh Professional License Defense Attorney at Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC

The attorneys in our professional ethics and licensing defense section regularly represent other lawyers in North Carolina who have received Letters of Notice from the State Bar’s Grievance Committee. To discuss your response in confidence, call (919) 833-3114 or contact us online today.

 

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