There can be instances when a nurse needs the professional service of a lawyer, especially in the following situations:
- When the nurse has been accused of drug diversion
- When the nurse is the subject of an investigation before the Official of the Professional Discipline, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Attorney General’s Office, the Attorney General, or the Office of Medicaid Inspector General
- When the nurse drinks and drives and gets a DUI (or DWAI in New York)
- When the nurse fails the drug test during random testing in the course of employment or in pre-employment tests
- When the nurse is facing disciplinary action by the employer or regulatory body
- When the nurse is involved in a legal dispute with a patient, colleague, or employer
- When the nurse is considering taking legal action, such as suing for discrimination or wrongful termination
- When the nurse has been accused of a crime and needs legal representation
Above is not an exhaustive list but these are the most common situations in which a lawyer for the nurse may be needed.
Drug diversion occurs when a medical professional misappropriates prescription medication without legal medication. For example, a physician issues prescriptions even when not needed, or a nurse steals medication from patients, giving the patients placebos instead. The possible penalties a nurse will face may also depend on the reason for the drug diversion. In New York, if the nurse is stealing prescription for the nurse’s own use due to chemical dependency, the nurse may be directed to receive treatment with the Professional Assistance Program. If the nurse is stealing the prescription for profit, the nurse may be investigated by its employer and the regulatory body, which in New York is the Office of the Professional Discipline. If proven guilty, the nursing license may be suspended, depriving the nurse of his means of livelihood. For this reason, the nurse must acquire the services of a lawyer immediately once the nurse discovers that he or she is being investigated.
Possible defenses in this case could be something wrong with the automated medication dispensing machine. It could also be the result of improper administrative practices by the health care provider. There may be an error in the computer database or a breakdown in clinical procedures. Or it could simply be improper documentation: the nurse forgot to document the administration of the medication. The lawyer for the nurse will work with the nurse in a criminal or administrative investigation of drug diversion to ensure that the nursing license is not suspended.
A DUI, or driving under the influence of alcohol, is usually a criminal offense. For nurses, a DUI is not only a criminal offense, but also an administrative offense where the nursing license may be suspended. The nursing license will only get suspended once the nurse is convicted of DUI because in New York, the Department of probation notifies the Department of Education of the criminal conviction for DUI.
In cases of DUI, it is important to immediately get a lawyer once the nurse knows that he is being charged with DUI so that the lawyer may immediately raise defenses at the first instance. Available defenses for DUIs are Miranda rights issues, failure to inform the accused about chemical test penalties, and lack of probable cause for the traffic stop. If there is no DUI conviction, there is no report to the Department of Education regarding the need to have the nursing license suspended or revoked. Even if there is a DUI conviction, a first-time nurse offender may be able to reduce the administrative penalty to a censure or reprimand. For this reason, getting a lawyer for the nurse at the earliest possible opportunity is important in DUI charges.
A nurse can be investigated by the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General or the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Attorney General for Medicaid abuse or fraud. Usually, this is part of a larger investigation of the nurse’s employer, a health care provider. In this case, it is important for the nurse to get a lawyer separate and independent from the health care provider’s lawyer. The employer’s attorney ensures the employer’s rights are protected and not the nurse’s. For this reason, it’s important for the nurse to retain his own counsel to ensure his interests are always protected. Investigations of Medicaid fraud should always be taken seriously.
Failed Drug Test
A failed drug test can also lead to the suspension of the nursing license. A nursing license defense attorney can, however, present evidence in the nurse’s behalf to show that the test did not yield accurate results due to improper collection and handling, or that the failed drug test was due to legally prescribed medication. A legal professional will be able to assist the nurse in the best legal strategy to pursue depending on the case.
When being investigated, it is always important to be represented by a lawyer who can speak for the nurse. Anything the nurse say can be used against him or her. Anything that has been said can also be misinterpreted. The nurse has every right to remain silent.
If you are a nurse in New York and you are facing disciplinary action, it is important to take the matter seriously and consider seeking legal advice. Disciplinary action can have serious consequences for your career, and it is important to have an experienced lawyer on your side to help you defend yourself. Should you need assistance, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.