Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, February 25, 2013

Joseph: 30 year sentence for physician who dispense drugs unlawfully

In U.S. v. Joseph, No. 09-11984 (Feb. 21, 2013), the Court affirmed the convictions and sentences of a medical physician and his assistant convicted of dispensing controlled substances to drug abusers and pushers without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional conduct, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a).

The Court rejected the argument that a jury instruction erroneously instructed the jury to consider whether the defendants acted “in accordance with a standard of medical practice generally recognized and accepted in the United States.” The Court found that this instruction did not suggest that defendants’ actions be evaluated against a single national standard of practice. Instead it required the prosecution to prove that the actions were inconsistent with any accepted standard of professional practice.

The Court rejected the argument that there was no probable cause to support the issuance of a search warrant, pointing out that the 39-page affidavit provided substantial evidence that evidence of crimes would be found including evidence that the physician’s patients died from drugs after he prescribed them.

The Court also rejected a challenge to the admission of testimony that many of the patients either abused their drugs or sold their drugs, rejecting the argument that this evidence was unduly prejudicial.

The Court rejected a substantive reasonableness challenge to the physician’s 30-year sentence, noting that the district court could have imposed a “much more severe sentence.”