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Santa Barbara Doctor Faces Federal Drug Charges After Arrest

January 5, 2012
By The Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera, Jr. on January 5, 2012 12:10 PM |

A Santa Barbara doctor was arrested recently after officials allege he violated federal drug trafficking laws and he is being held without bond, the Associated Press reports.

Agents have become more aggressive in their efforts to make federal drug arrests in Santa Ana and nationwide in recent months as prescription drug abuse has soared into the public eye. California and Florida are battling as the top two states dealing with the most abuse of the drug, which is a big money maker for drug companies as well as doctors who prescribe them to patients.
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But where is the line between doctor trying to help a patient and doctor putting patients at risk in order to make money? Our Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers would suggest that law enforcement officers, who likely have no training in medicine, might not be able to accurately make the distinction.

Yet many doctors, as well as drug distributors, patients and others involved in the medical field have come under scrutiny in recent months because of a frenzy of criminal investigations aimed at this field. Many are alleging that pharmacists are, in fact, operating "pill mills" where they distribute pills like candy after patients come in with prescriptions from doctors who are handing them out to anyone who asks.

Perhaps there are some bad apples in the bunch, but what this new craze has done is soiled the names of hard-working doctors whose aim is simply to help patients the best they know how. Sadly, many are stuck with criminal charges as a result of overzealous law enforcement officers.

In the recent case out of Orange county, the doctor faces federal drug trafficking charges after authorities accused him of over-medicating patients. He has been questioned, but not charged, in connection with at least one death of a woman he had been treating. Some women allege he traded drugs for sexual favors.

Hospital officials say they began keeping tabs on how many of this doctor's patients came in with prescription-based illnesses or overdoses. Other doctors say they notified the state's medical board in 2009, two years after police questioned the doctor in connection with the death of a 53-year-old woman.
Some officials are upset that authorities moved too slowly in attempting to arrest this doctor, but despite receiving complaints, it obviously took a long time for authorities to put together any type of evidence they believe will stand up in court. The doctor told the Los Angeles Times recently that if he didn't try to help patients, they would simply go to the street to get medications they needed. He told the newspaper he may have given some people too many prescriptions.

The doctor now faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted. But the government will have to determine that fine line between a doctor doing his job and trying to help patients or being negligent. The question of whether his prescriptions violate federal drug trafficking laws is one a jury will have to determine.

If you are facing drug charges in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera Jr. to discuss your options. With three decades of experience, Attorney LaBarbera has argued more than 200 criminal trials and appeals. Call (714) 541-9668 for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.

More Blog Entries:

Boykins v. State Brings up Major Fourth Amendment Issue in Santa Ana Drug Cases: December 16, 2011

Additional Resources:

Calif doctor arrested in Rx abuse case, by Amy Taxin, Associated Press