White Collar Criminal Defense and Investigations Partner Ryan L. O’Neill was tapped to provide comment to Law360 on the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 28, 2022 opinion on the Controlled Substances Act in its article “High Court's CSA Decree Augurs Opioid Upheaval For DOJ.” The decision in Ruan v. U.S. and Kahn v. U.S. requires “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that physicians and other medical professionals “knowingly or intentionally” provided addictive opioids in an unauthorized manner, delivering a blow to the Department of Justice in terms of what prosecutors must prove in order to secure a conviction.
The article notes that juries in cases against doctors who prescribed opioids will now hear more about the subjective views of doctors when determining if the distribution of addictive opiates was appropriate. Ryan explained the importance of this change: “The thoughts and feelings and motivations of the doctor weren’t a part of it for many, many circuits,” she said. “Now, it’s very clear, it is very likely to be part of the consideration.”
Another consideration discussed in the article is how defendants in these cases can trigger the government’s burden to prove that someone acted outside their authorization to distribute controlled substances. But to trigger that burden, the defendant would likely need to take the stand in their defense, an action which carries risks, in order to effectively prove that they were authorized to distribute the opioids.
Ryan, who recently returned to Riker Danzig after serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for three years, suggested that is an option worth considering for defendants and could be the difference between a verdict of guilty or not guilty. "Now, after Ruan, you can get your good faith defense, and you can prepare your client, potentially, to take the stand and do well," she said. "You can win. You can win."
Read the full article at Law360 (subscription required).
Ryan Lee O'Neill