The DEA is the primary federal agency tasked with enforcing the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and other laws related to the use and abuse of controlled substances. The CSA establishes the legal classification of all drugs, outlines the restrictions on how those drugs can be manufactured, possessed, and dispensed, and establishes the penalties for violating those restrictions.
The DEA itself was established under the CSA in 1973. The agency is responsible for investigating drug-related crimes, coordinating law enforcement efforts, conducting drug research, and working with the public and other agencies to prevent drug abuse.
The DEA does not have authority over the medical profession. The medical profession is overseen by state medical boards and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — not the DEA. However, the DEA does have authority over the distribution of controlled substances, so any physician who prescribes controlled substances or a pharmacy that dispenses controlled substances can be subject to DEA investigation and enforcement action.
The DEA has a lot of power. If the DEA believes that someone has violated the CSA or any other laws related to controlled substances, the agency can take steps to suspend or revoke the individual’s or the business’s DEA registration. That registration is required for anyone who wants to manufacture, possess, distribute, or dispense controlled substances.
The DEA can also seek to have a court issue an injunction against anyone who is violating the CSA, which would block the individual or business from continuing to manufacture, possess, distribute, or dispense controlled substances.
The DEA can also refer cases to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for prosecution. These cases can lead to fines and prison sentences in addition to the revocation or suspension of the individual’s or business’s DEA registration.
The DEA’s Suspension and Revocation Process
The DEA does have a formal process for revoking and suspending DEA registrations. That process is set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and begins with a DEA investigation.
During the investigation, the DEA will gather evidence, question witnesses, and ultimately decide whether there is enough evidence to support the revocation or suspension of the individual’s or business’s DEA registration. If the DEA decides to move forward, the agency will notify the individual or business of the intended revocation or suspension and give the individual or business a chance to respond.
The individual or business will be given a revocation or suspension hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, who will hear both sides of the story, review the evidence and the law, and issue a formal decision. If the DEA decides to move forward after the hearing, the individual or business will be given another chance to respond in writing.
The DEA can then issue a final order revoking or suspending the individual’s or business’s DEA registration. The individual or business can then appeal the DEA’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The DEA’s Process Is Complicated
The DEA’s process for revoking and suspending DEA registrations is complicated. It involves multiple steps, technical rules and deadlines, and a wide range of potential outcomes. Any healthcare provider who is under investigation by the DEA or who is facing a DEE revocation or suspension should seek the help of an experienced healthcare attorney.
How Can the DEA Suspend or Revoke My Registration?
The DEA can take steps to suspend or revoke an individual’s or business’s DEA registration for a wide range of reasons. For example, the DEA may take action if it believes that the individual or business has failed to comply with state laws governing the prescribing, dispensing, and distribution of controlled substances, or if it believes that the individual or business has been convicted of a felony related to controlled substances.
What is a Notice of Proposed Suspension?
A Notice of Proposed Suspension is a notice that advises you that the DEA is considering suspending or revoking your registration as a federal controlled substance registrant or denying your application for registration. You are required to submit a written response within 30 days.
If I get a Notice of Proposed Suspension, what should I do?
If you receive a Notice of Proposed Suspension, it is important to respond in writing within the required 30 days and you should contact an experienced Controlled Substances Attorney. The response will be the only opportunity you will have to convince the DEA to not suspend your registration.
Can I appeal a Notice of Proposed Suspension?
Yes. An appeal can be filed with the DEA Administrator, who will review the DEA’s decision and either affirm, reverse, or modify it.
Can I lose my registration if I am convicted of a crime?
Yes, you can lose your registration if you are convicted of a crime. After you are convicted of a crime, you must notify the DEA of the conviction, and the DEA will determine if the crime is a controlled substance offense. The DEA may suspend or revoke your registration based on your conviction even if the crime is not a controlled substance offense.
How long will it take the DEA to investigate me?
The time it takes the DEA to investigate you will depend on the nature of the investigation and the amount of evidence the DEA has against you. The DEA has 24 months from when the illegal act occurred to bring an enforcement action against you.
What should I do if I am under investigation by the DEA?
If you are under investigation by the DEA, you must retain an experienced controlled substances attorney. If you do not have an attorney, the DEA will try to use your statements against you to build a case against you.
Can I get my registration back if I am suspended?
Yes, you can get your registration back if you are suspended. The DEA may reinstated your registration if it finds that the “imminent danger” to the public health and safety has been removed.
What if I am not a doctor, but I am still being investigated?
If you are not a doctor, you are still subject to the same rules and regulations as a doctor. This means that you can still be prosecuted for controlled substance offenses, and the DEA can still suspend or revoke your registration.
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