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What Nurses Can Expect If They’re Charged with Drug Crimes

Published: Jun 03, 2019 in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes

With the nationwide opioid crisis showing no sign of slowing down, it’s more and more common to see nurses charged with drug crimes. Medical professionals are in constant contact with powerful narcotics, such as painkillers and muscle relaxants. Nurses and doctors sometimes take medication home with them to use or to sell – whether because of an addiction or the need to make ends meet. In any event, medical professionals who misuse medication to which they have access can expect criminal charges and disciplinary action from the TX Board of Nursing, or the Texas Medical Board.

Everyone from highly trained professionals, to students, to the unemployed may be addicted to drugs. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance. If you have been charged with diverting medication from a clinic or hospital, we can help. Call a Houston drug lawyer today at (713) 222-6767, or reach out online to schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case.

Texas Medical Professionals Who Divert Drugs Face Harsh Penalties

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of Texas successfully convicted a husband and a wife of distributing large amounts of drugs without a legitimate medical need. For years, they unlawfully provided their community with oxycodone, amphetamine, hydrocodone, alprazolam, and codeine. But the couple, who operated a medical clinic in Richardson, Texas, did not receive the same sentence. The husband, who was a doctor, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The wife, who was a nurse, was sentenced to just over 15 years in prison. This discrepancy is likely due to the fact that nurses cannot prescribe drugs, giving her a secondary role in the operation.

In 2017, a nurse was caught stealing powerful painkillers such as hydromorphone, morphine sulfate, and meperidine from the Hardeman County Memorial Hospital in Quanah, Texas. She would use syringes to extract small amounts of drugs from the vials she would have access to while treating patients. A Texas Department of Public Safety noticed puncture marks in the vials, and began an investigation. A review of the hospital’s Pyxis system, which is used to track the dispensing of medication, quickly revealed the suspect.

The suspect submitted to a drug test, which revealed several painkillers in her system. In this case, the drugs were presumably for her personal use. When investigators interviewed her, she admitted that she had also been caught stealing drugs in 2014 at a different hospital. That hospital fired her, but she was not charged with criminal wrongdoing at that time. For the 2017 incident, however, the suspect was charged with diversion of a controlled substance by a registrant, dispenser or certain other person. This offense is either a state jail or third-degree felony, involving thousands of dollars in fines and years behind bars.

Disciplinary Action from Licensing Boards for Drug Crimes

If you are a nurse who gets charged with a drug crime, but you are acquitted or your case gets dismissed, you probably won’t face disciplinary action from the Texas Board of Nursing. But any other case outcome will likely cause the Board to revoke or refuse to renew your license to practice. For example, the Texas Board of Nursing warns that you may be ineligible for a nursing license if you have any of the following on your record:

  • Misdemeanor conviction
  • Felony conviction
  • A citation for any law violation
  • Plea of no contest
  • Deferred adjudication
  • Community supervision or probation
  • Any time served in jail
  • Pre-trial diversion
  • An arrest
  • Pending criminal charges
  • Court martial or any form of military punishment

The only offenses that you need not report on your license application are class C misdemeanor traffic violations, and any offense, arrest, citation, or ticket that has been sealed or expunged from your record. Depending on the seriousness of the criminal offense that you report to the Board, you may or may not be denied a nursing license. But when you have drug crimes on your record, the likelihood of getting a denial increases dramatically.

How a Houston Drug Crime Lawyer Can Help

If you’ve been accused of a drug crime, there are two things you can do to give your case the best chances of a positive resolution: exercise your right to remain silent when questioned by the police, and call a lawyer with experience in defending nurses charged with drug crimes. The earlier a criminal defense attorney gets involved in your case, they have better chances of executing an effective defense strategy on your behalf. If you can beat your drug charges, you can avoid the devastating consequences of losing your nursing license. To schedule a free evaluation of your case, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767, or reach out through the online form.