Friday, February 01, 2013


Even eminent Surgeons are not immune to the lure of drugs nor to drug's destructive power. Yet America's war on drugs and harsh mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws have ruined many more lives than have the drugs themselves.
The Tampa Bay Surgeon, Dr. Carpenter, was arrested by Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputies for multiple counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. And as absurd as this sounds under the prevailing Florida law the Doctor is fortunate in how the offense was charged. 

 van Gogh - Portrait of Doctor Gachet who would have been arrested in Tampa Bay Florida for Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud if he had prescription pills.
Van Gogh, Prescription Fraud Doctor
In many cases involving Prescription Fraud the total number of pills sheer weight is added together. In this case there were "at least 500 valium pills" according to deputies. Based on weight even as few as thirty pills is often sufficient to trigger a Drug Trafficking charge with a minimum mandatory sentence in Tampa Bay, Florida. 

It would be interesting to know the criterial, if any, which law enforcement officers use to determine when it's appropriate to file Drug Trafficking charges. Shouldn't there be written law enforcement policy as to what factors officers should take into account in how to charge or not charge Drug Trafficking cases? At least Tampa Bay Judges have some understanding that drug treatment at the Pinellas County Drug Court is a better answer than forcing addicts to spend useless prison time.

Needless to say, the prosecutors will use the threat of a Trafficking charge to leverage a forced plea of guilty. It's as easy as amending the Information, which is the formal charging document filed by prosecutors, to include a Drug Trafficking charge should the Doctor attempt to fight the charges. No wonder a recent study established to the shame of the American Criminal Judicial System that over 96% of those charged with a crime plead guilty in this country.

Doctor Carpenter's arrest for valium prescription fraud came about when he allegedly passed prescriptions for himself using the name and the DEA number of another doctor apparently without that Doctor's permission according to press accounts:

Pinellas County Sheriff's investigators received information that Dr. Richard Carpenter had been calling in prescriptions for Valium (Diazepam) for himself since October 2012. 
Authorities say Carpenter used the name of a doctor he knew and his DEA number to get the prescriptions illegally using his health care insurance to pay the cost of the prescription.
Investigators say Carpenter obtained at least 500 Valium 5mg pills.

Somehow that using of the insurance really bothers me, but a juror might see things differently. If the Surgeon fights this case all the way to a jury trial, the insurance might just be what sets him free. After all Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys could successfully argue that the Surgeon wouldn't involve the insurance company unless he thought the prescriptions were valid.

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