The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency requires regular reporting from and inspections of facilities as a prerequisite to maintaining a license. But according to the U.S. Department of Justice, DEA inspectors must adhere to strict protocols for these encounters.
Licensees who know their rights can keep a professional license out of jeopardy by avoiding voluntary searches and surrenders.
Licensee’s rights during an inspection
Many prescribers put their license at risk by consenting to a spontaneous DEA inspection that they could legally refuse. The law requires DEA inspectors to show a badge or appropriate credentials identifying themselves when they arrive at the practice, and they need to serve a Notice of Inspection form for voluntary searches.
As the Food and Drug Law Institute explains, signing this form is the equivalent of consenting to a voluntary search. Licensees do not need to sign this form in most cases and have the right to refuse until the DEA returns with an administrative inspection warrant, search warrant or subpoena.
Many practitioners sign the Notice of Inspection under pressure from the DEA representative. He or she may try to intimidate licensees into consenting to a search by implying that there is no option for the practitioner. The inspector may threaten to get a warrant to search the facility. Requiring that the inspector obtain a warrant is the licensee’s legal right in most cases.
Licensee’s rights after an inspection
After an inspection — with consent or with a warrant — the DEA may request that the practitioner surrender a license voluntarily based on alleged violations. But licensees may contest the violation and, in many circumstances, reach a settlement instead.
If the DEA inspector violated protocol when searching the facility, the licensee may also have legal grounds to contest the violation.