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can the dea demand information about my health care business or practice without a search warrant

July 1, 2020

The issue of the Drug Enforcement Administration investigating any medical office or practice can be a difficult one to cope with. For the majority of those of you working in the healthcare industry, the problems being faced in terms of the DEA are limited, but in some cases, the DEA can begin an investigation when it feels prescription or Medicare fraud is taking place at a medical facility. In general, the DEA does require a search warrant to conduct an investigation, but there are some times when a search of any property can be conducted without a warrant being obtained.

Search Warrants and the Constitution

The constitution of the U.S. includes the Fourth Amendment that guarantees the citizens of the nation the right to secure their property and papers. This is the Amendment of the Constitution that is discussed when the problem of search warrants comes up. For the DEA, the use of search warrants is generally needed when they believe some form of criminal activity is taking place at a medical facility. What should be remembered is the DEA does have the power to inspect facilities registered with them without any search warrant needed to be obtained as part of regular administrative work.

Search Warrants and the DEA

One of the most important parts of the work of the DEA is to investigate when it believes there is a crime taking place. If agents working for the DEA believe some form of criminal activity is taking place they can head to a court and ask for a search warrant to continue their investigation with the help of a federal judge. The agents must arrive in court with a clear idea of the kind of criminal activity that is taking place to make sure the probable cause issue is addressed.

Probable cause means the DEA agents who are conducting the investigation have some idea of what is happening and can show evidence of this to the court. This is why the majority of DEA investigations take place over a prolonged period with the agents looking to gather some evidence for the court before they request a search warrant.

The Scope of any Search Warrant

One of the big problems facing the DEA when conducting any search is that the search warrant will be given a specific scope by the Federal Judge who agrees to it being granted. If there is no issue regarding patient records, the probability is that no confidential patient records will be permitted to be looked through or seized. Instead, the Federal Judge will make sure any investigation being faced will be limited in scope to specific areas of the work being done at a medical facility.

Is a Search Warrant Always Needed

The short answer to this question is no, the DEA does not always need a search warrant to investigate a medical facility further. Alongside the investigative work done by the DEA, the agency does have some general functions in the control of the use of medical drugs dispensed through a facility or pharmacy. To complete its work, the DEA does not always need a search warrant because they are permitted to complete inspections of facilities when DEA registration has been requested.

This means agents from the DEA have the chance to enter a facility and complete a general search without any warning or prior legal paperwork. Routine inspections are completed on a regular basis for a medical location to maintain its DEA registration. Other reasons why a DEA search could be carried out include a tip being given to the agency by a current or former employee at a specific facility. If there are known discrepancies in the patient records held at a certain facility the DEA has the legal right to enter and investigate.

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