Doctor Shopping and Your Obligation to Disclose Information About Previously-Obtained Prescriptions

          Florida's doctor-shopping law states that it is illegal for any person "[t]o withhold information from a [doctor] from whom the person seeks to obtain a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance that the person making the request has received a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance of like therapeutic use from another [doctor] within the previous 30 days."


          In the case of Knipp versus State of Florida, the issue was whether an individual has a legal obligation to disclose to a doctor that he has obtained a similar prescription within the previous 30 days from another doctor when the second doctor does not ask him about any previously-obtained prescriptions.


          In this particular case, Mr. Knipp obtained a prescription from a doctor in Broward County Florida on November 3, 2008 and three days later obtained another prescription for the same medicine from another doctor in Broward County.  There was no evidence that Knipp affirmatively misled either doctor, nor was there any evidence that either doctor asked him if he had received a similar prescription from another doctor within the previous 30 days.


          Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal began its analysis by noting that Florida's doctor-shopping law does not define the word "withhold."  In an attempt to clarify that word's meaning, the appellate court stated that "[w]hether an individual has actually withheld information in violation of the statute depends on whether he requested a controlled substance and failed to disclose the fact that he received a drug of like therapeutic use within the previous thirty days. In other words, the statute requires that an individual affirmatively requesting a substance provide information to the [doctor]."


          The court continued on to state that Florida's doctor-shopping law "unambiguously makes it a crime for a person seeking a prescription for a controlled substance not to inform the physician that the person has already obtained a prescription for the same or similar substance within the last thirty days. The statute does not qualify the withholding of information by requiring an affirmative request for such information."


          Although Mr. Knipp lost on the doctor-shopping issue, there was still some good news for him in the court's decision.  Knipp was originally charged not only with doctor shopping but also with trafficking in oxycodone because the amount of oxycodone he had in his possession when he was searched by the police exceeded the legal limit set by Florida's trafficking statute.  Knipp argued that he was not guilty of trafficking because he had a valid prescription for the oxycodone which had been written by a licensed physician, and Florida law provides an exclusion from prosecution in such instances.


          The prosecutor responded by stating that Knipp was guilty of trafficking in oxycodone because his prescription was obtained in violation of the doctor-shopping statute and that therefore the exclusion did not apply in his case.


          The appellate court settled the matter by siding with Knipp.  The court stated that when a person possesses a prescription issued by a licensed doctor in the normal course of business, that individual may rely upon the exclusion provided by Florida law regardless of whether he has violated the doctor-shopping statute.


       If you have been arrested for doctor shopping in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, St. Lucie County, Martin County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, or Miami-Dade County, call me, attorney Ron Chapman, at 561-832-4348 to discuss your case and see how I might be able to help you.


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