A registered nurse at a Wayne County clinic that treated those with addictions will face criminal charges for her role in handing out prescriptions prepared outside the usual course of professional medical practice. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of those charges that was based on the fact she was not a doctor.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating several Drug & Opiate Recovery Network Inc. clinics in Indiana, including the one in Wayne County where Yvonne Morgan worked as a registered nurse. The clinic was run by Dr. Ronald Vierk, although he was rarely at the clinic and his visits with patients did not include a thorough exam, according to the court record.
Morgan gave undercover DEA investigators prescriptions for Suboxone signed by Vierk when he did not see the patients in exchange for $160.
The state charged Morgan in 2014 with Class B felony conspiracy to commit dealing in a schedule III controlled substance and Class C felony corrupt business influence. She moved to dismiss the charges nearly a year later after which the state filed an amended information charging her with four additional counts: another class B felony conspiracy to commit dealing in a schedule III controlled substance and three counts of Class B felony aiding dealing in a schedule III controlled substance. The counts said she acted outside the usual course of professional medical practice.
The trial court granted her renewed motion to dismiss, essentially concluding that because Morgan was not a licensed physician, there was no way the state could prove the mens rea necessary for her conviction – that she knew hers and Vierk’s actions were outside the usual course of professional medical practice.
There’s no authority for the proposition that a non-physician can never know whether certain conduct is outside the usual course of professional medical practice, Judge Cale Bradford wrote.
“There are other practical issues with the trial court’s position. For instance, the trial court’s ruling, if taken to its logical conclusion, does not just mean that physicians are the only persons who could ever be convicted under the type of circumstances alleged in this case. If one accepts that non-physicians cannot know, as a matter of law, whether conduct falls outside the usual course of professional medical practice, then they cannot be judges or jurors sitting in judgment of physicians accused of acting in such a manner.
“As a practical matter, pursuant to the trial court’s ruling, no person, physician or otherwise, could ever be convicted in Indiana of a crime involving a question of whether certain conduct fell outside the usual course of professional medical practice,” Bradford continued.
The judges also rejected Morgan’s claim the criminal statutes are void for vagueness as applied to her.
“To reiterate, there is no legitimate reason to conclude that a non-physician could not – under any circumstances – be made to understand that certain conduct falls outside the usual course of professional medical practice,” Bradford wrote in State of Indiana v. Yvonne S. Morgan, 89A04-1603-CR-622.