On November 26, a federal judge overturned four convictions under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), citing the need to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt to successfully uphold such convictions.

The judge’s ruling first quoted prior case law, stating “‘[T]he standard for criminal liability under [the CSA] requires more than proof of a doctor’s intentional failure to adhere to the standard of care.’ Instead, ‘[a] practitioner becomes a criminal not when he is a bad or negligent physician, but when he ceases to be a physician at all.’”

The judge later wrote “[c]ases discussing the CSA suggest that a prescriber ceases acting as a physician within the meaning of the statute when he or she deliberately fails to adhere to the applicable standard of care and forgoes traditional practice elements, such as patient exams and consultations.”

In the case at hand, the judge ruled that “there is not evidence sufficient to prove that Defendants specifically intended, much less intended beyond a reasonable doubt, that healthcare practitioners would…abdicate entirely their role as healthcare providers.” As a result, the judge had no choice but to overturn the CSA convictions due to insufficient evidence.