The Supreme Court just made a prosecutor’s job harder: The impact of ‘Ruan’

On June 27, the United States Supreme Court expanded the scope of the government’s burden of proof of a defendant’s mental state, or mens rea. The Supreme Court ruled that in a law that provided an exception or exemption from prosecution, that is, a clause stating “except as authorized”, the government must now prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a accused knew he was not subject to the law. this exception. Although the case involved a federal criminal statute prohibiting the issuance or distribution of controlled substances by a physician, the decision may apply to a myriad of criminal statutes that provide exceptions or exemptions to prosecution. This article explains the Supreme Court’s decision and focuses on the ramifications for other criminal laws. It also raises questions about the reasonableness standards of the exclusionary rule under USA vs. Leon468 US 897 (1984).

In Ruan v. United States, 597 US _____ (2022), two physicians in two separate cases were convicted of dispensing or dispensing controlled substances by dispensing opioid prescriptions in violation of 21 USC Section 841(a). Section 841 makes it a federal crime “unless authorized, … for any person knowingly or intentionally … manufacturing, distributing or dispensing … a controlled substance.” The Supreme Court joined the cases for the purposes of the opinion. The defendants asserted that they were authorized to issue the prescriptions under 21 CFR 1306(a) (2021), which allows doctors to write prescriptions. prescriptions for controlled substances only “for a legitimate medical purpose … acting within the usual scope of his professional practice. They further claimed that even though they did not meet this standard, they believed they did. In other words, they asserted a good faith defense. In both lawsuits, the government argued that the prescriptions issued by the defendants did not meet the standards set forth in 21 CFR Section 1306(a). The jury accepted. In both trials, the district court instructed the jury that doctors’ prescriptions were legal if they had been prescribed in good faith in accordance with generally recognized and accepted medical practice. District courts and appellate courts have imposed an objective standard instead of a subjective standard.

About Jessica J. Bass

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