Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Court Defines Scope of Search Warrant in Health Care Fraud Investigation

US v. Srivastava: Srivastava was a doctor under investigation for health care fraud. As part of that investigation, investigators obtained search warrants for Srivastava's two offices and his home. The warrant for his home was based on information that much of the billing paperwork was handled there. Investigators executed the warrants, seizing numerous personal documents at his home (they returned 80% of what was seized there). Among the documents seized from Srivastava's home were documents showing financial transfers to the Bank of India. Following that lead, investigators determined that Srivastava had filed false income tax returns. As a result, Srivastava was indicted on two counts of tax evasion and one count of making false statements on a tax return. Srivastava moved to suppress the evidence discovered in his home, arguing that they were personal, not business documents, and beyond the scope of the items the warrant authorized investigators to seize. The district court agreed, suppressing all the evidence seized during the three searches.

The Government appealed and the Fourth Circuit reversed. The court concluded that the documents seized at Srivastava's home was within the scope of the warrant. Specifically, the warrant allowed the seizure of "financial" documents which, given the nature of Srivastava's medical practice, covered personal as well as business documents. The court also concluded that the documents fell within the warrant's scope that the only documents seized be those that "may constitute evidence of [health care fraud]." The court also concluded that the district court's blanket suppression order, covering all the evidence seized during the three searches, was an abuse of discretion.

Exigent Circumstances Justify Warrantless Entry

US v. Moses: Moses pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of crack and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The evidence against him was seized in two warrantless searches of homes. The police, operating on tips, set up a perimeter around the first home and began to surveil Moses. When Moses eventually left the home, his car was stopped because his license has been suspended. At some point during that stop, Moses made a phone call to his cousin back at the home he'd just left. Police went to the home, an apartment building with two units. Police eventually used Moses's keys to open one unit, fearful that someone might be there destroying evidence. No one was found, but some evidence of narcotics were present. A search warrant was obtained, at which point a pistol was recovered. During that search, police got information that Moses had sold drugs from another home nearby. With Moses's keys, officers went to the home and entered, again to prevent the destruction of evidence. Again, some evidence of narcotics activity was present and a warrant was obtained. Officers found 14 grams of crack in the home.

Moses moved to suppress the evidence recovered from the two homes. The district court concluded that the first warrantless search was justified by exigent circumstances. The second warrantless search was not. However, the district court nevertheless refused to exclude the evidence found there, because the second search was made pursuant to a warrant based on probable cause that was untainted by the unsupported warrantless search. On appeal the Fourth Circuit agreed, affirming Moses's convictions. The court concluded that probable cause existed to enter the first home and that exigent circumstances were present to allow entry without a warrant. The court also concluded that the search warrant that was obtained for the second home was sufficient, once stripped of any information gained from the illegal initial warrantless entry. Judge Gregory dissented, on all those arguments.

Forced Medication OK'd as Supervised Release Term

US v. Holman: While Holman was incarcerated for drug offenses, he was diagnosed with a mental illness that required medication. Holman would regularly refused to take medication voluntarily, leading to him being administered intramuscular antipsychotic meds against his will. When released, he was given a supply of oral medication and instructions on when to take it. It was recommended that he continue the injections as well, to guard against going off his meds altogether. The initial conditions of this supervised release neither required mental health treatment nor medication. However, those conditions were modified to require such treatment, including injections. Holman violated his supervised release twice, the second time by refusing to take his meds. He appealed both the length of his 12-month sentence as well as the continued condition that he submit to the injections. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the condition did not violate Holman's due process right to be free from unconsensual medical treatment, given the evidence that Holman was a danger to himself and others in an unmedicated state.