On February 3, 2023, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of a physician accused of unlawfully prescribing opioids in Arizona and Wyoming because the jury instructions were inconsistent with the mens rea standard articulated in Ruan v. United States.
In Ruan, the Supreme Court ruled that, to convict a licensed and registered prescriber for Controlled Substances Act (CSA) violations, the federal government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the prescriber knowingly or intentionally acted not “as authorized.” To be authorized, a prescription must be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a licensed and registered prescriber acting in the usual course of his or her professional practice. Therefore, to convict a prescriber under the CSA, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the prescriber knew that there was no legitimate medical purpose or that the prescriber knowingly or intentionally deviated from his or her usual professional practice in prescribing the controlled medication.
In United States v. Kahn, the Court ruled that the jury instructions issued in Dr. Kahn’s case were inconsistent with the mens rea standard articulated in Ruan because they did “not require the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Dr. Kahn knowingly or intentionally acted in an unauthorized manner.” Accordingly, the convictions were vacated, and the case was remanded for a new trial.
Read the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling here.
Learn more about the Ruan decision here.