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Court overturns ruling on pain-management law

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An appeals court Wednesday overturned a ruling that said a state law aimed at cracking down on pain-management clinics was unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected a circuit judge’s conclusion that the law, which passed in 2010 and was revamped in 2011, was unconstitutionally vague.

The law, which stemmed from a proliferation of “pill mills” across the state, made it illegal to operate unregistered pain-management clinics, according to Wednesday’s ruling.

The appeal stemmed from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office in 2011 executing a search warrant at Harbour Medical Group. Officers later arrested physician William Crumbley and the facility’s office manager, Tosha Jo Robbins, and both were charged with violating the law requiring registration of pain-management clinics, Wednesday’s ruling said.

Crumbley and Robbins argued the charges should be dropped because the 2010 and 2011 versions of the law were unconstitutionally vague.

A circuit judge agreed, finding, in part, that the law failed to “provide an objective guideline and standard for determining when a medical facility develops into a 'pain-management clinic' requiring registration."

But the appeals court said the circuit judge incorrectly used an “abstract constitutional analysis” without taking evidence or making factual findings.

“Because the trial court's order dismissing the informations lacks findings of fact and failed to apply the law to those facts at hand, we must reverse and remand for further proceedings,” said Wednesday’s ruling, written by Chief Judge Edward LaRose and joined by judges Craig Villanti and Matthew Lucas.