When many people think of drug crimes, they usually think of illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana. Drug crimes like prescription drugs also might result in severe charges and penalties. Prescription drug crimes have become an epidemic across the US. Although many states have pushed to address the issue of drug treatment programs, a conviction for the crime carries severe consequences under federal and California laws. If you face charges for prescription drug crimes in Sacramento, you want to seek legal help from a criminal defense attorney.
Working closely with an experienced and well-skilled criminal defense attorney gives you the best opportunity to obtain the treatment you require and skip the conviction. Therefore when you face allegations of unauthorized possession, sale or transportation of prescription drugs, you want to speak with a drug attorney as soon as possible. The attorney will help you fight the charges by developing a strong defense strategy. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we are here to help you. Our law firm consists of well-trained and experienced drug attorneys. We have helped many people facing prescription drug crime fight the charge.
Understanding Prescription Drugs Crime in California
Prescription drugs are common in our society, and it’s unlikely that you have never taken these drugs at any time in your life. Usually, taking prescription drugs is legal, beneficial and life-saving. But, just because you can obtain, take or possess the drugs does not always mean their possession and procurement is often lawful. Note any drug that requires a prescription from a doctor is tightly controlled and regulated. Remember, misuse of these drugs can lead to impairment, dependency and addiction to the users. A good example of these drugs is Opioid.
You may commit criminal behavior on the prescription drugs when obtaining them, using or possessing them. The California health and safety code outlines most of these criminal prohibitions. Also, the drugs are covered by the business and California penal codes.
Many people forge the doctor’s prescription with a target to obtain the prescription drugs. For instance, the patient can change the dosage amount from a small amount to a large amount. The act of forging the doctor’s prescription is illegal. The law prohibits you from obtaining a controlled substance using fraud or false statements. A doctor may also face prosecution for knowingly prescribing a controlled substance to an addicted patient.
Possessing the prescribed drug becomes illegal if you do not have a valid prescription. Even when you do not have a valid reason to possess the drugs, you might still face conviction when you possess greater amounts of the drug than the prescribed one. But when a pharmacy makes a mistake when filling the drug, you will not face any charges for committing the crime.
Finally, you may commit a crime when you use the prescription drug and perform tasks like operating a vehicle while under the influence of the prescription drugs. Painkillers like opioids are commonly known for causing impairment to the users. The law can deem you under the influence when you take prescribed drugs capable of causing impaired judgment.
Remember, prescription drugs cannot attract impairments when you use them as directed by the drug. So, once you follow the doctor’s prescription while taking these drugs, you will not be able to cause criminal activity. But all drugs can result in impairment even when used as directed by the physician. If you face a charge for possessing or selling the prescribed drug in California, you want to work with your attorney. The attorney will help you fight the charge by developing a strong defense to fight the charge.
Doctor Shopping - HSC 11173
The section is the doctor shopping law since it deals with individuals seeking medication and treatment from different or multiple physicians to obtain more prescription drugs. When you seek treatment from different physicians, then you violate this law. Also, the section disallows any form of false treatment, fraud and false identity aimed at obtaining additional drugs. The statute prohibits the following acts:
- Creating a false statement
- Altering or forging labels on the drugs
- Representing yourself as the person authorized to deal with the alleged drugs
Examples of Prescription Fraud and Doctor Shopping
You previously suffered a severe back injury, but you go to the physician and explain that you are still experiencing severe pain when you do not experience any pain. In this case, the doctor issues you with prescription drugs for releasing pain.
A physician refuses to issue you a painkiller since they believe you might be an addict. You then decide to see another new doctor. You then inform the doctor about your situation to obtain a prescription for a drug like a narcotic.
As a patient, you visit a pharmaceutical rep whom you know. Due to the relationship, you take the prescription drugs, steal the doctor's lab coat and introduce yourself to other patients as a physician.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove in the Doctor Shopping Case
Like any other criminal offense, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime before you face conviction. Otherwise, you are not guilty of the offense. The following are the elements of doctor shopping. For example, the prosecutor must prove you attempted or obtained the prescription drug using deceit, fraud, label tempering, false representation or misrepresentation.
What are the Penalties for Violation of HSC 11173
The law considers the act of doctor shopping a misdemeanor. The prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or a felony. When a misdemeanor, you will face the following penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- Jail term for 12 months
- Summary probation for 36 months
When the prosecutor files the case as a felony, you will face the following penalties:
- Formal probation for five years
- A fine not exceeding $10,000
- State or county jail for a period of either 16 months, 2 or 3 years
Unlawful Possession of Prescription Drugs - HSC 11350
Unlawful prescription drug possession has increased in recent years in California and across the US. The prosecution team has worked tirelessly to try to stop this problem. However, many police arrest innocent people for the possession of prescription drugs. So, when this is your situation, you want to work closely with a criminal defense attorney to help you skip the harsh penalties associated with the crime. The attorney will work with you throughout the legal process to ensure you fight the charges.
Under California HSC 11350, possessing any usable amount of controlled substance is illegal. The law applies to legal drugs like codeine, oxycodone, fentanyl and Vicodin and illicit drugs like LCD, cocaine and Heroin when you possess them without a valid prescription. Possession of the prescribed drugs with a falsified prescription, outdated prescription or huge amounts than the allowed prescription is illegal. Speak with your attorney as soon as the police arrest you over possession of prescription drugs in California. The attorney will help you develop a strong defense to fight the charge.
Elements of the Crime
Before the court finds you guilty of the crime, the prosecutor must demonstrate the elements of the crime. You will not face conviction if you fail to prove the elements of the crime. The elements include:
- You possessed the alleged drug
- You had usable amounts of the drug
- You knew the drug was under your control
Remember possession includes actual possession, joint possession or constructive possession. Again you must be aware of the presence of the drug under the three methods. Ensure you work with your attorney to help you fight the charges.
The Potential Penalties
As a result of the changes provided by prop 47, unlawful possession of prescription drugs, the court considers the offense a misdemeanor instead of a felony. However, the facts surrounding the case might change the prosecution of the crime. For instance, factors like the quantity of the drug, your prior criminal record and the nature of the crime can affect the conviction of HSC 11350. Therefore the court charges you with either misdemeanor or felony charges.
Altering or Forging a Drug’s Prescription
Altering or forging a prescribed drug is one of the common ways you can find yourself facing a criminal conviction. Two different statutes usually cover the crime. The statutes are HSC 11368 and Business code 4324. The two statutes criminalize the alteration or forgery of prescription drugs. Note the two statutes are different and carry unique features. Violation of the two statutes results in misdemeanor charges. But certain factors may attract a felony charge. In California, the court convicts these crimes as a misdemeanor. It means you can face either a misdemeanor or a felony charge.
When forgery is mentioned, we think of a person using photoshop while creating a document, but prescription drug forgery involves using authentic documents containing forged information. Usually, the crime occurs when someone steals a prescription drug pad and fills it. Again, the crime occurs when you forge the prescription drug, and another person apart from the doctor fills the document.
Alternatively, altering a drug prescription relates to forgery, but the main difference is that the person committing the alteration obtains a valid prescription from a physician. After receiving the doctor’s prescription, the person changes the prescription's information. As the person tries to change the type of the drug, they also alter the number of the pills.
What are the Examples of Prescription Drug Forgery?
When you see your doctor and find the doctor distracted, you steal a sheet from the prescription pad, then fill them in later and submit it to your doctor to receive painkillers.
After you receive a prescription for Vicodin for only one bottle without the option of refilling, you alter refill numbers from zero to four times and then submit the bottle to refill it.
What are the Elements of Prescription?
The prosecutor must prove you are guilty of prescription forgery. If they fail to do so, the judge will either drop the case or reduce the charge to a less severe charge. The following are the elements the prosecution must prove:
- You altered or forged or altered a drug’s prescription
- You provided an altered or forged prescription to another person
- You knowingly attempted or altered the prescription
What are the Penalties for the Crime?
The prosecutor may either file the case as a misdemeanor or felony. The misdemeanor charges are less severe than the felony charges. When a misdemeanor, you will face the following penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- Jail term for either six months or 12 months
- Summary probation for three years
When you are charged with a felony charge, you will serve the following penalties:
- Formal probation for up to five years
- A county or jail term for a period of either 16 months, 2 or 3 years
Prescription of Drugs to an Addict
Although many drug crimes involve the defendant possessing or attempting to possess the drug, physicians and doctors can also be held liable for prescribing the drugs to someone considered an addict. HSC 11156 prohibits surgeons, nurses and doctors from prescribing controlled substances to an addict. Under California law, an addict is someone with a hunger for consuming controlled substances and cannot stop using the drug when it becomes harmful to them.
Elements of the Crime
For the court to hold you responsible for violating HSC 11156, the prosecution team must prove the elements of the crime. Otherwise, you will not face the charges for the crime. The following are the elements the prosecutor must prove in prescribing the alleged drug to an addict:
- A surgeon, a nurse, or a doctor administered the controlled substance
- The drug in question was administered to a person considered an addict
- The substance was not prescribed for valid purposes
The Legal Penalties
Like other drug crimes, you face misdemeanor or felony charges for violating the law. When a misdemeanor, you will face the following penalties:
- Summary probation for up to 3 years
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- Jail term for 12 months
Alternatively, when the court charges you with a felony charge, you will face the following penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $20,000
- Formal probation for five years
- State or jail county for a period of either 16 months, 2 or 3 years
Illegal Transport/Sale of Prescription Drugs (11352)
According to California HSC 11352, it is unlawful to transport or sell prescription drugs. The statute also covers furnishing, administering, importing or giving free drugs. When you violate this statute, you risk a jail term between 3 and 5 years. Also, you will serve a probation term and pay a fine of up to $20,000. When you crossed multiple counties during the transportation or the sale of drugs, the charge rose to up to 9 years.
Remember having a record on your criminal history would affect your ability to seek a new job or rent a house. Therefore when you find yourself in a similar situation, you want to speak with your attorney to help you fight the charge. The attorney will help you fight the charge by challenging the evidence presented to the court by the prosecutor.
Defense Strategy for Fighting Prescription Drug Crime Charges
A skilled drug attorney experienced in handling prescription drug charges can help you develop a strong defense to fight the charges. The attorney will do anything possible to ensure you obtain the best possible outcomes for your case. The attorney will listen to your case, gather sufficient evidence and develop a strong defense strategy to help fight the charge. Therefore if you face prescription drug charges in California, do not hesitate to call our drug attorneys. We will use the following defense strategies to fight the charges:
- Illegal Seizure and Searches
During the arrest period, the law enforcement officers might violate your constitutional rights. They might make a pretextual stop and start searching when they lack probable cause. Working closely with a criminal defense attorney who understands the limitations of a police officer will help you fight the charge. For example, even when you possess large amounts of the prescription drug, the court can still dismiss the charges when they discover the police had unlawful stop.
Therefore ensure you discuss your situation with your criminal defense attorney. The attorney will have a strong basis on where to start while defending your case. You can also share any evidence you have with your criminal defense attorney. The evidence will help support your claim.
- Mishandling Evidence
When the law enforcement officers obtain the controlled substance from you, they usually keep the amount of the drug as evidence. However, how they keep the evidence plays a key role in determining your case. For example, your criminal defense attorney will have a strong argument to claim the item provided in the court was not discovered in your car. If the evidence is recorded and then edited, the attorney can also question the credibility of the evidence. By doing so, the court considers dropping your case.
- The Police Planted the Prescription Drug in Your Vehicle
You may claim you did not possess the drug in question. However, claiming the law enforcement officers planted the drug is challenging to prove since the police officers' testimonies carry much weight before the judge. Therefore when you believe the law enforcement officers planted the drug to arrest you, you need to explain it to your attorney. The attorney will file a motion and ensure they obtain a complaint file of the officer in question. If the court finds the officer planted the drug, you have a valid defense. Therefore the court will dismiss your charges.
- Police Entrapment
Although the law permits law enforcement officers to conduct sting operations, it is illegal to bait you into committing an offense you could not have committed. Therefore, when you or your criminal defense attorney proves the police entrapment, the court will drop your charges.
Also, you can argue the alleged drugs never existed. If the prosecutor lacks physical proof to demonstrate your possession, their case will have shaky ground. When you work with a well-skilled criminal defense attorney, they will force the prosecution team to produce the alleged prescription drugs. Remember, the prosecutor has the responsibility to ensure they keep a track record of the illegal controlled substances. If they fail to do so, you might be in a good position to fight the charges.
- Prescription Authenticity
Knowledge and identity are always an issue when it comes to prescription drug crimes. Sometimes, people pick prescription drugs on behalf of others without knowing they are bad scripts. They believe the person claims to be ill, too busy, or out of town, and they do them a favor since they trust each other. If this is your case, you have a valid defense to fight the charge.
Also, it is essential to determine whether the person has a genuine medical issue. Many prosecutors and judges always want to do the right thing. Remember, they want to be appropriate and fair. Every case comes with unique facts and needs to be handled differently. Therefore working with an attorney with authority to force the prosecutor and the judge to listen to your case is important.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When the police arrest you over prescription drug crime in California, you want to react quickly. The crime carries severe penalties, including extensive jail terms and heavy fines. Therefore, seek legal help as soon as possible if this is your case. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we have over forty years of experience defending people facing drug crime charges, including prescription drug crimes.
We start by listening to your case, evaluating the case and developing a strong defense strategy to help you avoid the conviction. We have a successful track record in defending our clients. If the police arrest you in or around the city of Sacramento over prescription drug crime, you want to contact our defense attorneys. Call us today at 916-779-3500, and we will help you skip the conviction.