Prescription Drug Possession by Fraud
At some point in your lifetime, you may have obtained or know someone who has obtained prescription drugs in Waxhaw through some kind of fraud. Studies show that pain medications and other prescription drugs are regularly overused and misused. It is estimated that prescription drug overdoses kill more than 15,000 annually in the United States and is the cause for as much as 1.2 million emergency room visits each year. Some medical literature claims that prescription drug abuse is deadlier than cocaine and heroin use combined.Prescription Drug Crimes
As a result of these alarming statistics and concerns regarding prescription drug abuse, states across the nation have passed laws prohibiting certain behavior regarding prescription drugs. The North Carolina legislature is no exception to this trend in the law. Under state law, prescription drug crimes include the following:
- Possession of a prescription drug without an accompanying lawful prescription;
- Forgery or alteration of a drug prescription;
- Distribution or sale of prescription drugs, whether the original prescription is that of the distributor/seller’s or of another;
- Driving while under the influence of prescription drugs; and
- Going to multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions for drugs (“doctor shopping”).
North Carolina statute defines a prescription as a written order or other order, quickly reduced to writing, for a control substance or for the preparation, combination, or mixture thereof. Furthermore, a physician who is licensed to practice medicine in the state of North Carolina and is licensed to administer or prescribe drugs as it relates to his or her professional medical practice must issue the prescription. In addition, if the prescription drug is given out without a written prescription – whether it is provided by the physician or by a pharmacist to the patient – state law has been violated. This is because prescription drugs are considered controlled substances. Someone found in possession of a controlled substance (i.e., a prescription drug) without a valid prescription from a licensed North Carolina physician can be charged with prescription fraud or illegal possession of a controlled substance.
North Carolina statute allows an individual to be charged with illegal possession of a controlled substance or prescription fraud if he or she has obtained the prescription drug by one of the following methods:
- Fraudulently posing as a licensed medical practitioner;
- Obtaining possession of a controlled substance by way of forgery, fraud, or other dishonesty;
- Seeking out multiple medical professionals and presenting with the same symptoms in order to receive prescriptions from several physicians;
- Obtaining possession of a controlled substance by way of a valid and legal prescription but obtaining that prescription by withholding information or lying;
- Distributing or manufacturing a controlled substance through the use of a false or stolen registration number; or
- Removing a controlled substance from a place of employment or workplace with the intent to distribute or use it personally;
When a person is caught with an illegal prescription in Waxhaw, North Carolina, the level of charge that may be brought against the person depends on where within the schedule number the drug falls under. Because prescription drugs are considered controlled substances, they may fall within the schedule classifications set by the government. Determining the schedule classification will ultimately determine the penalty and/or charge. For example:
- Schedule I drugs are considered a Class I felony violation;
- Schedule II, III, and IV drugs are considered Class I misdemeanors, with some exceptions falling under Class I felonies;
- Schedule V drugs are considered Class II misdemeanors; and
- Schedule VI drugs are considered Class III misdemeanors.
- Keep in mind that illegal possession of prescription drugs with the intent to sell, manufacture, or distribute charges and penalties are also dependent upon the schedule number within which the prescription drug falls. For example:
- Schedule I and II substances are Class H felonies and the sale of these substances is considered a Class G felony; and
- Schedule III, IV, V, and VI substances are Class I felonies and the sale of these substances is considered a Class H felony.
Understanding and identifying a prescription drug crime is more complex than most believe. In fact, many individuals who are offenders of prescription drug fraud are patients who have suffered a significant injury resulting in addiction to pain medication that was originally legally and validly prescribed. Others are healthcare professionals who are selling or distributing prescription drugs for personal financial gain. And while it may be a clear violation of the law to be found in possession of a prescription drug without a valid and legal prescription, proving whether the accused needed a prescription is more difficult. No matter what the circumstances, the charges and penalties for prescription drug crimes depend on the type of drug, how much was found, and whether it was obtained through deceit or fraud.
For these reasons, it is critical to contact an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney if you are being charged with possession, manufacture, or distribution of prescription drugs. Because a conviction on these charges carries prison time, monetary fines, loss of employment, among other issues, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today.