Prescription Drug Possession by Fraud

Pain medications and prescription drugs are the most regularly overused and abused drugs. In the U.S. alone, prescription drug overdoses kill more than 15,000 people a year and results in 1.2 million emergency room visits. In fact, some medical reports have stated that prescription drug abuse is more deadly than cocaine and heroin combined. Because of these alarming results, there are many ways that prescription drugs can cause an individual to get in trouble with the law. For example, an individual can face charges even when the prescription is theirs and was written for a legitimate cause if it was obtained through fraud or through what is called doctor “shopping.”

While the laws may vary from state to state, North Carolina prescription drug crimes include:

  • Possession of a prescription drug without a lawful prescription
  • Forging or changing a prescription
  • Distributing or Selling prescription drugs, whether the original prescription is the individuals or not
  • Driving while intoxicated of prescription drugs and,
  • Doctor “shopping” (going to multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions)
What is a Prescription Drug and what are the charges if found with an illegal prescription?

North Carolina Gen. Stat. § 90-87 (23) defines a "Prescription" as a written order or other order which is quickly reduced to writing for a controlled substance or for a preparation, combination, or mixture thereof, issued by a physician who is licensed in North Carolina to administer or prescribe drugs as it relates to his professional practice.

Furthermore, if the prescription drug is handed out without the written prescription of the physician directly or by a pharmacist to the patient, then this is a violation of state law. Prescription Drugs are considered controlled substances and if an individual is found in possession of such without a valid prescription a serious charge known as prescription fraud or illegal possession of a controlled substance is the offense.

Under North Carolina Gen. Stat. § 90-108 an individual may be charged with illegal possession of a controlled substance or prescription fraud if they have obtained the prescription by one of the following ways:

  • Posing as a licensed practitioner when in fact, the individual is not.
  • Obtaining possession of a controlled substance by fraud, forgery or dishonesty
  • “Doctor Shopping” going to multiple practitioners with the same symptoms for the purpose of receiving several prescriptions
  • Obtaining the controlled substances through the use of a legal prescription which has been obtained by lying or withholding information
  • Manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance by using a stolen or false registration number
  • Taking a controlled substance from a workplace and/or place of employment with the intent of personal use or distribution
What are the penalties associated with prescription drug possession and manufacturing/ distribution?

Illegal Possession of Prescription Drugs: If an individual is caught with an illegal prescription the first step to find what type of penalty they are facing is to determine which schedule number the drug falls within. Prescriptions drugs are considered controlled substances and may fall within any of the schedule classifications I-VI, making this determination first will ultimately help to identify the penalty. Outlined below is each Schedule classification and the penalty associated with it.

  • Schedule I Drugs: Class I felony violation.
  • Schedule II, III, IV Drugs:  Class I misdemeanor, with a few exceptions being considered Class I felonies.
  • Schedule V Drugs: Class II misdemeanor.
  • Schedule VI Drugs: Class III misdemeanor.

Illegal Possession of Prescription Drugs with an intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Distribute: Just like the illegal possession charge listed above, determining the Schedule number is important in order to find out the penalty for this charge as well.

  • Schedule I and II Substances: Class H felony; the sale of such substances is considered a Class G felony.
  • Schedule III, IV, V, and VI: Class I felony; the sale of such substances is considered a Class H felony.
What should I do if I have been charged with prescription drug fraud?

Identifying a prescription drug crime can be more complicated than many might think. Many offenders of prescription fraud are either patients who have had a significant injury that caused them to become addicted to pain medications that were originally legally prescribed, or are health practitioners themselves selling and/or distributing prescription drugs for personal gain. While being in possession of these drugs without a prescription is a clear violation of the law, proving that the individual did not need the valid prescription can be more challenging. However, in either situation, when it comes to prescription drug crimes, the charge and sentence typically depends on what type of drug it is, how much of that drug was found in possession, and whether it was obtained by fraud or deceit. Prescription drug fraud/ illegal possession of a controlled substance can carry jail time, fines, and even loss of employment in the event the offender is a licensed practitioner. Finding an experienced criminal defense attorney to help navigate through this process can provide guidance and peace of mind as well as potentially a more favorable outcome.

If you have been charged in the Charlotte region with any type of prescription drug possession or distribution charge then contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a consultation today, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help!