Prescription Drug Charges

Prescription DrugsWith so many drugs being prescribed every day, some fall into dependency. And as with any other substance that can bring on an addiction, anyone can find themselves under arrest and charged with serious crimes. Just because a doctor had at one time prescribed you or your family member a particular drug does not give you an absolute defense in the case.
That’s why it is highly suggested you seek professional drug crimes lawyer advice to make sure your case is handled the right way. The difference between a few prescription pills or the manner in which they were found can mean the difference between a drug program and prison. Selling prescription pills or possessing prescription pills illegally is no small matter and must be taken very seriously. While there are drug treatment programs available that will help settle the case without too much damage to your life, an experienced lawyer must get you qualified before than can happen. In many cases, the person is charged too heavily under California’s complicated drug laws and some legal strategy must come into play.

Common Abused Prescription Drugs

Types of Prescription Pill Charges

Criminal Charge Individual Law Type Penalty
Possession of a controlled substance without a prescription 11350(a) H&S Code Health and Safety Misdemeanor Up to 1 year in jail
Possession of a controlled substance without a presecription (specific drugs under Section 11054) 11350(b) H&S Code Health and safety Misdemeanor Up to 1 year in jail
Possession of Prescription Pills for Sale 11351 H&S Code Health and Safety Felony Up to 4 years in prison or up to 1 year in jail

Prescription Pill Possession – 11350 Health and Safety Code

Prescription pills are illegal to possess if the person possessing them does not have proof to show they are legally allowed to have them.  The reason behind this is that the public does not want people taking medications that can be harmful to others when a trained physician, dentist, naturopath, or veterinarian has not had the opportunity to decide if it’s a good idea.

The “prescription defense” is codified (put into law) but it’s not available for every drug imaginable.  For those controlled substances that are covered, however, the person charged may introduce evidence of a valid prescription to establish reasonable doubt in the case before a judge or jury.  People v. Mower (2002) 28 Cal.4th 457.

What does it mean to “Possess” a Prescription Pill?

As one can imagine, a pill can be placed in even the smallest of spaces.  Whether found on the person, in the car, or in someone’s house, some would say that the pill was not in anyone’s possession if no one was even near it.

But the meaning of “possession” for purposes of drug offenses such as illegally possessing prescription medication means to have some kind of control over it, or the right to control it, either personally or through another person.  People v. Barnes (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 552.

Therefore, if police officers had a warrant for your home and you were found in the kitchen but the prescription medication was in your bedroom in a locked safe where only you have the code, it can be argued that you have “possession” over the prescription drugs.  This is sometimes referred to as “constructive possession” (as opposed to actual possession).

Can more than one person “possess” a prescription medication and be arrested?

The sad truth is “yes.”  Imagine two young adults in a car that are pulled over by police.  Prescription medication is found in the back seat.  The police will most likely separate each of the young adults so that they cannot hear what the other is saying.  Then, both can be asked whether or not the prescription pills are theirs or the others.  If neither one of them say anything to indicate it belongs to one or the other, both can be arrested and police will leave it the courts to figure out.

What if the person arrested doesn’t even know what kind of prescription pill it is?

Again, the sad truth is that it does not matter at the stage of arrest.  If one person asked another to deliver a box of “pills” to someone and on the way they were arrested, they don’t need to know what kind of pills they are.  Similarly, when young teens experiment with prescription medication, they themselves don’t know what they are taking.  The fact that they do not have a prescription and that they are ingesting a drug that needs a prescription is enough to start a criminal drug charge against someone.

Because prescription medication charges can be charged in so many ways, it’s important to have the right drug defense lawyer to navigate through the complicated legal system.  The punishments can be as many as there are drug treatment programs—so it’s best to get advice and guidance from the beginning to make sure you make the right decision.

Prescription Pill Laws and Recent Events

San Diego Pharmacist Mishandles Pills – Pleads Guilty: San Diego pharmacist enters a plea with US Attorney’s office for mishandling prescription medication after an inventory audit raised red flags that the pharmacy was prescribing or distributing prescription drugs in violation with Controlled Substances Act.  The mishandling of the pills resulted in over 16,000 Oxycodone pills being unaccounted for.
City of Philadelphia Moves Law to Shut down “Pill-Mills”: Philadelphia’s Public Health and Human Services Committee sponsored a bill to go to vote on June 19th to allow regulators such as the Health Department and the Department of Licenses and Inspections to initiate swift shut-downs of “pill-mills” under their power to regulate public nuisances.  Pills mills are usually small physicians offices that over prescribe medication that eventually is sold as surplus.

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