Prescription Drug Charge FAQs

Pill with question markIn some respects, California crimes involving prescription drugs are the same as any other drug crime. It is just as illegal to sell OxyContin as it is to sell heroin. One primary difference is that it is never legal to possess heroin in California while patients who have a valid prescription for OxyContin can legally possess it.

Some drug charges are unique to prescription drugs. Most of those involve the way a prescription drug is obtained. This FAQ will help you understand those differences.

I want a prescription for a narcotic drug but my doctor will not give me one. Can I see another doctor?

Yes, provided that you are honest about your reason for seeing the second doctor. You are entitled to seek a second opinion and a second doctor is entitled to disagree with the first doctor about your need for the medication.

Suppose, however, that your first doctor refused the prescription because that doctor knows you are addicted to the drug. If you see a second doctor and fail to disclose your addiction, a prosecutor might accuse you of obtaining your prescription by deceit. That accusation will be even stronger if you lie to the second doctor in order to obtain the prescription. Obtaining a prescription by fraud or deceit is a crime in California.
My doctor will not prescribe as many pills as I want. Can I go to other doctors to get additional prescriptions?

Again, you can ask another doctor for a second opinion, provided you make an honest disclosure of the prescription you were given by the first doctor. If you see multiple doctors to get additional prescriptions without disclosing the prescriptions you already received, you risk being accused of “doctor shopping.??? That is another form of prescription fraud that is illegal in California.

My boyfriend wants me to obtain pain pills for him by pretending that I have back pain. Is it legal for me to get a prescription for a medication that I do not need?

If you do what your boyfriend asks, you risk being prosecuted for two different crimes. First, if you falsify your symptoms in order to deceive your doctor into writing a prescription for drugs that you do not need, you are committing the crime of prescription fraud. Second, if you give prescription drugs to your boyfriend (or anyone else), you are committing the crime of drug distribution.

I do not have a prescription but the drug I want is available on the internet. Can I order it and have it shipped to me from Mexico or some other country?

The possession of a prescription drug without a prescription is illegal. It does not matter how you acquire the drug.

In addition, the prescription must be written by a doctor who is authorized to write prescriptions. Doctors cannot prescribe narcotics unless they are registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration. If a website offers you a bogus prescription that is not written by a doctor who has a DEA registration number, you are violating California law by using that prescription to obtain drugs.

What should I do if the police want to question me about my use or possession of prescriptions or prescription drugs?

Just say no. Never talk to the police without having a criminal defense lawyer present. If the police want to question you, the only response you should make is “I will not answer any questions unless my lawyer is present.???

What are the penalties for engaging in prescription drug crimes?

The penalties for selling and possessing prescription drugs are the same as the penalties for selling and possessing nonprescription drugs (other than marijuana). Most forms of prescription fraud in California are wobblers. That means the crime can be charged as a felony (usually with a maximum prison sentence of three years) or as a misdemeanor (with a maximum jail sentence of one year).

Are there defenses to prescription drug crimes?

Yes. If you are falsely accused of a drug crime, truth is your defense. If you honestly forgot to tell a doctor about other prescriptions, you committed no crime because you did not deliberately deceive the doctor. Of course, a prosecutor might not believe you had a memory lapse, particularly if you obtained the same prescription from several doctors.

Your best defense is to remain silent and to obtain legal advice as soon as you can. In some cases, your prescription drug lawyer can find a way to get the case thrown out. In other cases, a drug diversion program might help you avoid a conviction. You are also entitled to a “not guilty??? verdict if your lawyer establishes a reasonable doubt concerning your guilt. If you talk to the police or try to handle the case yourself, however, you will only make your situation worse.