The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Five Types of Prescription Drug Crimes
April 15, 2019
In the 1980s and 1990s, the decades-old war on drugs appeared to be working. Illegal drug use was still rather frequent. But it was no longer socially acceptable, at least for the most part, to “experiment” with powerful narcotics, like cocaine, or hallucinogens, such as LSD.
But then, along came the opioid epidemic. A number of developments fueled this crisis. But perhaps most importantly, Oxycontin, Fentanyl, and other prescription painkillers were legal. They were just as strong, or even stronger, than morphine or heroin. But they did not involve shady transactions on dark street corners. They just required a doctor’s note and a trip to the corner pharmacy. Today, roughly 12 million Americans misuse prescription drugs every year.
These cultural and medical changes have caused legal changes as well. Buffalo drug crime lawyers still deal with many cocaine, LSD, and other illegal drug cases. But Wright County prosecutors aggressively pursue prescription drug charges. Typically, these infractions are serious felonies, even if the allegations only involve a handful of pills.
Opioid painkillers are all controlled substances in Minnesota. It’s illegal to possess them without a valid prescription. The good news is that most prescription drugs are Schedule II or Schedule III drugs, as opposed to more serious Schedule I drugs. So, Buffalo drug crime lawyers can often engineer pretrial diversion resolutions, especially if the defendant has a substance abuse problem.
Program specifications vary, but in most Wright County pretrial diversion plans, the defendant must pay a small fee and complete some program requirements, like a class or community service. Then, prosecutors dismiss the charges.
But pretrial diversion is not a giveaway. Prosecutors often offer it in drug possession cases because they are difficult to prove in court. In addition to proximity, prosecutors must also prove:
Because of these additional elements, Buffalo drug crime lawyers can often beat drug possession charges in court. That’s especially true because the state must prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.
A prescription drug use case is a little like a circumstantial evidence DUI prosecution. Since there is no Breathalyzer test for opioids, prosecutors must use circumstantial evidence to prove that the defendant was under the influence of prescription drugs while operating a motor vehicle. This circumstantial evidence includes:
Open pill bottle near the defendant,
Current prescriptions, and
Statements the defendant makes to officers or investigators.
In “drugged driving” cases, prosecutors need not establish that the prescription drugs were illegally obtained. Even if the defendant drove under the influence of legally obtained opioids, the defendant is still guilty of at least a misdemeanor. If there were aggravating circumstances, such as prior convictions, the offense could be a felony.
DUI, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or some combination thereof, also has significant collateral consequences. Drivers’ license suspension and higher auto insurance rates are two good examples. A Buffalo drug crime lawyer may be able to reduce or eliminate some or all of these collateral consequences.
Prescription drug sale is something of a misnomer. Prescription drug transfer, not just a monetary sale, is illegal. Giving a pill to a friend or relative is usually a felony. The same punishment applies to indirect recipient-instigated sales (e.g. since you gave me some Vicodin I’ll take you to lunch). To elevate charges from simple possession to sale or transfer, prosecutors look for circumstantial evidence in the police report, such as:
Pills outside of prescription bottles,
Unusually large quantity of medicine, and
Admissions that the defendant makes to investigators or arresting officers.
Prescription drug sale cases are harder for Buffalo drug crime lawyers to defend. The aforementioned additional possession elements do not come into play here, and prosecutors rarely offer pretrial diversion in felony cases.
Depending on the amount and type of medicine, prescription drug forgery can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Some common forgery crimes include:
Fabricating a prescription,
Impersonating a doctor or doctor’s office when the pharmacist calls to confirm the prescription,
Altering specific information, like the dosage or number of refills, and
Tampering with or altering a prescription label.
Essentially, forgery is misrepresenting a material fact to gain something. Typically, these elements are easy to prove in court.
Prescription drug fraud is commonly known as doctor-shopping. If a doctor refuses to prescribe pain pills for a minor injury or declines to refill a prescription, some people go to different doctors until they find one that prescribes what they want.
Connect with Dedicated Attorneys
Prescription drug crimes mean big trouble. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo drug crimes lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Our attorneys have over a half-century of combined experience.