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San Diego Prescription Drug Defense Lawyers



Charged With a Prescription Drug Crime?

Most people in California are aware that being in possession of, using, or selling drugs such as cocaine or heroin is illegal and brings harsh penalties. But when it comes to prescription drugs, the laws are more complicated. Prescription drugs are classified as control substances under state and federal law, and possessing them without a prescription can result in criminal penalties. A defendant can also face additional crimes for attempting to acquire prescription drugs illegally and selling a prescription.

If you were charged with a prescription drug crime, you need to work with a strong legal defense team. At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, our San Diego prescription drug defense lawyer has decades of experience under his belt and can use his expertise to advocate for your freedom. We know how the prosecution thinks and how police build evidence in these cases, allowing us to craft detailed defense strategies for our clients. Do not go into a courtroom without our team at your side. Call us today at (760) 630-2000 for a free case evaluation.

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California’s Prescription Drug Laws

Prescription drugs can range from antibiotics to painkillers to steroids. While commonplace, many are considered controlled substances, and individuals an only possess and use them with a prescription. Without a prescription, you can be charged if you possess, use, or attempt to sell prescription drugs under California’s drug laws.

Prescription drugs are typically classified as Schedule 3, 4, or 5 drugs due to their reported medical uses. However, these drugs can still have addictive qualities and can be abused. Given the rise in opioid use across the United States, prescription drug crimes are becoming more and more common. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, roughly 1.7 million people are addicted to prescription pain relievers and more than 50,000 people die from opioid overdoses in a single year. Many of these individuals are also reported to have a heroin addiction.

As such, our courts are often inundated with prescription drug cases. While defendants are often eligible for drug diversion programs, such as through the San Diego Drug Court, for non-violent crimes, our courts will seek harsh charges for anyone accused of selling or trafficking prescription drugs. Prescription drug fraud or doctor shopping can also result in significant penalties.

Prescriptions drugs that can result in a criminal offense include:

  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Morphine
  • Anabolic steroids

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Common Charges Involving Prescription Drugs

The California Health and Safety Code has a thorough list of crimes associated with prescription drugs. Many of these charges are the same as illegal drugs like cocaine or meth, but there are unique cases that only apply to prescription drugs. In the past, most of these charges would result in felony penalties, but Proposition 47, which was passed in November 2014, reduced the charges to wobblers or misdemeanors, which offer the possibility of alternative sentencing. In any case, it is important to discuss your charges with a skilled attorney to understand all of your options.

Possession of Controlled Substances

Under the California Health and Safety Code 11350(a), it is against the law to possess any amount of a controlled substance, which includes prescription drugs if a defendant does not have a legal prescription. Simple possession can result in a minor fine for a small amount of a substance and requirements to complete a drug treatment program, but a court can also pursue misdemeanor charges for larger quantities, which may result in up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Selling Prescription Drugs Illegally

Possessing a large quality of prescription drugs, including more than a prescription allows, can result in an intent to sell charge. With this charge, a court does not need to prove that you actually sold prescription drugs illegally, only that you possessed prescription drugs and intended to sell them.

This charge can apply even when a person has been legally prescribed a certain drug by a doctor. Prescription drugs are for personal use, and it is illegal for patients to sell that drug to another person, regardless of the amount. Being charged with this offense is a felony, and penalties will depend on the amount of drugs that were sold.

Transporting prescription drugs is also a felony in California, although the transport must have taken place with the intent to sell or give the drugs away. Traveling with a legal prescription for a drug and showing a copy to a TSA agent cannot lead to an arrest. However, if you are convicted of transporting drugs without a prescription, penalties are the same as for the transportation of any controlled substance. When the drugs have been transported from one county in California to another, or across state lines, the penalties are more severe.

Prescription Drug Fraud

Prescription drug fraud, or doctor shopping, is a serious offense that occurs when a defendant:

  • Obtains, or even tries to obtain, a prescribed drug from a doctor by means of fraud, deceit, or by withholding important information, such as the fact that he is addicted to prescription drugs.
  • Makes any statement that is untrue while trying to obtain a prescription.
  • Falsely represents himself as a manufacturer, wholesaler, pharmacist, doctor, dentist, or veterinarian in order to obtain prescription drugs.
  • Places a label on a package or receptacle that is untrue, or that has been forged.

If charged, the person will be facing penalties for either a misdemeanor or a felony offense.

Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs

Most people know you cannot drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. But in the state of California, you cannot drive a vehicle under the influence of any type of drug. This is known as a DUID and it includes the lawful use of prescription drugs. Under this law, even patients who have legally obtained a prescription cannot operate a vehicle while under the influence of that drug.

A person is considered "under the influence of a drug" when the drug in his system prevents him from acting reasonably, responsibly, and safely. Being charged with a DUID can sometimes be more serious than being charged with a DUI. Some first-time offenders may be sentenced to probation and community service with no jail time; but repeat offenders will likely be sentenced to jail for a period.

In either case, whether the DUID is a first offense or a third, the person’s license is likely to be suspended anywhere from six months to three years.

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Defending Against Prescription Drug Crimes

If you have been charged with a prescription drug crime, it is important that you speak to a San Diego criminal defense attorney at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys. With his experience as a former narcotics investigator, James N. Dicks knows the system and will use that knowledge to defend you to the best of his ability. Call today at (760) 630-2000 for your best chance at a successful outcome when you have been charged with a prescription drug crime.

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