Controlled substances are extremely common medications prescribed for adults with chronic conditions or for pain management. While they are perfectly legal to possess with a proper doctor’s prescription, possession of these drugs in quantities greater than needed for personal use or in bottles without the authorized patient’s name may be punishable by law.
Many people charged with the possession of a prescription drug have never been in trouble with the law before. Police are cracking down on the use of these drugs, and the severity of the charge may seem frightening and confusing. We are also seeing an increase in people charged with a “possession for sale” offense, even when the person accused had no intent to sell.
It is important to have a lawyer on your side that understands how to navigate these difficult cases.
What is a Controlled Substance?
Some drugs are classified based on their currently accepted use in medical treatment, their potential for abuse, and potential for addiction or dependence. Some examples of the drugs in each schedule are listed below.
Schedule I Controlled Substances
Schedule I drugs have no officially recognized medical use and have a high potential for abuse. Some of these are LSD, marijuana, ecstasy, and heroin. For more information about schedule 1 drug charges please read more on our website or give us a call for a free consultation.
Schedule II Controlled Substances
Schedule II drugs are available by prescription and have a high potential for abuse, including: Demerol, Oxycontin, Percocet, morphine, opium, codeine. Other class II narcotics are Dexedrine, Adderall, crystal methamphetamine, Ritalin, pentobarbital, cocaine, and PCP.
Schedule III Controlled Substances
Schedule 3 narcotics have less abuse potential and use can lead to moderate dependence. Class 3 narcotic examples include hydrocodone or Vicodin and Tylenol with Codeine. Schedule III drugs that are not narcotics: benzphetamine, phendimetrazine, ketamine (“date rape” drug), and anabolic steroids.
Schedule IV Controlled Substances
Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse. Some examples of these are Xanax, clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan).
Schedule V Controlled Substances
These substances have the lowest potential for abuse and contain limited amounts of narcotics. These can be medicines with a minimum amount of codeine such as Robitussin AC or Phenergan with Codeine.
Prescription Drug Fraud
A variety of deceptive actions can result in a prescription drug fraud charge. The more common charges are brought on patients who obtain prescription drugs that have not legally been prescribed to them. Prescription forgery either by altering a prescription or by forging a new prescription is a felony, and often occurs through many scenarios:
- Stealing a prescription pad and writing unauthorized prescriptions
- Altering a written prescription by increasing the drug quantity
- Creating fake prescriptions with computer software
- Calling in prescriptions with personal phone numbers for the confirmation call back
- Impersonating medical personnel
Is Doctor Shopping Illegal?
Physicians are limited in the quantities of medicine they are allowed to prescribe to a single patient. “Doctor shopping” is a common practice for patients to obtain multiple prescriptions. this occurs when a patient visits multiple doctors at different practices to get multiple prescriptions for narcotics, and they don’t tell the doctor they already have other prescriptions. This is prescription drug fraud, and doctor shopping penalties can be frightening for anyone.
Prescription Fraud Penalties
The act of falsifying medical prescriptions, can have very serious consequences if you are convicted. Possession of a prescription drug is punishable as either a felony or misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, the punishment may be up to one year in county jail. As a felony, punishment may range from 16 months to three years in state prison.
Possession of a Controlled Substance
California Health and Safety Code 11350 states that one must have a valid prescription to possess specific controlled substances classified in Schedule III, IV, or V which are narcotic drugs. If you are found in possession of a controlled substance without a valid prescription, you will be punished with jail time indicated in of Section 1170 of the Penal Code.
California Health and Safety Code 11377 applies to the possession marijuana, methamphetamines, and other stimulants or those controlled substances classified in Schedule III, IV, or V, and which is not a narcotic drug. The punishment for these charges are outlined as imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code.
To prove possession of prescription drugs, the District Attorney must show:
- The person charged doesn’t have a doctor’s prescription.
- The person charged was in possession or in control of the controlled substance
Also, if you give some of your prescribed controlled drugs to someone, this is a chargeable offense as “furnishing controlled substances.”
Possession for Sale
To determine possession for sale, police will look at whether there is evidence of sales. Examples of this commonly include:
- Quantity that is more than for personal use
- Separately packaged pills
- Multiple cell phones
- Sales records (commonly called “pay and owes”)
Transportation of a Controlled Substance
In order to prove illegal transportation, the District Attorney must show:
- Large quantity found in a car
- Driver or car registered from out-of-state or long-distance within California
- Surveillance or information from an informant that someone came from out-of-state
California Penal Code 1000 DEJ and Prop 36 – Diversion Programs
DEJ – A charge of possession may be eligible for Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) or a drug diversion program. First time offenses, possession of prescription drugs without a prescription, and using a forged prescription for a narcotic drug for personal use (e.g. Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocet) are potentially eligible for a diversion program.
Prop 36 – If you have been previously convicted of a drug crime, you are not eligible for Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ), but you may qualify for Prop. 36. Unlike DEJ, with Prop 36 you are convicted and sentenced. Your sentence is Prop. 36 treatment. Prop 36 is far more involved and intensive than DEJ. Under Prop 36 you will likely be required to attend an outpatient drug treatment programs. The amount of time spent in these programs depends on your sentence.
Charges of possession for sale (H&S 11378) are not eligible for DEJ or drug diversion.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help
Your prescription drug charges deserve fair consideration. It is important to have a reputable defense lawyer on your side who understands the pressures of work and school and can work with prosecutors to resolve these cases. If you have a problem abusing prescription narcotics, your attorney may keep you out of jail and help find an appropriate treatment program.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg is able to provide a practical, tailored defense in cases involving prescription drugs based on extensive experience in Los Angeles County courthouses and prosecutor offices. If you are facing prescription drug charges, contact Mr. Gunsberg at (323) 633-3423 for a free and confidential consultation or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.