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Doctor Shopping and Prescription Fraud in California

Doctors in L.A. and throughout California now must conduct database checks on their clients before prescribing certain painkillers. It became clear in recent years that the opioid crisis was in part fueled by clients shopping for doctors to prescribe them painkillers. If physicians had had access to a database many of these overdoses could have been prevented -- as could a patients intent to shop for doctors. CURES was made possible through the passage of Senate Bill No. 482, approved by the Governor on September 27, 2016.

Some of you may not have known that doctor shopping to increase access to prescription drugs is illegal. Also known as prescription fraud or the misuse of prescription medication, a charge of the same can get a person into some serious legal trouble -- in addition to their addiction woes. If you have been charged under Doctor Shopping/Prescription Fraud, California Health & Safety Code § 11173, then it is important to retain a drug crimes attorney who understands the difficulties you are going through and who is able to provide aggressive and strategic yet compassionate criminal defense in the L.A. County area.

William S. Kroger has been representing drug crimes clients for years. He has the resources, the experience, and the ability to successfully address the challenges that these types of crimes present. He is a skilled negotiator and ardent fighter for his clients' rights and freedom. Contact his office to learn more about his approach to doctor shopping criminal defense and to schedule a free initial consultation.

What is California's doctor shopping law?

Doctor shopping occurs when a patient visits several different physicians and pharmacies to obtain and have filled multiple prescriptions for a controlled substance. Doctor shopping is a form of prescription fraud. The other form of prescription fraud involves physicians who write illegal prescriptions and in doing so violate California Health & Safety Code § 11153.

Health & Safety Code § 11173 provides that

(a) No person shall obtain or attempt to obtain controlled substances, or procure or attempt to procure the administration of or prescription for controlled substances, (1) by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation , or subterfuge; or (2) by the concealment of a material fact.

(b) No person shall make a false statement in any prescription, order, report, or record, required by this division.

(c) No person shall, for the purpose of obtaining controlled substances, falsely assume the title of, or represent himself to be, a manufacturer, wholesaler, pharmacist, physician, dentist, veterinarian, registered nurse, physician's assistant, or other authorized person.

(d) No person shall affix any false or forged label to a package or receptacle containing controlled substances.

This means it is just as unlawful to obtain a controlled substance through prescription fraud as it is to attempt to do it, too. Controlled substances are drugs placed by the federal government in schedules according to their medical use -- if any -- and their addictive propensities -- if any.

An Example of Doctor Shopping

To understand what California doctor shopping is, an example may be useful:

You are involved in a car accident and sustain serious injuries. You are prescribed powerful painkillers. After some time, however, your doctor states that you do not require painkillers anymore and refuses to prescribe them. And though it is true you are no longer in as much pain, you have, however, developed an addiction and lie about the extent of the pain. To feed that addiction, you start going to other doctors until one or more prescribes you pain medicine. To reduce the risk of being caught, you get those pain medications filled at different pharmacies.

Here, the patient both attempts to obtain a new prescription by lying and by visiting other doctors. Both acts are illegal and subject to penalties if convicted.

Most Commonly Targeted Drugs by Doctor Shoppers

There are a large number of drugs that are the subject of patients looking to obtain prescriptions beyond what is medically necessary. The most common include:

  • Anabolic steroids, like Anadrol, Oxandrin, Dianabol
  • Central nervous system depressants, like Xanax, Ambien, Valium, Mysoline
  • Opioids, like Morphine, Hydrocodone, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Lomocot, Demerol, Codeine, Fentanyl
  • Stimulants, like Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Concerta.

Of the above, the most common are drugs targeted by so-called doctor shoppers are the drugs classified as opioids.

What must a prosecutor prove to convict you of doctor shopping/prescription fraud?

When you are charged with a crime, it is important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is just as important to find an attorney who will hold the State, judge, and jury accountable to this principle. William S. Kroger is that kind of attorney. He will pursue all angles of your case and challenge the State to force it to prove its case against you.

In cases of doctor shopping, there are certain elements that must be proven, and if a certain element is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then you cannot be convicted of the crime.

Some kind of Fraud, Deceit, Misrepresentation, Concealment

The State must show that you committed fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, or concealed information to obtain a prescription. This can include providing evidence that you:

  • Stole your doctor's pad and forged his or her name to get more prescriptions
  • Used some kind of software program to manufacture fake prescriptions
  • Altered the prescribed amount of a lawful prescription
  • Lied about the pain you were experiencing.
  • Visited several doctors and pharmacies to receive prescriptions
  • Failed to disclose relevant medical information.

Intent

Mental culpability is important to a drug crime conviction in California. It must be shown that you meant to deceive, misrepresent yourself, conceal certain facts, or otherwise commit fraud to obtain a prescription.

For example, if you changed the quantity of the prescription or signed a prescription, the State must prove that you intentionally and knowingly counterfeited the prescription.

What are the penalties of a doctor shopping conviction?

Doctor shopping as prescription fraud is a wobbler offense in California. As a wobbler, it is at the prosecutor's discretion to charge the crime as a felony or misdemeanor.

  • A conviction of a misdemeanor doctor shopping offense can result in jail time up to one year.
  • A conviction of a felony doctor shopping offense can result in jail or prison up to three years.

You may also receive probation and be ordered to pay significant fines if convicted of either a misdemeanor or felony.

When determining whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony, the prosecutor will take into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case and any prior criminal record.

What are some defenses a Los Angeles doctor shopping criminal defense attorney can use?

If you have been charged with prescription fraud like doctor shopping, you could be facing serious legal problems. It is in your best interests to retain an attorney who is resourceful, skilled, and capable of providing a comprehensive, aggressive defense. So many people charged with this offense don't realize (1) what they are doing is necessarily illegal; and (2) didn't mean any harm by it -- they only meant to numb the physical and emotional pain. In these types of situations, you don't need the burden of a conviction to make life more difficult. You need your innocence proven or a second chance provided to you.

A good defense will require a full investigation into the circumstances of the case and a strategic showing that you:

  • Had your constitutional rights violated. You have a constitutional right not to incriminate yourself and not to be searched and seized -- either your person or your property -- unlawfully. Evidence flowing from a constitutional violation can be suppressed.
  • Acted in good faith. You may have inadvertently failed to disclose information or may have a legitimate medical purpose for the prescription and did not forge a signature or otherwise do anything unlawful. Depending on the circumstances, this may prove innocence due to the lack of intent or act as mitigating factors.

Experienced Prescription Fraud Defense Attorney in L.A. County

William S. Kroger has been practicing drug crimes defense since 1997. He believes strongly in his clients right to a thorough, comprehensive, strong defense. He has the resources, the skill, and the experience. Contact William S. Kroger today to discuss your case during a free initial consultation.

Contact William S. Kroger Today

If you are in need of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, CA who is proficient in marijuana, drug & criminal law, there’s simply no better attorney than William S. Kroger. Contact Me

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