The increase in prescription drug abuse in America has changed the way law enforcement looks at how drugs are administered. It's not just illegal to possess a prescription drug without a prescription or license. Under California law, it is also illegal to knowingly provide an addict with a controlled substance. This statute applies to any medical professional, from doctors to nurses and even pharmacists.
Prescribing to an Addict in California
Prescribing controlled substances to addicts is barred according to California Health and Safety Code § 11156. According to the code:
no person shall prescribe for, or administer, or dispense a controlled substance to, an addict, or to any person representing himself or herself as such, except as permitted…
The statute was written broadly with the intention that the acts of prescribing, administering, or dispensing would cover virtually any circumstance where a medical professional gives an addict access to a drug. Likewise, controlled substances are any substance listed by the federal Controlled Substances Act. But what does the California Health and Safety Code consider an addict?
According to the California Health and Safety Code § 11156, an addict is described as a person whose actions are characterized by a craving combined with one or more of the following:
- Impaired control over drug use.
- Compulsive use.
- Continued use despite harm.
There is an exception written into the law, however. A person “whose drug-seeking behavior is primarily due to the inadequate control of pain” is not an addict under Section 11156. Consider the following example:
Dave injures his back at work. Crippled with pain during months of recovery, Dave sees a number of health specialists while seeking an answer to his pain. Multiple doctors prescribe different controlled substances as painkillers. Dave follows each doctor's orders and uses the drugs as prescribed, but never finds relief. Dave then seeks medical treatment from Dr. Ron. He informs the doctor that he has received several prescriptions from several doctors going back since the date of his injury.
On its face, it would seem as though Dave was doctor shopping which could qualify as actions characterized by a craving for painkillers. However, Dr. Ron would likely not be charged with prescribing to an addict in this situation as Dave appears to be driven by inadequate pain control instead of addiction.
Penalties for Prescribing to an Addict in California
A violation of California Health and Safety Code § 11156 is considered a “wobbler” under California law. A wobbler is any crime that could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances.
If convicted of misdemeanor prescribing to an addict, you could face up to a year in county jail. You could also face a maximum fine of $20,000. Felony charges carry a heftier penalty. A conviction for felony prescribing to an addict carries a sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail. A conviction also carries a maximum fine of $20,000.
With “wobbler” crimes, the prosecutor has an oversized impact on the severity of the charges against you. That person ultimately determines how much legal jeopardy you face. That makes hiring a seasoned criminal defense attorney on “wobbler” crimes like prescribing to an addict so important. An experienced criminal defense attorney will have an opportunity to make the case that felony charges are not appropriate. If you are facing prescribing to an addict charges in L.A. County, contact William Kroger Attorney at Law today.
When it comes to potential defenses to a charge of prescribing to an addict, some defenses are commonly raised in all types of criminal trials. Other defenses, however, are specific to the crime of prescribing to an addict. Regardless of the type of defense, an experienced criminal defense attorney will review the facts of your case and identify any potential defenses.
Illegal Search and Seizure
The 4th Amendment to the Constitution protects you against illegal searches and seizures. Any evidence collected against you that was discovered during an illegal search of your person or property cannot be used against you. This can even include statements made by you. If law enforcement illegally collects evidence that you prescribed a controlled substance to an addict, your criminal defense attorney may be able to have the evidence excluded.
The Person is not an Addict
To be convicted of prescribing to an addict, the person you prescribed to must meet the legal definition of an addict. They must have actions that are characterized by craving. That means there must be some kind of affirmative sign from the person to you that he or she is seeking to abuse the prescribed controlled substance. You will be acquitted of the charge if your criminal defense attorney can prove to a jury the person you prescribed a controlled substance to is not an addict.
The Person was Motivated by Inadequate Control of Pain
As we discussed above, the California Health and Safety Code § 11156 carves out an exception. If the drug-seeking behavior of the person that you prescribed drugs to can be explained by an inadequate control of pain as opposed to addictive behavior, you are not guilty of prescribing a controlled substance to an addict. This distinction can be difficult to prove. An attorney experienced in criminal defense law may be able to convince a jury of your peers that this exception applies in your case.
Smart, Experienced Los Angeles Drug Crimes Defense Attorney
Have you been arrested in L.A. County for prescribing a controlled substance to an addict? Because of the potential for this charge to be a felony, the maximum penalty could have you spending years behind bars. The consequences for a conviction don't stop at jail time or fines, though. Medical professionals like doctors or nurses could lose their licenses if they are found guilty.
With your freedom and livelihood at stake, it is imperative that you find an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. William S. Kroger Attorney at Law has spent years defending the rights of his clients. Contact William S. Kroger Attorney at Law for a free consultation.