The opioid epidemic has become a growing concern among recent years. However, these drugs have been around for many years. That is certainly the case with Vicodin, which has ingredients that have been sold to the public since the 1940s. Vicodin is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it is illegal to possess it in California without a valid prescription. In most cases, illegal possession of Vicodin is a misdemeanor. However, under certain circumstances, you could face a felony conviction. With the stakes so high, it's important to hire an experienced L.A. County drug crimes attorney who will fight for you.
What is Vicodin?
Vicodin is a powerful drug that blends the painkiller acetaminophen with the opioid hydrocodone. Because of the highly addictive nature of opioids, Vicodin has been classified as a controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act for years. Originally a Schedule III drug, the federal government upgraded Vicodin and similar drugs to Schedule II in 2014. The higher schedule makes it more difficult to obtain the drug and in some states increases the penalties for possessing it.
Hydrocodone, the primary ingredient in Vicodin, was originally synthesized in 1920 in a lab in Germany. It was approved for sale in the United States and Canada in 1943. Despite its German origin, the drug is most commonly used in the United States.
Effects of Vicodin on California Users
The two primary uses of Vicodin are as a painkiller and as a cough suppressant. Its effect as a painkiller is comparable to morphine. Much like abusing other prescription drugs, using more than the required dose of Vicodin can cause a euphoric feeling. The drug is highly addictive, and using it beyond a doctor's recommendation can quickly lead to dependence. Due to the resistance built up by abusers over a short period of time, Vicodin and other opioids are infamous for overdoses. In fact, 22,000 Americans die each year from opioid use.
The side effects of Vicodin are numerous. They include:
- Brain Fog
- Mood swings
- Altered heart rate
- Trouble Urinating
- Trouble Breathing
- Nervous System Damage
- Altered Pain Perception
Long term, Vicodin abuse can wreak havoc in an abuser's nervous system. It can change an abuser's ability to perceive pain and alter their personality. Despite these effects, the addiction is strong enough that most abusers will ignore these effects and continue their Vicodin abuse.
Methods of Vicodin Use in LA County
Vicodin and its generic versions typically come in two forms: pills and syrup. The instructions associated with these drugs calls for oral use. However, many abusers turn to other methods of ingesting the drug. When Vicodin is ingested orally, it must dissolve in the stomach and be processed by the user's body before the drug takes effect. This delayed effect often leads abusers of Vicodin to ingest the drug in other ways.
Smoking: Smoking Vicodin is a popular method for abusers. Inhaling the drug leads to absorption through the lungs, which is the fastest way to introduce the drug into the bloodstream. Abusers will typically crush the pills into a fine powder before heating it in tinfoil and inhaling the smoke. The binders and fillers used in creating the Vicodin pills also present a health risk. These binders and fillers are not intended to be absorbed through your lungs, and your body is not equipped to absorb them that way.
Injecting: An abuser can inject Vicodin if it is ground into a fine powder and mixed with water or some other solution. The drug can then be injected into the abuser's veins, muscles, or just under their skin. Injecting Vicodin carries a high risk of overdose as it allows for high doses to be taken in a short period of time. Additionally, while the ground Vicodin may look like fine powder it may still contain larger particles of the drug. These large particles can lodge in your arteries and cause blockages in your bloodstream.
Inhaling: If the Vicodin is ground into a fine powder, it can be inhaled through the nose. This method will give an abuser the euphoric feeling faster than taking the drug orally, but not as quickly as injecting or smoking it.
Vicodin as a Controlled Substance in California
Possessing Vicodin isn't always illegal. If you have a valid prescription or handle the drugs with some other type of license you are not in violation of California law. But California Health and Safety Code 11350 outlaws any possession of Vicodin without a valid prescription.
Unlawful Possession of Vicodin
In California, possessing a prescription drug without a prescription is usually a misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Most first-time offenders avoid jail time, however. Thanks to California's deferred judgment program, first-time offenders often are given the opportunity to plead guilty but not be formally sentenced.
Upon completion of a series of requirements including public service, the court may agree to dismiss the case instead of entering a conviction against the defendant. The end result sees the offender avoid both jail time and a criminal conviction on their record. Not everyone qualifies for a deferred judgment, which is why it is recommended that anyone charged with possession of Vicodin seeks the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
While possessing a small amount of Vicodin without a prescription often results in a misdemeanor charge, that isn't always the case. In some circumstances, the prosecutor can bring felony charges. This can include having certain prior convictions on your record as well as possessing large amounts of Vicodin.
Prior Criminal Record
There are two specific types of prior criminal convictions that can cause a misdemeanor possession charge to become a felony. The first is a prior conviction of a “serious felony.” California Health and Safety Code 1192.7 sets out an exhaustive list of California's serious felonies. The second type of prior conviction that can lead to a felony charge involves sex offense convictions. Either type of conviction on your record could lead you to being charged with a felony.
Having a prior conviction for a serious felony is black and white. If you have ever been convicted of any crime listed by California Health and Safety Code 1192.7, then you could see your possession case become a felony. Otherwise, you may only be charged with a misdemeanor. The list of crimes is long, but some of the best-known examples include:
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon
- Burglary in the 1st Degree
- Bank Robbery.
Sex Offender Charges
Convictions for sex offenses can also lead to felony possession charges. Under California law, possession of Vicodin without a prescription is a felony if you have any prior convictions that required you to register as a sex offender. If your prior conviction did not require registering you may be able to avoid a felony charge.
Possessing Large Amounts of Oxycontin
Prior convictions aren't the only way you can face a felony for possessing Vicodin. If you were arrested with a large amount of Vicodin you could be charged with possession with the intent to sell. Possession with the intent to sell is a felony in California that carries a prison term of two, three, or four years. Unfortunately, deferred sentencing programs are not available for charges of possession with the intent to sell.
Possessing a large amount of Vicodin is often used by prosecutors to infer to a jury that a defendant intended to sell the drugs. The idea is that the only possible reason to possess more drugs than could be used for personal consumption is to sell them. Trials in possession with intent to sell cases often center on what a defendant had in their mind. An attorney with experience with drug possession trials may be able to design a defense that will convince a jury that the defendant never intended to sell the Vicodin in their possession and that a felony conviction would be an injustice.
The William S. Kroger Law Firm
If you have been charged and arrested in Los Angeles County with possession of Vicodin without a prescription or with the intent to sell, William S. Kroger Attorney at Law has the experience to help you navigate the process. William S. Kroger has helped clients charged with possession reach the most beneficial outcome possible. In some case, he has been able to have charges dismissed entirely.
Your freedom and future are at stake, and William S. Kroger understands that. He will investigate every facet of your case before assisting you in building the strongest defense possible. If your constitutional rights were violated at any point, William S. Kroger will fight to have any illegal evidence excluded from being used against. If you would like to discuss your case and your potential options, contact William S. Kroger Attorney at Law today for your free consultation.