Most people know the names of major illegal drugs — cocaine, heroin, marijuana in most states, meth — even if they’ve never tried them first-hand. Because of the dangers associated with the use of these substances and their highly addictive qualities, the state and federal governments use harsh penalties to discourage use and make examples out of those who get caught. The anti-drug policies in place in our country have ensured that the vast majority of people know what’s at stake, both in terms of criminal charges and their personal health and wellbeing, should they choose to enter the world of selling and using illegal narcotics.
What is less familiar when it comes to drug crimes and criminal activity is the use, sale, and sharing of prescription drugs (even though these substances have become increasingly more popular), especially among today’s young adults. Because these pills are typically provided by a doctor or qualified medical professional and used as part of a health care regime, people tend to underestimate the potential for addiction and it’s not as clear how sharing or selling leftovers can be considered a crime.
What Constitutes Prescription Drug Crimes?
A prescription drug or medication is one that is provided by a doctor and filled at a pharmacy by a licensed pharmacist. These medications are available only to the people who receive the prescription, and sharing or selling prescriptions is strictly prohibited by law. If a person is caught with a prescription drug or pharmaceutical medicine without the corresponding valid prescription, he or she can be charged with illegal possession of prescription medication.
In New Jersey, possession of five or more doses of a prescription drug without a valid prescription constitutes a fourth-degree crime. Possession of less than four doses is considered a disorderly persons’ charge.
Other crimes involving prescription drugs include the following:
- Stealing a prescription pad from a doctor or physician – A person who steals a prescription drug pad will typically face other charges as well, such as forgery or fraud. All together, these charges can be filed as third-degree crimes and could result in a convicted person going to jail for up to five years, with fines up to $100,000.
- Illegally distributing prescription drugs – Anyone who intentionally distributes a prescription drug without having a valid doctor’s license to do so can be charged with distribution. If this distribution is for financial gain and involves less than five doses of the medication, the charge will be a disorderly person’s offense.
- Forging a prescription to obtain pharmaceutical medications – If you attempt to write a false prescription and have it filled, you can be charged with forgery. In most cases, you will also be charged for having stolen blank prescription pads, unless you made changes to an existing valid prescription. This is a third-degree crime.
- Fraudulently obtaining a prescription medication - Fraud and forgery often go hand in hand. Anyone who acquires prescription drugs through fraudulent means, such as stealing, posing as someone else or falsifying paperwork, can be charged with a third-degree crime and fined up to $50,000.
Prescription drugs are a lifesaver for many because of the pain relief and medicinal properties they provide. But if these drugs are misused, this can result in serious criminal charges. For more information on prescription drug crime in our state, contact the New Jersey drug defense lawyers at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, today.