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Prescribed drugs are only legal for the patients to whom they are prescribed – and only in the prescribed quantities. Any unauthorized use of a prescription drug is a crime, and if you’re charged with such a crime, you’ll need help from a Los Angeles drug crimes attorney.

You can go to jail or prison, serve probation, and pay a steep fine if you are convicted for the abuse, distribution, or any other unauthorized use of a prescription drug in California. It’s illegal, for example, to possess any prescription drug for which you are not prescribed.

Prescription medications such as fentanyl, codeine, Adderall, Vicodin, and Oxycontin are categorized as “controlled substances” under federal law and are regulated by state laws.

How Are Simple Possession Charges Typically Handled?

The illegal possession of a prescription drug is considered “unlawful possession of a controlled substance” under California law, a misdemeanor that may be penalized upon conviction with up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

However, with help from the right Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, a defendant charged with simple drug possession may qualify for “pretrial diversion,” which lets the defendant attend and complete a treatment or education program rather than serving time in jail.

What Crimes Are “Prescription Drug Crimes” In California?

Prescription drug abuse is now an epidemic in California. The state’s courts stress treatment and rehabilitation for drug offenders, but if you’re convicted of a serious drug charge, you’ll face serious consequences.

Crimes that are linked to prescription drugs in California include:

1. Possession of a controlled substance
2. Possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of sale
3. Transportation of a controlled substance
4. Using or being under the influence of a controlled substance
5. Prescription drug fraud
6. Driving under the influence of a controlled substance

What Constitutes Possession Of A Controlled Substance?

California prohibits the unauthorized possession of any usable amount of a controlled substance. The law includes “street drugs” like cocaine and heroin as well as prescription drugs that have not been lawfully prescribed.

Most possession charges are misdemeanors, and many defendants avoid jail entirely by qualifying for and completing a drug diversion program.

What Constitutes Possession Of A Controlled Substance For Sale?

California prohibits the possession of controlled substances for the purpose of sale. If you sell a prescribed drug illegally, you can be charged with possession of a controlled substance for sale, even if it’s just one pill or capsule and even if it was lawfully prescribed to you.

Possession of a controlled substance for sale is a felony charge in California. The penalties for a conviction will depend on the type and quantity of the drugs and the offender’s previous convictions, but some amount of prison time is the likely consequence of a conviction.

What Constitutes Transportation Of A Controlled Substance?

California prohibits the unauthorized transportation of controlled substances. While this law is intended to target those who traffic in illegal narcotics, any unauthorized transportation of a controlled substance is a violation of the law.

The transportation of a controlled substance is a felony. You can also be charged with drug trafficking as a federal crime if you transport a controlled substance across a state line.

Using Or Being Under The Influence Of A Controlled Substance

It’s a misdemeanor in California to use or be under the influence of a controlled substance without a prescription.

What Constitutes Prescription Drug Fraud?

California prohibits “doctor shopping” or prescription drug fraud. This crime is committed when someone:

1. Obtains or tries to obtain a prescribed drug from a doctor or another healthcare professional through deceit, fraud, misrepresentation, or concealment of a material fact

2. Makes a false statement pertaining to a prescription, a prescription report, or a prescription order

3. Falsely represents himself or herself as a drug wholesaler, drug manufacturer, physician, veterinarian, pharmacist, registered nurse, dentist, or physician’s assistant for the purpose of obtaining a controlled substance

4. Affixes a forged or false label to a receptacle or package containing a controlled substance

Prescription drug fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. A prosecutor will make that decision after reviewing the details of the case.

What Constitutes Driving Under The Influence Of A Controlled Substance?

California prohibits “driving under the influence of drugs” or “DUID.” You are “under the influence” when the drugs impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. If a drug impairs your ability to drive safely, it does not matter if the drug was legally prescribed.

The penalty for a DUID conviction depends on whether it is your first offense. First-time offenders are usually given probation, but subsequent DUID convictions are usually penalized with jail and harsh fines. Additionally, your license will be suspended for at least six months.

What Should You Do If You Are Arrested?

If you are placed under arrest for any of these criminal charges in southern California, be cooperative and polite, but exercise your right to remain silent. Simply say, “I prefer not to answer any questions until my attorney is present.”

You’ll need to contact the right Los Angeles drug crimes attorney as quickly as possible. Don’t even think about acting as your own attorney. The law is too complicated, too much will be at stake, and anything you say can be used against you.

How Will The Right Southern California Defense Lawyer Help You?

A good defense lawyer will probably try to have the charge against you dropped or dismissed. If the police violated your rights during a traffic stop, a search, an interrogation, or an arrest, the evidence they discovered can be suppressed, and sometimes the charge can be dismissed.

If the charge cannot be dropped or dismissed, you have the right to a jury trial, and if you are innocent, you should insist on it. However, if the state’s case against you is strong and a conviction is assured, your attorney can negotiate for reduced or alternative sentencing.

Not that long ago, the “drug crisis” in California focused almost entirely on drugs like marijuana, LSD, cocaine, and heroin. But in 2020, it’s clear that prescription drug abuse and addiction is a growing crisis. California police departments are aggressively enforcing prescription drug laws.

This means that you don’t have to be a criminal or a “druggie” to get into legal trouble. If you sell or abuse a legally prescribed drug, that’s enough to constitute a crime in California. And if you’re charged with a prescription drug crime, you must have a good defense lawyer’s help.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.

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