Prescription drug abuse has increasingly made headlines in the pass few years as opioid addiction rates have risen quickly over the last two decades. In addition to opiods, other painkillers, stimulants, and sedatives are among commonly prescribed drugs that are abused and consumed for recreational use. The CDC estimates 105 deaths and more than 6,000 emergency room visits occur daily as a result of prescription drug misuse or abuse. Florida has a comparatively high rate of prescription drug abuse and addiction cases; therefore, the Legislature has criminalized the possession of prescription drugs without a doctor’s authorization.
Violating Florida’s prescription drug laws may result in fines and carry serious prison charges. As soon as you’re charged with this type of federal drug crime, call a Fort Lauderdale prescription drug fraud lawyer immediately before you make an irreversible mistake.
Which prescription drugs are illegal?
It is illegal to possess the following drugs in Broward County or Naples without a legally-obtained prescription:
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
What constitutes the crime?
Florida law prohibits people from obtaining or attempting to acquire a controlled substance through misrepresentation, forgery, fraud, deception, or subterfuge. Therefore, an individual commits prescription fraud if he or she:
- forges a prescription;
- engages in “doctor shopping,” which entails visiting several doctors to get multiple prescriptions;
- steals a blank prescription pad;
- attempts to call in a prescription while pretending to be a doctor;
- attempts to fill someone else’s prescription without his or her consent.
Each day, people, doctors, pharmacists, and nurses may be charged with prescription fraud. A medical professional may be convicted if he or she knowingly writes a prescription for a fake name or fictitious person, writes a prescription in exchange for a money, or writes a prescription without a legitimate medical necessity. In 2018, Florida’s legislature enacted a law limiting the initial quantity doctors are permitted to prescribe of certain drugs to patients who have never used the drug within the prior year.
Law enforcement is clamping down
Florida’s pain management clinics are well-known. In fact, I-75 is sometimes referred to as the Oxy Express as the clinics that are located nearby prescribe more oxycodone than any other state in the country. As a result, law enforcement officers have increased their efforts to curb the spread of the illegal use of prescription drugs. Officers use a combination of activities like performing sting operations and conducting traffic stops in areas surrounding pain clinics to seize illegal prescription drugs and arrest those who are involved in the abuse and distribute the drugs. Doctors whose practices are located in high-traffic areas that are known for prescription drug transactions are often subjected to extra scrutiny by law enforcement.
Why it’s a federal crime
Prescription drug fraud cases typically begin as investigations and arrests that are conducted by local police, often signaled when a person attempts to fill an illegal prescription at a pharmacy. Federal law enforcement may take over the case and investigate further if it appears the individual has a connection to others who involved in the purchase or distribution of large quantities of illegal prescription drugs. Federal prescription drug charges differ from in that there are no mandatory minimum sentences for prescription drugs. Nevertheless, sentencing guidelines do call for more severe penalties in cases that involve very large amounts of prescription drugs.
A number of possible defenses
People who are accused of prescription drug fraud may raise many of the same defenses that are valid in other criminal cases. A Fort Lauderdale prescription drug defense attorney may challenge the constitutionality of a search if the police entered or searched the defendant’s property without obtaining a warrant or otherwise following proper legal protocol. A defendant who is coerced into making incriminating statements may have the statements thrown out at trial. A doctor who wrote prescriptions for painkillers based on a patient’s misrepresentation may argue he or she did not have the intent to distribute a prescription under illegal circumstances. A Fort Lauderdale attorney who specializes in prescription drug cases can evaluate the facts of the situation and help the accused party understand the implications of his or her case and choose the best legal options.
Penalties can be harsh for trafficking convictions
There are several prescription drug-related offenses that carry different sentences, depending on the charge. Possessing a blank prescription pad is a misdemeanor if the individual is a first-time offender. Sentencing may include up to one year in prison and/or up to $1,000 in fines. Subsequent offenses are classified as third degree felonies and carry a sentence of up to five years imprisonment or a maximum fine of $5,000. Obtaining a prescription by committing an act of fraud is also a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines. In some cases, people who are convicted of distributing large amounts of prescription drugs illegally may be sentenced to serve up to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $250,000 in fines.
Broward County federal defense attorneys on your side
Prescription drug fraud charges are generally very aggressively prosecuted, especially in Broward County, Florida. Anyone who has been accused of involvement with distributing or obtaining a prescription drug illegally should contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale prescription fraud defense attorney early in the process, even prior to speaking in depth with law enforcement if possible. A lawyer experienced in federal defense cases can help the accused person avoid unnecessary self-incrimination, which might otherwise cause difficulties for the defendant at trial. The accused party’s lawyer can also ensure his or her client’s rights are observed and protected throughout the investigative and criminal court process. In some cases, a first-time offender may be eligible for an alternative route such as appearing in drug court or completing a treatment program. An experienced Naples defense attorney can provide a free case evaluation and help the accused individual determine the best action to take in response to being accused of a very serious serious offense that may carry severe long-term professional and personal consequences.