Most often, people associate drug abuse with illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, or meth. However, some of the most commonly abused illegal drugs nowadays are available at that corner pharmacy in your neighborhood, prescription drugs. While it is lawful to possess and use prescription drugs when you have a doctor's prescription, it is unlawful to obtain or use them without a valid prescription.
Crimes involving prescription drugs have become everyday offenses happening in most people's homes. Like most drug offenses, prescription drug offenses also make you subject to hefty fines and lengthy prison sentences, which will immensely impact your reputation and professional life.
Understanding attorneys at Phoenix Criminal Attorney have significant experience and outstanding skills in prescription drug crimes. If you face a criminal charge involving prescription drugs, our attorneys will fight for your rights aggressively to help you secure the best possible outcome from the case.
What You Need to Know About Prescription Drugs
When you use prescription drugs the right way your doctor prescribes, they can help treat your illness. However, when you use or obtain these drugs for a different purpose other than the reason your doctor intended, you commit a prescription drug offense according to Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S) 13-3406.
Even though they have a healing effect, most prescription drugs can also cause other side effects like highs and other desirable effects to the drug users, which often leads to addiction. Some of the commonly abused prescription drugs available in most pharmacies include:
While marijuana is legal for medical use in our state, it does not fall under this particular law controlling the use, possession, and distribution of prescription drugs. Unlawful marijuana possession is punishable under a separate statute.
Typically, people abuse prescription drugs for different reasons, and most of the time, these people have a legal prescription to use them. However, when this prescription runs out, these drug users often face a severe addiction due to the drug's desirable side effects and highs.
Some people also seek prescription drugs for recreational purposes from people with a valid prescription to use and possess the drugs. Other people may assume the use or possession of prescription drugs is legal, but it is not.
Whether you were aware that the use, possession, or fraud involving prescription drugs is unlawful or not, this excuse cannot spare you from prosecution under A.R.S 13-3406. You will need a reliable criminal defense attorney's services throughout the prosecution process because penalties resulting from offenses relating to prescription drugs are as severe as other drug crimes penalties.
Common Criminal Charges Relating to Prescription Drugs Under A.R.S 13-3406
Discussed below are some of the common charges you may face if you knowingly violate the criminal prescription drugs statute under A.R.S 13-3406:
Possession or Use of Prescription-Only Drugs Without a Valid Prescription
Prescription drug abuse is an issue with many youths and adults nowadays despite many state and federal efforts to curb illegal possession and use of these drugs. While there are people eligible to possess and use prescriptions under law, you might face harsh criminal penalties if you do not have a doctor's or psychiatrist's prescription to possess or use them.
Under this law, unlawful possession of prescription drugs could be constructive or actual. Constructive possession means the prescription drugs were in your vehicle or bedroom. On the other hand, actual possession of prescription drugs means the drugs were in your person, bag, purse, or clothing.
Constructive possession of a prescription drug case is hard to prove because there are numerous reasons for not knowing you possess the drugs in your vehicle or house. For you to be guilty of this charge, the prosecutor must prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you had possession of prescription drugs knowingly.
For the sake of A.R.S 13-3406, it is also a crime to knowingly possess equipment and chemicals for manufacturing prescription drugs or manufacturing without a valid license or permit. Possession of prescription drugs with the intent of selling or transporting them without a permit or license could also put you in trouble with the law.
You will need the legal services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for your best interest when you face a prescription drug charge involving illegal possession, use or transport because the possible penalties are life-altering.
Prescription Drug Fraud
A.R.S 13-3406 also makes it illegal to obtain prescription drugs by deceit, fraud, or misrepresentation. You could be guilty of this crime under this statute if you forge or use an invalid prescription to obtain prescription drugs for personal use or sale. Below are some of the common ways people obtain prescription drugs fraudulently:
- Using a computer program to forge a prescription
- Stealing a prescription pad from a psychiatrist or a doctor
- Altering or changing an existing prescription to acquire a different amount of drugs or perhaps a different prescription drug
- Using another person's identity details to obtain drugs and you do not have a prescription to use those drugs.
- Calling a pharmacy or any authorized drugstore and using fraudulent credentials to represent yourself as a doctor or any other health expert and ordering a prescription
When police arrest you for any charge relating to prescription drugs, do not say anything you are not sure of to avoid self-incrimination. If the arresting officers insist on talking to you, you have a right to tell them to speak to your attorney. A reliable criminal defense attorney can offer you the legal representation you need to achieve the best possible outcome from the case.
Penalties for Possession of Prescription Drug or Fraud Involving Prescription Drugs
Possessing or using prescription drugs without a valid prescription from a licensed doctor or using or attempting to use fraudulent credentials to obtain a prescription drug is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense. A conviction of these charges can make you subject to a maximum of six months in the county jail and a maximum fine of up to $2,500.
The same penalties will apply for manufacturing or possessing equipment for manufacturing prescription drugs under A.R.S 13-3406. However, if your case involves possessing prescription drugs for sale or transportation of prescription drugs into the state, your charge will become a class 6 felony, which carries a jail term of 18 months.
There is a state threshold level for establishing whether the prescription drugs you had in your bag or your vehicle were for sale or personal use. To convince the judge that you had intent to sell these prescription drugs, the prosecutor must provide evidence showing these drugs are exceeding the state's threshold amount for personal use.
Typically, if the judge finds you guilty of any of these crimes, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, the fine you will not be less than $1,000. For first-time offenders, a conviction for prescription drug crimes does not only result in a prison sentence and a fine.
The state's Proposition 200 (Prop 200) prohibits the judge from sentencing first and second-time offenders to a jail term following a conviction for a prescription drug offense. If you are guilty of violating A.R.S 13-3406 and Prop 200 applies to your case, the judge might order:
- A community service
- A drug treatment program to help you deal with the addiction
However, if you are a repeat offender with a conviction for manufacturing or selling prescription drugs, you might be subject to a prison term. If you have a reliable criminal defense attorney in your corner, he/she can fight for your best interest throughout the case to achieve the best possible outcome.
Pretrial Drug Diversion Programs For Criminal Offenses Relating to Prescription Drugs
With the help of your criminal defense attorney, you might also be able to avoid the uncertainty of a trial by participating in a drug diversion program. A pretrial drug diversion program is a favorable option over a plea agreement because you don't have to plead guilty of the alleged offense relating to prescription drugs.
A pretrial drug diversion program is a voluntary drug treatment program that enables the court to direct non-violent drug crimes, including offenses relating to prescription drugs, to a course of rehabilitation.
After completing the approved drug treatment program unique to your case successfully, the court will dismiss your charge. That means your offense relating to prescription drugs will not appear on your criminal record afterward.
The prosecutor presiding over your case will let you know if you are eligible to participate in a pretrial drug diversion program in exchange for a dismissal of your charges relating to prescription drugs.
To determine if you are eligible for a pretrial drug diversion program for your active charge relating to prescription drugs, the prosecutor and the court will consider the following factors:
- Your prior criminal history
- Facts and circumstances surrounding your charge, for example, driving under the influence
- Whether the prescription drugs you had in your person, bag or vehicle were for personal use or sale, depending on their amount or quantity
- Other aggravating factors surrounding your charge, for example, the use of a weapon to demand the drugs from a pharmacist without a doctor's prescription
If you satisfy the above eligibility requirement, the court will order a drug treatment program ideal for your unique offense involving violating the state's criminal prescription drug laws. The purpose of these pretrial drug treatment programs is to help you reform and become a law-abiding citizen.
Remember, when you violate your pretrial drug diversion program's conditions and terms, for example, by failing to attend classes or testing positive for drugs, you will have to go through the normal prosecution process. Similarly, when you fail to complete your unique program, the prosecutor will notify the court to resume the prosecution process for your initial charges relating to prescription drugs.
You would not want that because the normal prosecution process or a trial can result in severe consequences like a jail term and hefty fines. Therefore, if you opt to undertake a pretrial drug diversion program instead of the normal prosecution process, you must obey and stick to your drug treatment program's terms and conditions.
Viable Defense Arguments For A Criminal Charge Relating to Prescription Drugs
The key to achieving the best possible outcome following a charge relating to the violation of A.R.S 13-3406 is seeking early legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney. A reliable and well-informed criminal defense attorney can gather and examine the evidence surrounding your charge to build strong legal defense arguments to fight for your best interests throughout the case.
Below are common viable legal defense arguments your criminal defense attorney can raise to counter the charges against you for violating criminal prescription drugs laws under A.R.S 13-3406:
Violation of Your Constitutional Rights
Our state's constitution provides you with protection against unlawful conduct by law enforcement officers, which could be possible in your case. A violation of your constitutional rights by the law enforcement officers can result in the suppression of the prosecutor's evidence and dismissal of the charges against you.
Some of the common ways law enforcement officers violate your constitutional rights include:
- Arresting you without reasonable suspicion or a probable cause
- Ignoring your Miranda rights
- Coercing you to confess
- Illegal search and seizure
Due to the nature of crimes relating to the violation of the state's criminal prescription drug laws, it is not uncommon for law enforcement officers to violate a defendant's constitutional rights during the arrest. That makes this a viable legal defense strategy to convince the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that you are innocent of the alleged offense.
The Prescription Drugs Does Not Belong to You
It creates a reasonable doubt on the prosecutor's case if there are other people present in your criminal case involving prescription drugs. That could be possible if there is adequate evidence to prove to the jury that these people had access to the drugs or their area of storage.
If your attorney chooses to use this defense argument during your case's trial, he/she must be ready to demonstrate to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that those prescription drugs were not yours.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
The threshold of proving you guilty of the alleged crime during the case trial should be beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, for instance, if you face a charge of illegal possession of prescription drugs for carrying them in your vehicle, the prosecutor must prove to the jury that you were aware of their presence and had control over them.
When someone with a valid prescription to use and possess these drugs mistakenly leaves them in your vehicle and you didn't have knowledge of their presence, you cannot be guilty of violating A.R.S 13-3406.
The Substance You Had was Not a Prescription-only Drug
The substance the police discovers in your presence, vehicle, or house must undergo some testing in the lab to determine if it's a prescription drug or not. After that, the lab expert must avail him/herself in court to provide his/her testimony with a reasonable and realistic degree of scientific certainty that the substance was a prescription-only drug.
If the lab tests do not prove the substance was a prescription-only drug, you cannot be guilty of violating A.R.S 13-3406.
No Chain of Custody
The drug which the lab specialist should test in your case must be the same substance you had in your person, vehicle, handbag, or house during the time of the arrest. That means everyone who was handling the evidence against you must testify to the evidence's proper handling.
During the trial for a charge involving prescription drugs, this is vital to prove that there was no tampering or mishandling of the evidence against you. If your attorney can prove to the jury that there was a discontinuity in the chain of custody, the court might dismiss the case against you.
You Had a Valid Prescription
Having a valid prescription is a viable legal defense in these kinds of criminal charges if you had a current and valid prescription to use and possess these drugs during the time of the arrest. An experienced and skilled defense attorney could be able to fight for a dismissal of your charge before your case trial if you had a valid prescription from a doctor, physician, psychiatrist, or any other licensed medical expert.
If you face charges for violating the state's criminal law on prescription drugs, time will be of the essence because you need to preserve pieces of evidence to fight the charge. To find and determine which evidence will be useful in your case, you need to seek the services of a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney.
A criminal defense attorney with prior experience in handling these types of drug charges will know which evidence is critical in your case and where to find it to fight for your best interest.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or your kid face a criminal charge relating to prescription drugs, you should consider retaining the services of a reliable criminal defense attorney immediately. We invite you to contact experienced attorneys at Phoenix Criminal Attorney at 602-551-8092 to schedule a free, friendly, and confidential consultation for an exceptional legal representation.