Prescription Drug Offenses
Criminal Defense Lawyer: New Jersey Prescription Fraud, Prescription Forgery, Prescription Drug Possession & Prescription Drug Distribution
Illegal use of prescription drugs is a problem which is becoming more and more common. Given the powerful and addictive nature of painkillers, opiates and psychotropic medication, legitimate use can turn to illegal possession, distribution of prescription drugs and even prescription fraud. If you or a loved one has been arrested, received a criminal complaint and/or been indicted for illegal use or distribution of prescription drugs, obtaining prescriptions by fraud, or for forged prescriptions, the attorneys at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall can assist you. The criminal lawyers at our law firm are experienced in defending pharmaceutical drug charges and indictments and an initial consultation with an attorney of our law office is always free of charge. Our law firm handles prescription cases throughout NJ and a law office is conveniently located near you including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Hudson County, Morris County, Burlington County, Mercer County, Ocean County, and Essex County. We have provided the following information concerning prescription drug offenses and organized the page into three subject areas: (1) Prescription Fraud; (2) Prescription Forgery; (3) Prescription Drug Possession & Prescription Drug Distribution; and (4) Prescripton Theft.
Pharmaceuticals are considered Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) under New Jersey Law and may only be possessed or distributed as authorized by law. The manner in which prescriptions are written by doctors and dispensed by pharmacists and pharmacies is set forth in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, N.J.S.A. 24:21-1 et. seq., the New Jersey Pharmacy Act, N.J.S.A. 45:14-40 et. seq., and the New Jersey CDS Laws. Where an individual possesses prescription medicines or drugs, including opiates, painkillers, tranquilizers, central nervous system depressants, and central nervous system stimulants, in a manner which falls outside the law of NJ, the individual may be charged or indicted for a criminal offense. An arrest and conviction for illegal possession of prescription drugs involves significant penalties and often involves drugs known by name as Methadone, Morphine, Xanax, Vicodin (a.k.a. Hydrocodone), Oxycontin ("Oxy" or "Oxycottin"), Oxcodone, Percocet, Percoset, Percodon, Fentanyl, Adderall, Nembutal, Valium, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Suboxone, Buprenorphine, Mebarol, Diazepam, and Roxycontin ("Roxy" or "Roxycottin"). Since these pharmaceuticals are extremely powerful and addictive, they are heavily regulated and can be difficult to obtain legally. An illegal market has therefore developed for these prescriptive medicines and arrests are on the rise. If you are seeking an experienced prescription drug lawyer, the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall can assist you.
The New Jersey Criminal Code contains a specifically tailored law with respect to Obtaining Prescription Drugs by Fraud. In this regard, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-13 provides that:
It shall be unlawful for any person to acquire or obtain possession of a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge. It shall be unlawful for any person to acquire or obtain possession of a forged or fraudulent certificate of destruction required pursuant to N.J.S. 2C:35-21. A violation of this section shall be a crime of the third degree except that, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S. 2C:43-3, a fine of up to $50,000.00 may be imposed. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to preclude or limit a prosecution for theft as defined in chapter 20 of this title.
A criminal violation of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud is a Third Degree Crime. The elements of prescription fraud in New Jersey are: (1) the defendant acquired or obtained possession of the pharmaceuticals; and (2) the defendant used misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge to obtain the prescription drugs.
Individuals are encouraged to review our full page on Prescription Fraud for more detailed information or to contact our office so that your questions can be addressed by an experienced prescription fraud lawyer from our law office.
The New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers at our office are frequently consulted in Prescription Forgery cases involving alleged violations of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1. We should begin by pointing out that it is not unusual for an accused to be subject to both a New Jersey indictment charging Obtaining Prescription Drugs by Fraud (or Attempting to Obtain Prescription Drugs by Fraud) in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-13, and Forgery of a Prescription under N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1. It should be kept in mind, however, that since the elements necessary to obtain a conviction for Forgery are virtually identical to those necessary to conviction in NJ for Obtaining Prescriptions by Fraud, the two charges and indictments must typically merge into one count in the event of a plea or conviction. See State v. Felsen, 383 N.J.Super. 154 (App.Div.2006).
In either case, the Forgery statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1 provides, in pertinent part, that:
A person is guilty of forgery if, with purpose to defraud or injure anyone, or with knowledge that he is facilitating a fraud or injury to be perpetrated by anyone, the actor:
(2) Makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues or transfers any writing so that it purports to be the act of another who did not authorize that act or of a fictitious person, or to have been executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was in fact the case, or to be a copy of an original when no such original existed.
The law requires that the State prove the accused made, completed or executed a writing "so that it purports to be the act of another who did not authorize that act" and that it was "with [the] purpose to defraud or injure." N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1a. Forgery of New Jersey Prescription Blanks is a crime of the Third Degree.
New Jersey Prescription Drug Possession & Prescription Drug Distribution Law
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.5 generally outlaws the possession and/or distribution of "prescription legend drugs" other than by a licensed physician, dentist, veterinarian or pharmacist. "Prescription legend drugs" is a fancy name for prescription medicines or drugs and includes "any drug which under Federal or State law requires dispensing by prescription or order of a licensed physician, veterinarian or dentist". New Jersey's prescription drug law provides, in pertinent part, that:
a. A person who knowingly:
(1) distributes a prescription drug... in an amount of four or fewer dosage units... is a disorderly person;
(2) distributes for pecuniary gain or possesses or has under his control with intent to distribute for pecuniary gain a prescription drug... in an amount of four or fewer dosage units... guilty of a crime of the fourth degree;
(3) distributes or possesses or has under his control with intent to distribute a prescription drug... in an amount of at least five but fewer than 100 dosage units... is guilty of a crime of the third degree. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J. S.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $200,000 may be imposed; or
(4) distributes or possesses or has under his control with intent to distribute a prescription drug... in an amount of 100 or more dosage units is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $300,000 may be imposed.
Grading of Offense & Penalties for Possession or Distribution of Prescription Medication
A pharmaceutical drug offense can be very serious. In this regard, it is a Second Degree Crime for a person to distribute or possess or have under her control with intent to distribute a prescription drug in an amount of 100 or more dosage units. The maximum fine for this offense is $300,000 which is greater than the maximum fine for most second degree crimes. It is a Third Degree Crime for a person to distribute or possess or have under her control with intent to distribute a prescription drug in an amount of at least five but fewer than 100 or more dosage units. The maximum fine for this offense is $200,000 which is greater than the maximum fine for most third degree crime. It is a Fourth Degree Crime for a person to distribute for pecuniary gain or possess or have under her control with intent to distribute for pecuniary gain a prescription drug in an amount of four or fewer dosage units. Penalties can obviously get further involved where an individual already has a First Offense and is now dealing with a Second Offense or Third Offense.
Affirmative Defense: De Minimus Violations
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.5(a)(4) outlines the circumstances when an accused charged with a pharmaceutical drug violation is entitled to the de minimus offense defense. This defense is only available with respect to a complaint, charge or indictment for Third Degree Distribution of Prescription Drugs and is thus of no assistance to an individual accused of Second Degree Prescription Drug Distribution. The defense provides for dismissal of a Third Degree Indictment provided: (1) the conduct involved no more than six dosage units distributed within a 24 hour period; (2) the prescription drug was lawfully prescribed for or administered to that person by a licensed physician, veterinarian, dentist or other practitioner authorized by law to prescribe medication; and (3) the defendant intended for the amount he distributed to be solely for the recipient's personal use. A motion must be filed in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:2-11 for the defense to be asserted.
Material Elements of New Jersey Prescription Drug Distribution
The criminal offense of Distribution of Prescription Drugs in New Jersey includes the following elements which must be proved in order for a violation to be committed: (1) that the items in question were actually distributed or held with the intent to distribute; (2) that the prescription drugs were for pecuniary gain; (3) that the items were prescription drugs; and (4) that the prescription drugs distributed were in an amount required under the statute (i.e. 100 or more dosage units for a Second Degree Offense, between 5 and 99 dosage units for a Third Degree Offense, and 4 or less dosage units for a Fourth Degree Offense).
Illegal Possession of Prescription Drugs in New Jersey
The law of New Jersey prohibits the unlawful possession of prescription drugs and pharmaceutical medication without a valid prescription issued by licensed physician, dentist or veterinarian. N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.5(e)(2) provides that it is a Fourth Degree Crime to knowingly possess, actually or constructively, a prescription drug in an amount of five or more dosage units. It is a disorderly persons offense to knowingly possess, actually or constructively, a prescription drug in an amount of four or fewer dosage units.
A defense to all of these crimes, with the exception of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud or forgery, is that the drug or prescription was lawfully prescribed or administered by a licensed physician, veterinarian, dentist or other practitioner authorized by law to prescribe medication. The burden of proving the valid prescription is on the defendant. Obtaining the drug pursuant to a valid prescription is an affirmative defense. Under the Code the state has no burden to disprove an affirmative defense unless and until there is evidence supporting the defense. It is not an offense if the defendant is a licensed pharmacy, licensed pharmacist, researcher, wholesaler, distributor, manufacturer, warehouseman or his representative acting within the line and scope of his employment; a physician, veterinarian, dentist or other practitioner authorized by law to prescribe mediation; a nurse acting under the direction of a physician; or a common carrier or messenger when transporting such prescription legend drug or stramonium preparation in the same unbroken package in which the prescription legend drug or stramonium preparation was delivered to him for transportation.
Illegal Use of Prescription Drugs
It is a disorderly persons offense for a defendant to be under the influence of a prescription drug which was not lawfully prescribed. The State need not identify the specific prescription drug involved but must prove that the accused manifested symptoms caused by the illegal use of prescription drugs. It is again, however, an affirmative defense to this charge that the drug was lawfully prescribed or administered by a licensed physician, dentist or veterinarian.
The law in New Jersey governing possession of prescription drugs, distribution of prescription drugs, and prescription fraud and forgery, is somewhat complex and numerous defenses are potentially available when an individual is arrested, charged and indicted. If you or a loved one is in need of a criminal lawyer, the Law Offices of John F. Marshall can assist you. Our defense lawyers are knowledgeable in the law and our law firm is readily accessible from almost anywhere in New Jersey. We represent individuals statewide including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Hudson County, Morris County, Burlington County, Mercer County, Ocean County, and Essex County. Irrespective of whether you are dealing with a First Offense, Second Offense or even Third Offense, we know we can assist you. Please do not hesitate to contact our office as an attorney is prepared to answer all of your questions free of charge.
Prescription Drug Addiction Assistance: http://www.prescriptiondrugaddiction.com/
Prescription Drug Use and Abuse: www.fda.gov
Prescription Drug Rehab: http://www.prescription-drug-abuse.org/
Prescription Drug Information: http://www.rxlist.com/
Prescription Drug Fast Facts: www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drugs.htm
Prescription Drug Abuse and Youth: www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs1/1765
DEA Prescription Drug Stats and Facts: www.usdoj.gov/dea/statistics.html