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When does possession of a prescription drug become a crime?

| Dec 25, 2020 | criminal defense |

Many people assume that, because they are doctor-approved, prescription medications are legal drugs. However, possession of any prescription drug without a valid, personal prescription is illegal. 

When that drug is a controlled substance, the penalties can be especially steep. Because of the high risk of abuse and dependency, many medications that treat conditions like acute or chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety or PTSD fall into the same category as illegal substances. 

That means that, without a valid prescription, opioid possession may fall into the same legal category as possession of cocaine or other Schedule II drugs. 

Possession alone may result in a third-degree felony conviction

Examples of prescription medications that are Schedule II controlled substances include the narcotics oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine and the stimulants amphetamine or methamphetamine. 

Possessing these substances without a legal prescription is a third-degree felony. Resulting penalties may include up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000. 

Certain factors may lead to a second or first-degree felony conviction

Even possessing significant quantities of a controlled substance, prescribed or not, may result in charges of trafficking or intent to sell. Charges may also be more severe if an individual attempts to obtain a prescription or prescription medications fraudulently, or if he or she distributes or sells the drug. 

Depending on the amount and type of medication involved, an individual may face either second or first-degree felony charges. Potential penalties may include mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, and a conviction may result in up to 30 years’ imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000. 

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