Bowie and Crofton Defense Lawyer Handling Prescription Drug Crime Cases
Fighting for the rights of those accused of drug crimes for almost 40 years
Prescription drug abuse usually starts with a prescription for pain pills from the doctor after a surgery or an accident. Some people quickly become dependent on the drugs, and when their prescription runs out, they may resort to fraudulent means to get more. Getting addicted to prescription medications can be a painful, slippery slope – possessing just a single prescription drug without a prescription can result in serious criminal charges.
At Carey Law Office we defend all forms of drug offenses. If this is your first offense, we do what is necessary to diminish or dismiss the charges against you. If for whatever reason that is not an option, we work tirelessly towards getting your sentence reduced. We also offer a confidential consultation to discuss your case today.
Prescription drug abuse and fraud in Maryland
Powerful prescription pain killers contain controlled substances (such as opioids) that relieve painful symptoms, but patients can develop strong psychological and physical dependence on these drugs. Prior to the mid-1990s, the use of these pain-relieving drugs was strictly limited to cases of severe pain, such as in the treatment of cancer pain, because of how quickly some patients became dependent on the drugs, and began to abuse them. In more recent years, doctors made prescription opioids available to treat many other types of pain. The increasing availability of these highly addictive substances caused the epidemic of abuse of, and addiction to, prescription drugs so much of our country is fighting today.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S., and it has contributed to the epidemic of drug overdoses and deaths.
To combat this crisis, Maryland has passed very strict laws aimed at curbing opioid use. There are also very strict laws about prescribing controlled substances, and about obtaining prescriptions. Under the Maryland Criminal Code, a person may not:
(1) possess or administer to another a controlled dangerous substance, unless obtained directly or by prescription or order from an authorized provider acting in the course of professional practice; or
(2) obtain or attempt to obtain a controlled dangerous substance, or procure or attempt to procure the administration of a controlled dangerous substance by:
(i) fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or subterfuge;
(ii) the counterfeiting or alteration of a prescription or a written order;
(iii) the concealment of a material fact;
(iv) the use of a false name or address;
(v) falsely assuming the title of or representing to be a manufacturer, distributor, or authorized provider; or
(vi) making, issuing, or presenting a false or counterfeit prescription or written order.
In layman’s terms, the law says you cannot possess a prescription drug without a prescription, administer a prescription drug to another person unless that person has a prescription, or obtain (or attempt to obtain) a prescription drug in a fraudulent way. This can include lying about your need or about your current prescription, committing an act of fraud, writing a fake prescription, using someone else’s identity to obtain a prescription, etc.
Penalties associated with prescription drugs
While the current culture may be fixated on opioids, there are a number of other prescription medications that are associated with criminal activity. We represent clients who have been charged with crimes related to:
- Klonopin. Klonopin is an anti-anxiety and anti-seizure medication. It is also known as a date rape drug. Anyone found in possession of Klonopin without a prescription or in large amounts could face severe penalties.
- Xanax. Xanax is an anti-anxiety drug that can lead to blackouts. It can also be used as a date-rape drug, and there are reports of users committing crimes that they had no knowledge of committing.
- Valium. Another anti-anxiety medication, Valium has been used as a substitute for heroin or opioids. Like any other prescription drug, it can be lethal when taken in conjunction with alcohol.
- OxyContin. Oxy is the opioid that started it all. If you are found in possession of large quantities of OxyContin, or charged with selling or distributing Oxy, you can face prison time.
Law enforcement knows the difference between having prescription meds and selling them for profit. If your medication is in a pharmacy bottle with your name on it, that’s one thing – but if you’re carrying around loose pills without a copy of your prescription, you may be charged with possession, or attempt to distribute, or any number of drug crimes.
In addition, remember that having a prescription does not mean that it is acceptable or legal to take one of these medications and then get behind the wheel. If your medication affects your ability to drive, or if you cause a car accident while you are under the influence of drugs, you might face additional charges.
What are the possible penalties for possession of prescription drugs?
Prescription drug abuse and fraud may be punishable as a misdemeanor with a jail term of up to two years, and/or a fine up to $1,000.
The sale, distribution or trafficking of prescription drugs is a felony, with a possible jail sentence of up to five years in prison, a fine of $15,000, and participation in a drug treatment program. § 5-701
What is prescription drug fraud?
Prescription medications cannot be legally purchased or possessed without a valid prescription from an authorized medical professional. Prescription fraud is the illegal acquisition of prescription drugs for profit or for personal use. Prescription fraud has become a rampant problem because individuals who were initially given a prescription for pain medications often become addicted to those drugs and are willing to acquire them illegally, often out of sheer desperation. Visiting several doctors to get multiple prescriptions for the same medical condition, and forging prescriptions on stolen prescription pads are some of the ways prescription fraud occurs. (USLegal)
Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs include:
Examples of prescription opioids
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Roxicet)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
- Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Duragesic, Actiq, Fentora)
- Meperidine (Demerol, Merpergan)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
Fentanyl is fueling the opioid epidemic
In 2017, drug overdoses killed almost 72,000 Americans, with most of those deaths being a result of using prescription or illegal opioids, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The most dangerous of these opioids is fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Many of those overdoses and deaths were related to fentanyl because of the dangerously high overdose risk. Drug dealers began cutting heroin with fentanyl because it is less expensive than heroin. When people who became dependent on prescription painkillers turned to heroin after they could no longer access or afford the prescription medication, many suffered from overdoses if the heroin they ingested was laced with fentanyl.
NIDA also reports that Maryland is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths.
Special penalties for mixing fentanyl with heroin
Maryland law has specific penalties for drug crimes involving the distribution of fentanyl and fentanyl mixtures. MD Crim Law Code § 5-608.1 (2017): A person who distributes, possesses with intent to distribute, or dispenses a controlled substance with “a mixture that contains heroin and a detectable amount of fentanyl or any analogue* of fentanyl; or fentanyl or any analogue of fentanyl” may be subject to an additional 10 years imprisonment, which will be served consecutively (one after the other) as opposed to concurrently (at the same time) with any other sentence that might have been imposed.
*An “analogue” of fentanyl is a drug that is designed to mimic fentanyl’s effects, often in the hopes that the new drug will not be classified as illegal.
Do I need a lawyer if I am charged with a prescription drug crime?
Whether you became addicted to painkillers after a car accident injury and made some desperate, wrong choices to get your hands-on opioids, or you have been arrested with some pills that you do not have a valid prescription for, Carey Law Office is here to help. Facing criminal charges is a serious, potentially life-altering event that can fill anyone with anxiety and dread; working with the right lawyer can help ease your stress, and lessen your fears. We know what to do to get your charges dismissed or diminished as much as possible, but we cannot help you if you do not contact us.
Because of the war on drugs and the opioid epidemic, the state of Maryland and the federal government are cracking down on drug crime. If you find yourself unexpectedly facing prescription drug fraud charges, call an experienced Bowie drug crime attorney at Carey Law Office. We can get through this together.
Contact a skilled Bowie and Crofton drug crime attorney for help
Prescription drug fraud might seem like a minor offense, but you could face serious consequences if convicted. Don’t try to face drug crime charges alone – work with a skilled criminal defense attorney from Carey Law Office, who can fight for your rights. We have offices in Bowie and in Crofton, and we serve clients like you throughout Maryland. Please call 301-464-2500 or fill out the contact form to schedule a consultation right away.