Possession of Prescription Drugs
Under the Pennsylvania Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetic Act, 35 P.S. §§ 780-101 to 780-144 defines the charges for illegal possession of prescription drugs. In most cases, prescription drug charges are a result of being illegally in possession of drugs that could be used for legitimate reasons such as easing of pain, treating ADHD or treating anxiety.
Some of the more common drugs that may fall into this category include:
- Hydrocodone drugs such as Vicodin
- Oxymorphone drugs such as Oxycontin
- Drugs containing codeine
- All forms of morphine
- Forms of alprazolam such as Xanax
- The class of drugs known as meperidine such as Demerol
- Amphetamines such as Adderall
What Constitutes Illegal Possession
While many people have legitimate prescriptions for many of these drugs, the law specifically states that to lodge charges, the prosecutor must be able to prove that you obtained the prescription through misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge. Some of the common ways this is done is by stealing prescription pads, forging prescriptions and posing as a physician or physician’s office to fill prescriptions at pharmacies.
In addition to possession charges, you could also be facing distribution or trafficking charges as an enhancement based on certain factors including:
- How much of the drug you had in your possession
- How the drug was packaged at the time of your arrest
- Where you were arrested (location)
- Your behavior during the arrest
Keep in mind, the prosecutor would not have to catch you in the act of selling drugs to file these charges against you; they may be able to charge you with distribution based entirely on these factors. In most cases, distribution charges are far more onerous than possession charges.
Are You Facing Felony or Misdemeanor Charges?
In most cases, you will be charged with a misdemeanor unless there are enhancements such as distribution to a minor. However, it is also important to remember that in some cases, you could also face federal charges if you are in possession of large quantities of prescription drugs illegally. Fines for possession of prescription drugs are often harsh, with a first time conviction resulting in fines of up to $5,000. There may also be federal charges as a result of illegally obtaining prescription drugs.
What Else You Need to Know
Up until recently, many drug crimes were subject to minimum jail sentences. However, a recent court ruling may have changed the prosecutor’s ability to take advantage of minimum sentencing under Pennsylvania’s drug laws. This does not mean you will not face jail time; in large part this will depend on the severity of the charges you are facing and any enhancements you could be facing. Some of the more common enhancements including possession with intent to distribute, distribution to a minor and using computers to telephone services to facilitate distribution or to obtain the drugs.
While those who are convicted of drug charges in Pennsylvania do not forfeit their rights to vote, they do lose the right to carry a firearm. Under the law, anyone convicted of any charges under the Pennsylvania Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetic Act is prohibited from owning a firearm. In addition, you will be faced with a life-long criminal record unless you are eligible to have your record expunged.
The cost of being arrested and convicted on a prescription drug charge can be steep; in addition to the potential of losing your freedom, you could be ordered to a drug rehabilitation facility and you may also face challenges finding work or even housing after your arrest. The fines for possession are also very steep and may be even higher if you are also found in possession of drug paraphernalia.
Any kind of drug charges should be taken seriously and illegal prescription drug possession charges are no exception. You will need to work with an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney who understands Pennsylvania’s drug laws and will fight hard to have the charges against you reduced or eliminated completely. An addiction to a drug that was prescribed to you for legitimate medical problems should not lead to a criminal record that will dog you for the rest of your life. Our criminal defense attorneys will work aggressively with the prosecutor and will present to them any mitigating factors that could result in the charges against you being reduced or eliminated. Contact our firm today for a free discussion of your case and legal options.