Prescription drug overuse and addiction is a serious problem, and prescription drug fraud is aggressively prosecuted in North Carolina. You can be charged with this offense even if you do not use the prescription drugs. This can be a felony offense that could result in harsh penalties if you are convicted. However, you may be able to avoid these consequences by retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you mount a strong defense to the charges you face.
Prescription Drug Charge Offenses in North Carolina
Patients addicted to prescription drugs, physicians, healthcare facilities, healthcare companies, pharmacists, and others can be charged with prescription drug fraud crimes if the rules for using or prescribing these drugs are not followed. These medications are considered controlled substances in North Carolina.
Under North Carolina law, a prescription is defined as a written order for a controlled substance or for the preparation, combination, or mixture of it, which is issued by a physician who is licensed in our state to administer or prescribe drugs. It is illegal for a physician or pharmacist to give a person prescription drugs without a valid prescription or for a patient to have them in his possession if he does not have a prescription for their use.
There are two main criminal offenses a person can be charged with: illegal possession of prescription drugs and illegal possession of prescription drugs with the intent to sell, manufacture, distribute them. A person can be arrested for prescription drug fraud for doing the following:
- Posing as a physician when he was in fact not one
- Obtaining prescription drugs through fraud, forgery, or dishonesty
- Engaging in “doctor shopping” where the person seeks treatment from multiple doctors for the same symptoms for the purpose of obtaining many prescriptions for the controlled substance
- Getting a prescription drug through the use of a valid prescription if it was obtained by lying or withholding information
- Manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance through the use of a false or stolen registration number
- Obtaining a prescription drug through a person’s employment with the intent of using it personally or distributing it
Penalties for Illegal Possession of Prescription Drugs
As previously noted, prescription drugs are controlled substances and are classified as Schedule I-VI drugs, with a Schedule I drug considered the most serious to possess. North Carolina uses a complicated sentencing system that takes in a number of factors, such as the person’s prior criminal history, and there is a range of sentences that a judge may impose. Here are the range of sentences a person can face for each drug classification:
- Schedule I. Possession of a Schedule I drug is a Class I felony. The range of sentences is three to twelve months in prison.
- Schedule II, III, and IV. Being in possession of a Class II-IV controlled substance is usually charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor, but in limited situations can be a Class I felony crime. A person can be sentenced to between 1 and 120 days of punishment if convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- Schedule V Drugs. This offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor, and the possible punishment can be up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Schedule VI Drugs. Being in possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance is a Class 3 misdemeanor. The maximum sentence could be 30 days in jail and a $200 fine.
Penalties for Selling, Manufacturing, or Distributing Prescription Drugs
As with possession charges, the penalties for possessing prescription drugs with the intent of selling, manufacturing, or distributing them will depend on the classification of the medication and other factors. Here are possible sentences a person can face:
- Schedules I and II. The manufacture and distribution of Schedule I and II drugs are charged as a Class H felony, and the sale is a Class G felony. A person could be sentenced to up to 24 months in prison for a Class H felony conviction and up to 31 months in prison for a Class G felony.
- Schedules III-IV. Manufacturing or distributing drugs classified as Schedule III, IV, V, or VI is a Class I felony, and the sale of these substances is a Class H felony, with possible sentence ranges as listed above.
Let Us Defend You If You Face Prescription Drug Fraud Charges
If you have been charged with this offense, it is important to keep in mind that you may have strong defenses or other options even if you believe that you are guilty. For example, you may have made a legitimate mistake or there could be extenuating circumstances. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys are here to discuss your situation and mount a strong defense so that you achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more about our extensive criminal defense experience and how we can assist you, call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation today.