When you think about drug crimes in the United States, you often associate them with illegal street drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. Due to the national opioid crisis, however, many drug charges are being brought against people for using or possessing prescribed medication without a valid prescription.
In Pennsylvania, illegal use, possession, and distribution of prescription drugs can result in harsh criminal penalties. In some cases, the consequences of possession of a prescribed drug can be as serious as cocaine or heroin possession.
One of the most common ways of obtaining prescription drugs is by buying them from someone else. On the other hand, many people who are battling addiction get such medications through fraud or deception.
Common acts of fraud to gain prescription drugs include:
- Forging a doctor’s signature
- Stealing a prescription pad and using it to prescribe medicine
- Using technology to create a fake prescription
- Going to multiple doctors and obtaining a prescription from each (known as “doctor shopping”)
Simple possession of prescribed drugs without a valid prescription is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a no more than $5,000, and at least six months of driver’s license revocation. A second offense carries a prison term of up to two years and higher fines, while a third offense can lead to a maximum three-year sentence and a fine worth up to $25,000.
However, giving a pill to someone else can result in being charged with possession with intent to deliver or distribute. This drug crime is a felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and a fine not exceeding $250,000.
Although prescription drug crimes carry severe penalties, the court understands that many people facing such charges are dealing with substance abuse and need medical and therapeutic treatment to overcome addiction. Instead of taking these individuals to court and sentencing them to prison, they are offered entry in several drug diversion programs that are designed to rehabilitate, rather than punish.
At the Law Offices of William D. Thompson, our goal is to help you avoid conviction and get our clients the help they need to get their lives back on track. If you or a loved one has been arrested for unlawful possession of prescription medication in Scranton or Lackawanna County, contact us today at (570) 666-1068 and request a free consultation.