If you or someone you love is facing drug charges related to prescription medications, you may be confused about the line between legal and illegal prescription medication. Often, we think of “legal” and “illegal” drugs, but prescription drugs that aren’t prescribed legally are also illegal. We imagine a sketchy guy standing on a street corner selling baggies of pills. But illegal prescription drug charges encompass a lot more than simple possession or distribution, from medical professionals writing illegal prescriptions to organized theft of controlled substances from pharmacies or doctors' offices.
A Texas doctor recently faced charges for criminally prescribing more than 1.3 million doses of opioids. The U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted him, stating he “conspired to and did unlawfully prescribe controlled substances from 2014 through February 2016 for patients” at a Houston medical clinic. He now awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and four counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances. He could face up to 20 years for each count.
In Southwest Houston, a camera caught four armed men stealing prescription medications from a pharmacy. The group of men walked into the store in broad daylight, brandished guns, ordered employees to the ground, and made off with a garbage bag full of prescription medication.
Common Prescription Drug Charges
In addition to stealing prescription medications or illegally prescribing them, some other common prescription drug charges include possessing and distributing illegal prescription drugs.
1. Possession of Illegal Prescription Drugs
Police can charge anyone in possession, custody, care, or control of a controlled substance or dangerous drug without authorization with possessing an illegal drug. “Illegal drugs” include prescription drugs that aren't legally prescribed. Penalties can range from a Class A misdemeanor for small amounts of dangerous drugs like Xanax or Valium to a felony depending on the amount of the drug at issue and its schedule under the law.
2. Distribution of Illegal Prescriptions Drugs
Distributing or selling a controlled substance is a felony in Texas. Distribution doesn't just apply to selling prescription drugs illegally. Sharing a prescription drug prescribed to you legally may also be considered illegal distribution. Even giving a friend one of your sedatives could be a crime. Penalties for distributing or selling illegal prescription drugs vary by the schedule of the drug and the amount. Even distribution of small amounts of prescription drugs is a state jail felony, and penalties can range from 180 days in jail to 99 years in prison for a first-degree felony.
3. Prescription Drug Fraud
Prescription drug fraud involves obtaining or trying to obtain prescription drugs unlawfully. Drug fraud could include doctor shopping, impersonating medical personnel, and forging or altering prescriptions. Prescription drug fraud ranges from a Class A misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, depending on the schedule of the drug. Penalties include up to twenty years in prison for a second-degree felony.
You Need an Expert in Texas Criminal Defense
If you're facing a drug charge in Texas, this isn't something you should try to handle on your own. Many Texas prescription drug charges can result in a felony conviction, which can seriously impact the rest of your life. Attorney Doug Murphy is a noted expert in Texas criminal defense law. Doug is one of only two attorneys in Texas Board Certified in both Criminal Defense and DWI Defense. Best Lawyers in America also recently named Doug a “Lawyer of the Year” for Houston DWI defense.
Over the years, Doug and his team have represented thousands of defendants in federal and state court, including complex drug cases. They can help you too. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at 713-229-8333. Or contact them online to set up your consultation with an expert in criminal defense law.