You require a medical prescription to obtain drugs for all illnesses. However, medical prescriptions have to be administered by authorized medical staff. It would help if you had a valid prescription in California to purchase medication from any pharmacy. Drug prescriptions are subject to stringent rules that consider drug abuse and addiction. Several laws are in place to guarantee that only persons with legitimate prescriptions can purchase medications. For example, without a valid prescription, it is unlawful to possess prescription medications. Additionally, getting medications is not permitted with a fake or changed prescription.
In Los Angeles, altering or fabricating a prescription is a severe violation that carries jail/prison terms and substantial fines. Your criminal background and the type of medicines you want to purchase with the fake prescription will determine how harsh your punishment will be. Speak with our skilled criminal attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney for legal guidance and assistance with your defense. Together, we can mount a tenacious defense to persuade the jury to drop or minimize your charges.
The Legal Definition of Forging and Altering a Prescription
Millions of people worldwide have been impacted by drug abuse and addiction, which are very severe issues. While some individuals abuse prescription medications, others are dependent on controlled narcotics. Given that prescription medications are easily accessible in hospitals and pharmacies, the fight against drug misuse is essential. As long as they have a prescription to hand, anyone can buy prescription drugs over the counter. The issue arises when someone falsifies or modifies a prescription to access medications they should not be buying in the first place.
California has very explicit rules against the use of restricted prescription medications. Some medications are safe, but if used in higher quantities or for more extended periods, they could have unfavorable effects on a person’s overall well-being. Some medicines are addictive and can impair a user's cognitive, emotional, mental, or physical abilities. Strict guidelines on how medical professionals must deliver these drugs to individuals who genuinely need them are in place. The legislation mandates that physicians only prescribe these medications when they are required. Medics also need to manage the total amount of medication a patient takes in a specific time frame. Patients who occasionally need certain medications must have a prescription to obtain them from a pharmacy.
Sadly, not everyone abides by the law. Some people will change an already-written prescription to obtain more or different medications than their doctor advises. Some people will falsify a prescription to get drugs that are not supposed to be used. You risk receiving a criminal conviction if you are guilty of the two acts.
California classifies altering or falsifying a medical prescription as a white-collar offense. It denotes a non-violent crime undertaken for personal benefit. The crime can be committed either by an individual or a business. White-collar offenses are governed by both federal and state legislation in California. A violation of California Business & Professions Code Section 4324 occurs when a medical prescription is falsified or altered. You can accomplish it in several ways, for example, by falsifying the signature on a prescription or altering a legitimate prescription. Attempting to pass off a fake prescription as a real one could also result in prosecution. Examples of behaviors that could result in charges under this statute include the following:
- Presenting or attempting to present a doctor's prescription that has been changed or forged
- False statements made to a doctor or pharmacist to obtain medications unlawfully
- Obtaining, attempting to obtain, or utilizing a prescription drug intended for someone else.
- Signing a false prescription with a doctor's signature
The Offense Elements
It takes more than one or a few actions to falsify or change a prescription. If you have utilized one or more strategies to obtain drugs without a legal prescription, it can be challenging to comprehend that you are facing charges under this legislation. The prosecution is legally required to show each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt when you are charged in a criminal court. The only other option is for the court to find you guilty.
The facts that make up a particular offense are considered its elements. You can better understand the crime and its legal ramifications by understanding the components of your offense. To sustain a guilty conviction, your acts must satisfy the specific requirements of the offense set out in this statute. The following elements constitute falsifying or changing a medical prescription as defined by California BPC 4324:
- That you had a prescription in your possession.
- The prescription you had was altered or forged.
- You used or attempted to use the prescription while knowing or having a good faith belief that it was fake, or
- To obtain prescription medications, you submitted fake information.
To further comprehend the offense, let us go through each of these components in more detail:
A Medical Prescription
The focus of California BPC 4324 is prescription drugs. A prescription is a direction or order used while administering medicine or medications. Medical professionals can provide written prescriptions for drugs or give you instructions over the phone or through text messages. Medical prescriptions must include the patient's name, the name of the medication being prescribed, the precise dosage the patient must take, instructions on how to take the medication, the date of issuance, the names and contact information of the prescribing physician, and the physician's signature.
Under the California Controlled Substances Act, medical prescriptions for controlled drugs in categories II to IV typically last six months from the written date. Modifying a medical prescription's content in any manner is against the law. Writing a prescription when you are not allowed to do so is likewise illegal.
Altering a Medical Prescription
You alter a medical prescription when you change its contents after it has been written and issued. You can accomplish this by altering the date, the recommended dosage, or even the patient's name. For example, after finishing the dosage your doctor previously prescribed, you can choose to alter the date on a previous prescription to the current date to receive other medications without having to revisit your doctor. No matter why you changed the prescription, doing so is against the law and could lead to criminal prosecution.
According to this law, modifying a legitimate medical prescription is unlawful. The dosage specifies how a patient should take the medication to receive the intended benefits. For example, if you are only required to take one tablet daily and you increase the dosage on your prescription to two or more, you will have violated a legitimate prescription and will be vulnerable to criminal prosecution.
For various reasons, some people alter the drug's name on a valid prescription. According to this law, doing so is deemed changing a legitimate prescription.
Forging a Medical Prescription
Writing a fraudulent medical prescription, and using or attempting to use it as an accurate prescription, is forging. You could fake an official document by having a particular medical professional sign their name without their permission, implying that they wrote the prescription.
Example: Allan has been dependent on specific painkillers ever since he was healing from an accident. His doctor has repeatedly advised him not to use more medications after fully recovering. Allan has tried unsuccessfully to get his doctor to write him another prescription. In a desperate attempt to obtain the medications from the nearby pharmacy, Allan copies his doctor's signature from one of his older prescriptions and forges it onto a new one.
In this instance, Allan wrote the bogus prescription himself and even faked his doctor's signature. He could be charged with a crime under BPC 4324 for using or attempting to use the prescription.
Uttering a Falsified Medical Prescription
Keep in mind that you can violate the same law if you give a pharmacist phony medical information to obtain prescription drugs unlawfully. You violate a fraudulent medical prescription by using words and actions to convey an actual necessity for specific medications. Additionally, obtaining medicinal medications by passing a phony prescription off as a real one using words or actions is illegal.
- Lying to a pharmacist about a doctor's approval to purchase a specific controlled medication.
- Walking into a pharmacy with a forged prescription while claiming to have received it from a particular physician.
Understanding What Drugs Are
Legally, substances that have the potential to interfere with your body's normal functions are referred to as drugs. There are many different forms of drugs in California. Some drugs require a prescription from a doctor, but you can get others even without one. The sort of drug you obtained or attempted to obtain and its effects on your body after consumption will determine how severe your charges will be under this legislation. Additionally, the law applies only to medications that require a prescription to obtain, whether they are for human and animal consumption.
The California Controlled Substances Act applies to these substances. The law governs the use, sale, and possession of restricted substances. Controlled substances interfere with how your body functions typically, necessitating government oversight. California's controlled drug laws divide these substances into five primary categories. Schedule I drugs do not contain any medicinal value. They are highly addictive and prone to abuse.
Some drugs under Schedule II have medicinal value. But these drugs are most likely to be abused and develop an addiction. They include narcotics and morphine, as well as several prescription medications like painkillers. Nevertheless, drugs on schedule III are regarded as having medical value even though they have a high potential for addiction and abuse. Steroids and antidepressants are two examples.
Drugs in schedules IV and V have the lowest potential for addiction and misuse, but they can still be harmful if misused. Examples of this include some cough syrups.
Legal Defense Strategies Against Charges for Forging or Altering a Medical Prescription
You must fight your allegations to prevent a guilty verdict for forging or modifying a prescription. That would be easy if you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer helping you with the defense. Fortunately, your lawyer has several legal defense options to convince the court to drop or reduce your charges. For a better result, an expert attorney can prepare a strong defense against your allegations. Some of the most effective tactics they can employ in your circumstance are:
You Have an Addiction
You can use this defense tactic if you are dependent on prescription medication to persuade the judge to impose a lesser sentence if you are found guilty. However, you need a doctor's confirmation that you truly depend on the drug in question. You must also show that you are willing to receive therapy and drug treatment to overcome your addiction.
The court can impose probation if the jury finds it in your favor. But you will have to finish a group or individual counseling program and undergo mandatory drug treatment while on probation. To ensure you take the necessary measures to break free from the addiction, you must also consent to random searches and seizures. If you break any probationary requirements, you will be rearrested and punished to the total penalties specified by the law for your specific offense.
You Are Authorized to Prescribe
Prescriptions can be written and given to deserving individuals by licensed medical professionals without breaching the law. According to BPC 4324, you are not guilty if you have this authorization. However, it is uncommon for medical professionals to have a license to dispense and write prescriptions. Their work descriptions include it. You must prove in court that you are authorized to write patient prescriptions based on your work duties. You can also modify a previous prescription, depending on the situation.
You Were Coerced to Confess
Most white-crime offenders do not leave any evidence of their actions behind. For the police, it becomes difficult to carry out fruitful investigations and arrests. Police are occasionally required to employ a variety of tactics to gather evidence. For example, they could go undercover to investigate a crime or obtain a confession. But the police can also resort to the use of force, hostility, violence, and intimidation. By law, the police are prohibited from obtaining evidence by unethical tactics. Therefore, any evidence obtained through coercion will be inadmissible in court if you can demonstrate that the police forced you to confess to the crime. The prosecutor will then be left without enough evidence to secure a guilty conviction.
You Face False Accusations
It is common for one person to accuse another of a crime they did not commit. For a variety of motives, including retaliation, jealousy, or to gain an unfair advantage over them, people make false allegations against other people. If you are falsely accused, your lawyer can assist in gathering strong proof that you are being used as a scapegoat. Additionally, your attorney can offer evidence that could undermine the prosecution's case. The judge will acquit you if the prosecution cannot prove all the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your Attorney Can File a Motion to Suppress the Evidence
An experienced criminal defense lawyer could also utilize this tactic to refute the accusations against their client. If the prosecution has strong evidence against you, your attorney can file a petition to suppress some or all of the evidence to persuade the judge to drop or downgrade the charges against you.
For example, your lawyer could mention that you were the subject of an unlawful search and seizure. It is legal for the police to undertake searches and seizures to gather proof against suspects. But to achieve that, they require a legitimate search warrant. Officers can search your person or property with a lawful warrant. The warrant also indicates to them where their search should start and end. The search and seizure would be against the law without a warrant. Additionally, it is unlawful to conduct a search exceeding a proper warrant's parameters. In California, evidence gathered by unauthorized search and seizure is typically excluded from testimony.
The prosecutor will oppose the motion to compel the jury to accept all evidence acquired against you. The judge, however, typically has the last decision regarding what evidence is permitted or excluded from court. The judge could throw out all evidence obtained unlawfully, or they could throw out specific evidence and admit the rest. If there is not enough evidence left to convict you, the judge will find you innocent of all accusations.
If you were not aware that you were not allowed to write prescriptions, your counsel could also submit a motion to suppress the evidence. Keep in mind that not all medical professionals have the authority to write prescriptions. You are not guilty of modifying or falsifying a prescription if you just assumed that you had the authorization to do so.
Penalties for a Conviction Under California BPC 4324
In California, it is illegal to forge or modify a medical prescription. According to the specifics of the case and your criminal background, the prosecutor can charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When charging first-time offenders, prosecutors typically take a more liberal approach. So, if it is your first time committing the same or any crime, you could face charges for a misdemeanor. The prosecution will also consider the type of drug you want to purchase using the fake or changed prescription. How much harm, if any, can the medicine cause?
Your intentions also have an impact on the prosecutor's choice. What you intended to use the substance for will be taken into account by the prosecutor. Was it for your personal use because you are struggling with an addiction, or was it for an illegal transaction? Most of the time, getting a controlled substance for sale is extremely severe and can lead to felony charges. Whatever the nature of your charges, you need strong legal counsel. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer will know the best methods to employ in your case to secure a favorable result.
If you are guilty of a misdemeanor for forging or changing a prescription, you could be subject to the following punishments:
- A maximum of one year in jail, or
- Misdemeanor or summary probation
- Court fines not exceeding $1000
A felony conviction for the same offense is punishable by:
- Court fines of up to $10,000
- 16 months, two or three years in prison, or
- Felony or formal probation
If the judge sentences you to probation, you will serve all or a portion of your sentence without imprisonment. After a conviction, you can live with your family, work, and earn a living. While felony probation can last up to five years, misdemeanor probation is only suitable for three years. However, the court will lay forth several probationary requirements for you to follow during the probationary period. For this offense, some of the most typical probation requirements are:
- If you are on probation for a misdemeanor, you must submit regular progress reports to the court or your probation officer (if on felony probation). These reports enable the court to assess your performance while on probation.
- While on probation, you cannot commit any other crimes.
- For the duration specified by the judge, you must receive drug treatment and individual or group counseling.
- Throughout the probationary term, you must consent to random drug testing and searches and seizures of your person and property.
- Completion of community service is required.
Find a Skilled Criminal Defense attorney Near Me
Do you or a loved one in Los Angeles face prosecution for falsifying or changing a medical prescription?
Understanding the legal implications of your charges and potential punishments can help you prepare your defense. Additionally, you must retain the best criminal defense lawyer to battle for you until the judge resolves your case fairly. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we help our clients navigate the entire legal procedure to make it less complex. We also provide quality advice and assistance to ensure you are ready for the trial and beyond. To learn more about our services and your options, call us at 424-333-0943.