June 19, 2015
In Florida the unlawful use of prescription drugs is punished severely, but some prescription drugs are both easily available and highly addictive. Patients who legally take prescription medications may find themselves hooked by the time their prescriptions run out, and may turn to illegal means to obtain more of the medication.
In Florida those involved with prescription fraud may be charged with any of several possible offenses, including charges dealing with possession, forgery, and doctor shopping.
Florida law prohibits the purchase or receipt of prescription drug from someone who is not authorized to distribute such substances. It is also illegal to sell or transfer a prescription drug to a person who does not have a valid prescription. Both patients and pharmacists may be charged with crimes if they engage in prescription fraud.
Obtaining a prescription controlled substance by fraud is a third-degree felony in Florida. It is illegal to obtain or to try to obtain a prescription drug by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge.
The illegal possession of prescription drugs is also prohibited. It is unlawful to be in possession of a controlled substance without a valid prescription. Illegal possession is a third degree felony. But if the offender is in possession of sufficient quantities of drugs, it turns into a trafficking offense, which is more serious. Trafficking is a first-degree felony in Florida.
Furthermore, it is unlawful to illegally possess a prescription form. This means that a person may not possess a prescription form unless it has been properly completed and signed by a doctor. For first offenses, this is a first-degree misdemeanor, but for subsequent offenses, it is a third-degree felony.
Doctor shopping may be committed in two ways. First, it is unlawful to get a prescription and withhold the fact that the patient has received a similar prescription within the past thirty days. Second, it is unlawful to use fraud or deception to try to obtain an unnecessary prescription or a prescription in an amount greater than needed.
Types of Fraud
Ways to commit fraud in a prescription drug case may include:
- Forging the prescription
- Altering an existing, valid prescription, to increase the quantity or the refills, change the drug prescribed, or add a second drug
- Calling in a prescription, meaning to impersonate a doctor or healthcare worker and phone the pharmacy to inform them of a prescription
- Stealing blank prescription pads
- Doctor shopping, meaning getting prescriptions from multiple physicians for the same symptoms
- Multiple fillings, or using one prescription, but filling it multiple times
- Using unregulated online pharmacies. Such pharmacies may not require that a licensed doctor review symptoms and make a prescription, may never verify prescriptions, or may even employ fake doctors to write prescriptions and boost sales
Both pharmacists and patients must be alert to the issues of prescription fraud in order to avoid committing criminal offenses. If you have been arrested for or charged with a prescription drug offense, please contact the experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.