Prescription drug abuse is a rising problem in the United States. Many people have a medical need for their prescriptions, but this also makes them easy to obtain. These drugs can lead to addiction, abuse, or crime – even if legally possessed. In 2011, the CDC conducted a study that showed deaths resulting from prescription drugs are increasing. Across the country, 40 deaths per day can be attributed to prescription drugs. Shockingly, that’s more than heroin and cocaine combined.
Arizona’s legal and health systems are taking steps to reduce prescription drug abuse. This includes cracking down on unlawful use. In Arizona, it is illegal to wrongfully use or possess prescription-only drugs. The only legal use of prescription drugs involves following the directions on medication obtained through proper channels. If a prescription has your name on it, you may use it according to its specifications only; even sharing the medication with a family member is against Arizona law.
Selling or possessing a prescription drug with the intention to sell is illegal. Possessing the equipment or chemicals to manufacture prescription drugs, manufacturing prescription drugs, administering prescription drugs to another, misrepresenting one’s self to obtain prescription drugs, or transporting prescription drugs for sale are all crimes under Arizona law.
However, the ease of accessing prescription drugs and their medical necessity means penalties for prescription drug-related crime are different than for recreational illicit materials. Marijuana, narcotics, and dangerous drugs all have threshold amounts set by Arizona law. Possessing any quantity above these limits indicates an intent to sell. Because different people are prescribed different amounts of prescription drugs, threshold amounts cannot be used in judging these cases. The legal system uses other factors to assess intent to sell. Without a Phoenix prescription drug defense attorney with experience in these types of cases, you may find yourself at a significant disadvantage in building your defense.
Some substances are legal only when obtained through proper channels. Arizona has strict laws regarding the possession of prescription drugs. Only a doctor is permitted to distribute these drugs, and only a person who has received these drugs from a doctor is permitted to possess or use them.
It is against the law in Arizona to knowingly use or possess a prescription drug that isn’t prescribed to you by a licensed doctor. Similarly, it is illegal to possess a prescription-only drug for sale without a proper license. Manufacturing or possessing the chemicals and materials to manufacture prescription-only drugs without authorization is a crime, and it is also illegal to administer a prescription drug to another or transport a prescription drug for sale, without proper permits. Misrepresenting oneself for the purpose of obtaining a prescription is a crime.
Illegal possession of prescription-only drugs is not as serious as possession of narcotics or drugs the state of Arizona has classified as dangerous. However, there are still significant penalties. Illegally possessing prescription-only drugs or the equipment and chemicals to manufacture them, manufacturing them, lying to obtain them, or administering them to another person are class 1 misdemeanors. The maximum prison sentence for a class 1 misdemeanor is 6 months.
Possessing prescription-only drugs for sale or transporting them for sale are more serious crimes. A person guilty of either of those offenses is guilty of a class 6 felony. The minimum prison sentence for a class 6 felony is 6 months.
Being guilty of any of these offenses guarantees a fine of $1,000. While prison sentences for these crimes vary, the fine does not.
Possessing prescription drugs illegally can also bring federal charges; those accused of transporting prescription drugs across state lines are accused of a felony.
In addition to transportation, possession with the intent to sell brings advanced consequences. Most illegal drugs in the state of Arizona have threshold amounts; the quantity of a drug a person can have deemed for personal use. Going above the threshold amount means an accused party is assumed to have the intent to sell. Regardless of the person’s actual purpose, he or she will face more serious charges. Narcotics, marijuana, and dangerous drugs all have specific threshold amount, but prescription drugs are judged differently.
Because different amounts are prescribed depending on a patient’s case, intent to sell must be examined from a different perspective. Abuse of prescription drugs is one of the most common drug offenses, and to fairly determine punishment, the court must look at medical history, criminal history, the nature of the drug, and more. Despite these considerations, it’s important to know even taking a family member’s prescription drugs is a crime. If caught, you can face legal consequences.
For first-time offenders, prison time as a result of possessing prescription-only drugs with no intent to sell is not the most common penalty. Fines, probation, community service, and drug addiction treatment programs tend to be the route most Arizona courts take.
Those accused are often required to submit drug tests if going through probation. Repeat offenders and people who possess prescription drugs with intention to sell can expect to face more serious penalties. The typical penalty for transporting or possessing prescription drugs is 240 hours of community service, on top of a $1,000 fine.
The widespread problem of prescription drug abuse and crime has lead the Arizona legal system to implement punishments other than prison. Repeat offenders guilty of selling and manufacturing can expect prison time. Sellers and manufacturers arrested for the first-time are typically given probation, and must perform at least 240 hours of community service. Victims of addiction are more likely to be put on probation and legally mandated to seek substance abuse health services than to be given prison time. Submitting to mandatory drug testing is also a common measure.
Regardless of the legal consequences, a person accused of prescription drug crimes needs legal representation. If you have been indicted for any prescription drug crimes – including possession, contact the Stewart Law Group today and speak with Attorney Scott Stewart, an experienced Phoenix prescription drug attorney.