What is a “Prescription-Only” Drug?
Under A.R.S. § 13-3401, a prescription-only drug is defined as a drug which is not a narcotic drug or a dangerous drug, and which is:
- Not recognized by experts as being safe unless it is used under the supervision of a medical practitioner. The lack of safety could relate to toxic characteristics of a drug, harmful effects, or the method of use;
- A drug which under federal law is limited under a new drug application for use under the supervision of a medical practitioner;
- Any “potentially harmful drug,” which is not adequately labeled for consumer use; or
- Any drug which, under federal law, must bear a label indicating that dispensing the drug without a prescription is prohibited.
Having defined the term, it is still difficult in some cases to determine the difference between a prescription-only drug, on the one hand, and a narcotic drug or a dangerous drug, on the other. And classification under one or another of these definitions will affect the potential consequences in the event of a conviction. This is another area where your choice of the right Phoenix drug crimes attorney can make a major difference in the outcome of your case.
Possession, Use and Other Prescription Drug Charges
Possession or use of prescription drugs is treated relatively more leniently under Arizona law than possession of many other drugs. For example, possession or use of a narcotic drug is a class 4 felony. Possession or use of a prescription-only drug is a class 1 misdemeanor. Possession for sale of a narcotic drug is a class 2 felony. Possession for sale of a prescription-only drug is a class 6 felony. These distinctions are significant, and can make a world of difference in the penalties you may face in your case.
In addition to possession and use, there are numerous other crimes commonly charged in prescription drug cases. They include not only the illegal sale of prescription drugs, which is a class 6 felony, but also a number of potential charges related to the manner in which you are alleged to have obtained the drugs. These charges may include, among others, the following:
- Forging a prescription;
- Using false identification to have a prescription filled;
- Altering an otherwise valid prescription;
- Attempting to fill the same prescription more than once, usually at different pharmacies;
- “Doctor shopping,” that is, concealing from one medical professional the fact that you have been prescribed a particular medication by one or more doctors.
The primary law that is used in the prosecution of many of these cases is A.R.S. § 13-3406.A6. That section provides that it is a crime (a class 1 misdemeanor) to obtain (or to procure administration of) a prescription drug by means of fraudulent conduct. This general language can be used by the prosecution in a variety of circumstances to attempt to gain a conviction.
Although any prescription drug can form the basis for a criminal prosecution, many of these cases involve a relatively small group of drugs, including, among a number of others, oxycodone (found in Percocet and also known as OxyContin); hydrocodone (found in Vicodin); barbiturates; benzodiazepines (e.g., Ativan, Xanax, Valium, Librium); sleep medications (Ativan and others); codeine; morphine; Fentanyl; and amphetamines.
While the penalties for prescription drug crimes are lighter than for some of the other illegal drugs, this does not mean that law enforcement agencies will hesitate to prosecute these offenses. In fact, the level of prosecutions is vigorous, and has steadily increased over the years.
If you are one of the many people who have been charged with a prescription drug crime, you may have a valid defense to the allegations that have been asserted against you. They may relate to the prescription in question, to how the police obtained the evidence they say will prove you are guilty, or to some other aspect of the case. Whatever charge you are facing, you may be one of the many people who has become a victim of prescription drugs, that is, a person who has become addicted over time to the use of drugs that initially were prescribed lawfully and taken by you as directed by your doctor. Over time, dependency takes over, and when the prescriptions are no longer available, you have no real choice other than to obtain the drugs using alternative means.
Factors such as these can go a long way to mitigate the judicial consequences of an offense. Moreover, there are alternative sentencing options in Arizona that may be available to you. They include diversion, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, drug court, community service, and others. The important thing to recognize is that with the right lawyer, jail or prison is not necessarily the only possible result in your case.
At Feldman & Royle, we understand how drugs can affect your life, and how drug dependence can alter your behavior. We also know how to analyze a case and develop a strategy that will provide you with the best chance of a dismissal, a reduction in the charges against you, or the minimization of any penalty that may be imposed. Don’t leave your future to chance. Mr. Royle is only a phone call away.
Call Feldman & Royle today at 480-626-8288 for a free, confidential consultation.