For decades, the United States has experienced an epidemic in prescription drug abuse. While opioid medication has been used to treat moderate to severe pain, they have nearly the same chemical makeup as heroin, causing patients to become addicted and eventually overdose.
Florida is not immune to this national crisis. In fact, the state has experienced a drastic increase in the number of opioid-related deaths. According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), there were 2,798 fatalities due to overdose in 2016, which is a rate of 14.4 deaths per 100,000 persons.
Since prescription drug and heroin abuse is a serious issue, Florida lawmakers have created laws which carry severe penalties upon conviction.
Prescription Drug Crimes & Penalties in Florida
Both the federal Controlled Substance Act and the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act separate narcotics into five “schedules.” Schedule I controlled substances have the highest potential for abuse and doesn’t have any current and accepted medical use, while Schedule V drugs have a currently accepted medical use and a low potential for abuse.
Most prescription drugs are Schedule II controlled substances. Common examples include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, methadone, and morphine.
If you are arrested for unlawful possession of a prescription drug, you will be facing a third-degree felony which results in a prison term of five years and a maximum $5,000 fine. However, if you unlawfully possess a certain amount of prescribed medication, you could be charged with possession with intent to sell.
Unlawful possession of a Schedule II, III, or IV controlled substance with intent to sell is either a second- or third-degree felony. A second-degree felony is punishable by a maximum 15-year prison term and a fine of up to $10,000.
If you are found with an even larger amount of controlled substances, you could be charged with trafficking. For instance, 14 grams or more of a Schedule II drug is a first-degree felony, which results in a maximum 30-year prison sentence and a fine no larger than $50,000.
Another common prescription drug crime is fraud. This occurs when a person illegally obtains a prescription through fraudulent means or when a health care provider prescribes medication to those who don’t necessarily need it.
Common examples of prescription drug fraud include forging a doctor’s signature to obtain a prescription, providing false information to obtain a prescription, impersonating a medical professional, or going from one doctor to another—without their knowledge—to obtain the same prescription at different times.
If you have been charged with a prescription drug crime in Florida, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. can protect your rights and future. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation.