Health and Safety Code 11368 HS and Business and Profession Code 4324 make it an offense to change, alter, or forge a prescription. The law only permits authorized medical professionals to prescribe many medications and drugs. In California, strict regulations govern prescription drugs.
The laws focus on combating drug addiction, veterinarian abuse, and prescription drug abuse. When you modify, alter, change, or produce a prescription and apply it to obtain drugs, you violate BP 4324 and HS 11368. The penalties for committing the offense are severe. So, you must work closely with a criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the legal process.
At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we are experienced in defending against white-collar crimes, including altering or forging a prescription. We strive to offer our clients reliable legal guidance and representation. We are result-oriented to preserve the best interests of our clients. You can call us anytime you require our help, and we will help you obtain the best possible outcomes in your case.
Understanding Business and Profession Code 4324: Altering or Forging a Prescription In California
California BP 4324 outlines the offense of forging or altering a prescription. You will better understand the offense if you comprehend altering and forging. Understanding the elements of the crime is crucial because you will have the foundation to build a defense plan to combat the allegations. The prosecutor examines the crime's aspects throughout the trial and uses them to establish your guilt for committing the crime.
Your defense lawyer will confirm that your actions do not meet these criteria and will have the prosecutor's evidence thrown out. If you face a conviction for violating the law, you want to seek legal help from your attorney. The attorney will help you better understand the offense, its consequences, and how to fight the charge. Under California BP 4324, the specifics of altering or forging a prescription are laid down and explained as follows:
Forging a Prescription Prescription
Forging a prescription entails writing a false prescription and passing it off as genuine. Forging can involve signing the alleged prescription with a nurse, veterinarian, medical assistant, or doctor without their knowledge to suggest the prescription of the written medication.
For example, James is addicted to painkillers. He visits his nurse, claiming joint pains. James cannot convince the nurse to prescribe the drugs since the nurse has noticed a pattern of addiction in James. While the nurse is not looking, James rips off a page from the nurse's notebook. In this case, James can face conviction because he forged a prescription.
Altering a Prescription
Altering entails changing the prescription's makeup, which is against the law. It can entail updating the expiration date on medications taken. For example, you finish a dose prescribed to you two months ago but modify the dates to the present and provide it to the pharmacist so they can give you the medication. You have committed a crime.
A prescription serves as a guide for the administration of drugs. Medicines may be prescribed with written directions or instructions on how to take specific medications. The patient's name, the type of prescription, the dates of issuance, the prescriber's signature, the recommended dosage, and other details must all be included on the prescription.
Group II to IV controlled substance prescriptions are valid for four months after the date of issuance. You are guilty of modifying a prescription if you change or fake the information in the instructions for receiving or purchasing the drugs.
It is illegal to alter the prescribed drug's dosage. A dose indicates how much medication and for how long it should be taken daily. For example, a dosage may call for taking one medication per day. Your need for refills rises as you use more daily medications. When you engage in any of these behaviors, you risk punishment for changing a prescription.
According to the federal Controlled Substances Act, drugs are grouped into five major groups. The drug's medical use determines the groups, the possibility of abuse, and drug safety.
- Schedule II drugs consist of drugs with a high possibility of abuse and also have medicinal value. They include narcotics like morphine and painkillers.
- Schedule III drugs are those with medicinal value and the possibility of abuse. The drugs are safer than those in Group 2. They include steroids and antidepressants.
- Schedule IV and V drugs have a lower potential for abuse than other drugs. Examples include prescription cough medicine.
The Legal Meaning of Utter
When you attempt to use a fake or changed prescription and pass it off as real using your words, for example, after learning that you have wrist problems, your doctor suggests you take Vicodin. They have their doctor's approval for refills, but you change it to eight. The doctor notes that the prescription is too much for the patient with a wrist injury upon seeing it. You accept the doctor's offer to administer the medications to you.
You are guilty of uttering the prescription in this case. Be aware that you violate Business and Profession Code 4324 if you purposefully and knowingly prescribe a substance to someone who is addicted and who is not medically advised to possess the drug. The case may be difficult to prove if the prosecutor cannot demonstrate your awareness of the drug's nature through sufficient evidence.
What is a Drug?
According to the law, a drug is any chemical substance that, when taken, alters the normal functioning of your body. It might involve a medical drug that does not require a prescription.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove Before you Face Conviction
For one to be found guilty of altering or faking a prescription, the prosecutor must establish all the necessary elements. Even if the police detain you after you commit the crime, you may not be found guilty. The prosecution must look for any evidence that could be used against you. The evidence can be thrown out with the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer. The prosecutor must establish the following essential facts before you can be found guilty:
- You altered or forged a prescription.
- You presented false details to obtain the prescription.
- You knew the alleged prescription was altered or forged but still used it.
The Legal Penalties
When you falsify or change a prescription in California, you could be charged with wobbler. Therefore, whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony will depend on the prosecution team. The facts of the case and your prior criminal convictions primarily influence the prosecutor's decision. For example, if you have never been convicted of a crime, you could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Alternately, you can be charged with a felony if the defendant had a prior criminal record for a case comparable to yours or if there were aggravating circumstances when the conduct was committed. You could be prosecuted for the following minor offenses:
- A summary or misdemeanor probation.
- Jail term for twelve months.
When the prosecutor decides to file felony charges, the conviction will attract the following penalties:
- Felony or formal probation.
- Jail term for either 16, 24, or 36 months.
If the court orders formal probation, you might have to serve some time in jail. Remember, probation has requirements and restrictions. Most probations last three years, although they can extend up to five. The following are possible probationary restrictions the court may impose:
- Participating in community service for several hours.
- Attending compulsory drug testing and counseling.
- Regularly meeting with your probation officer.
- You should not commit a new crime while serving your probation term.
When the court imposes conditions on your probationary period, follow them. Your probation will be revoked if you break the rules. You must ask your defense attorney for clarification if you have any questions about any of the probationary requirements. The attorney will help you avoid breaking the rules and regulations of your probation.
The court may order you to enroll in a drug diversion program if it determines you owned narcotics obtained through a fake or falsified prescription. You and other drug users are intended to be assisted in overcoming dependence by the drug diversion programs. Ask your lawyer if you are eligible to join the drug diversion program.
The Legal Defenses to Allegations of Violating BP 4323
The crime could harm your future. The offense typically involves specific facts. So, if you are charged, you ought to obtain legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney who has handled drug-related matters.
The attorney carefully considers your case before creating a solid defense against the prosecution team. Your attorney might use one of the following common legal defenses to dispute the allegations:
Unauthorized Searches and Seizures
Illegal searches and seizures yielded proof of your acts, even if you altered or fabricated a prescription for medicine. Your criminal defense lawyer could file a PC 1538.5 to have the evidence suppressed.
Any evidence uncovered due to unlawful searches is disregarded once the judge grants the motion. When there is insufficient evidence to prosecute you, the prosecution might agree that you should serve a probationary rather than a prison term. An alternative would be for the court to drop the charges.
Exceeding the legal Scope of the Warrant
Many searches have valid warrants in place. There are several exceptions to the warrant requirements, such as if the police discovered the prescription while lawfully looking for something else, such as receipts or business information.
The act of searching a building or structure for weapons before making an arrest is another exception. Police personnel can, for instance, search a property for regulated weapons. Taking a paper slip out of your pocket and utilizing it as evidence against you is regarded as going beyond the search warrant requirements because the law is unlikely to regard it as a weapon.
You Had the Legal Authority to Alter Prescription
You may occasionally be falsely accused of falsifying or changing a prescription. But if you have the legal right to do it, you cannot be prosecuted for falsifying or altering a prescription. For instance, a doctor might permit one of their aides to sign a prescription they have written for a patient. This defense may be most effective in your case if you are a physician assistant accused of changing a prescription.
You were Unaware the Alleged Prescription was Forged or Altered
Before being charged in California with altering or forging a prescription, you must demonstrate knowledge. You cannot be found guilty of committing the crime based solely on the falsified or changed prescription. The prosecution must establish in court that you knew the purported prescription was forged or altered.
Someone, especially your acquaintance, might give you a doctored prescription and send you to the drugstore. The prosecutor is responsible for proving your involvement in the fraudulent activities. It might be impossible for you to be prosecuted if you were unaware that your acquaintance had given you a fake or altered prescription. If you have previously been found guilty of drug possession, it could be challenging to employ the defense.
You could be found guilty once your attorney establishes that you were unaware of the fake prescription. Your criminal defense attorney can persuade the court to lessen or dismiss the charges with sufficient proof.
You Did Not Use Altered or Forged Prescription
If you can demonstrate that anybody or any place did not utilize the fake or changed prescription, you can employ this defense if facing charges for using one. Be aware that you could still be found guilty, whether you utilized the prescription medicine or not. Make sure you review your case's specifics with your criminal defense lawyer.
Another Person Signed the Prescription
The prosecution team must show that you appended your signature to the drug prescription. So, you have a valid defense if you can provide strong evidence to show you are not the person who signed the prescription.
The Doctor or Hospital Made a Mistake
A doctor may occasionally err when writing or giving a prescription. Your criminal defense attorney can provide evidence to help establish the prescription was given in error if you are arrested for breaking drug laws. For instance, the pharmacist may inadvertently give you 20 morphine pills when your prescription calls for 10. You can demonstrate that the pharmacist incorrectly issued the prescriptions in this situation.
Pre-trial diversion is a choice you can make before your trial so the court will not pass judgment on the charges you are up against. Mental health programs and misdemeanor diversions are California's two primary diversionary measures. A drug diversion program is part of misdemeanor diversion. You can therefore sign up for a drug diversion program if you are charged with a misdemeanor for breaking the law.
If it is your first violation, the drug diversion program will assist you in finishing the rehab course to help you clear your name of the charges you are up against and escape harsh penalties. It suggests that your criminal defense lawyer can bargain for a rehabilitation program before the court decides. The court may consider removing the charges if the diversion program is finished.
Anyone requesting the diversion program before 2018 was required to make a guilty plea. It implied that a decision might be made, and the first punishment could be applied if you failed to finish the rehab program allocated to you. You can now apply for diversion programs, according to a 2018 legislative amendment, without taking a plea bargain. After completing the diversion program, you can ask the court to seal your criminal records.
Offenses Charged along with BP 4324
Several crimes have similar elements to BP 4324. The court can reduce the charge to another similar charge or convict you of more than one offense. The following are the offenses that are commonly charged with forging or altering a prescription:
Doctor Shopping/Prescription Fraud: HSC 11173
The law states that it is illegal to experiment with or obtain controlled substances by:
- Concealment of a material fact.
Falsified information appears on a prescription or report when you:
- Play the part of a nurse, doctor, or other medical professional.
- Label a container carrying prohibited substances with a fake or falsified statement.
Doctor shopping uses many pharmacies to obtain controlled narcotic prescriptions while keeping each pharmacy in the dark. The actions are also referred to as prescription fraud.
The legal Penalties
Doctor shopping is a severe violation of California laws. Therefore, you could be charged with a crime or a misdemeanor. You might spend up to a year in jail when accused of a misdemeanor. Alternately, a felony conviction carries a 16, 24, or 36-month prison sentence.
The Legal Defenses
Shopping for a doctor carries serious consequences. Fortunately, you still have time to defend the charges by retaining a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. A criminal defense attorney with many years of experience is the best attorney to work with. The attorney may raise several defenses, such as:
- False allegation.
- Insufficient evidence.
Possession of a Controlled Substance (HSA 11350)
In California, having a controlled substance in your possession is illegal without a valid prescription. Unlawful possession of numerous prohibited substances, including narcotics, is criminal. Among other opiates, these drugs include mescaline, cocaine, heroin, peyote, and other opiates, as well as narcotic medications like Vicodin and oxycontin.
The legal Penalties
The prosecutor must establish all required components before you may be found guilty of the crime. For instance, they must demonstrate that you have a controlled substance without a valid prescription. You will be accused of a misdemeanor when charged with the crime. The maximum jail sentence for the misdemeanor charge is twelve months. The court may also order community service in addition to mandatory probation.
Possession of restricted substances is typically a felony. However, it was downgraded to a misdemeanor offense after Prop. 47 passed. You are eligible for a new sentencing hearing if you were previously charged with a crime.
The Legal Defenses
Although the charges for possessing controlled substances are severe, you can still win the case. You want to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you throughout the legal process. Your attorney can employ various defenses to fight for your rights. The defenses include:
- You did not possess the drug.
- The drug was not a controlled substance.
- You had the authority to keep the medicine.
Forging or Altering a Prescription for a Narcotic Drug (HSC 11368)
According to HSC 11368, the offense shares many elements with BP 4324. It is a criminal offense to:
- Utter a prescription.
- Forge or alter any prescription for narcotic drugs like opiates.
- Acquire or possess narcotic drugs through forged, altered, or fictitious prescriptions.
- Utter prescriptions bearing a forged or fictitious signature.
The legal Penalties
If the crime is committed in California, you could be charged with wobbler. Whether felony or misdemeanor charges are brought depends on the prosecutor. A misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum 12-month prison sentence. Alternately, a felony conviction results in a 16, 24, or 36-month prison sentence.
The Potential Defenses
Being charged does not guarantee you will be found guilty. You can still contest the accusations with the aid of an accomplished criminal defense lawyer. An attorney is aware of the most effective defense to employ. The following are some defenses your attorney might use:
- You never altered the drug.
- False accusation.
- You never possessed the drug.
Contact a Drug Crime Attorney Near Me
Any drug offense in California is severely punished. When law enforcement officers arrest you and charge you with altering or forging a prescription, you must immediately seek legal assistance from a criminal defense attorney. An experienced drug crime attorney can help you navigate the legal process.
At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have many years of experience helping our clients fight off these charges. We do everything we can to assist you in obtaining the best possible outcome in your case. Whether you have been arrested or are being investigated for forging or altering a prescription in Anaheim, we are ready to help you. Reach us today at 714-766-0965 for a free case evaluation.