An individual who is convicted of possessing, selling, or distributing a Schedule III drug without authorization may be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison and fined up to $500,000. If serious bodily injury or death results from the use of the substance, the defendant may be sentenced to up to 15 years in federal prison. If the individual has had a prior conviction for a felony drug charge, the maximum sentence may be increased to 20 year imprisonment. If the person has had a prior felony drug conviction and death or bodily injury resulted as a result of another person using the drug, the defendant may be sentenced to up to 30 year in prison.
Schedule IV drugs are classified as having a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Examples of these drugs include:
If convicted for unauthorized sale, possession, or distribution of a Schedule IV drug, an individual may be sentenced to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $200,000. If the individual has previously been convicted of a felony drug charge, the maximum sentence is increased to 10 years imprisonment with a fine of up to $500,000.
Schedule V drugs are classified as having the lowest risk for abuse and dependence. Anti-diarrhea, anti-cough, and over-the-counter pain medicines largely make up this category. Examples include:
- Cough medicines that contain less than 200mg of codeine per 100 ml
If a person is convicted for selling or distributing a Schedule V drug without authorization, he or she may be sentenced to up to one year in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $100,000. If the person has a previous felony drug conviction, he or she may be sentenced to up to four years in prison and ordered to pay a maximum fine of $200,000.
Doctor shopping in Florida
Sometimes people who become addicted to prescription drugs or who simply wish to sell the drugs illegally encounter the issue of no longer being able to receive refills of the drug from their doctor. This happens very often with opioid prescriptions. These people often begin the process of seeking out other doctors and misrepresenting the number of prescriptions they have previously received for the drug in an effort to secure additional prescriptions. This practice is known as doctor shopping and is now prohibited by Florida state and federal law. A steady increase in opioid addiction rates has led legislatures and law enforcement to crack down on medical professionals, pharmacies, and individuals who engage in doctor shopping and providing unauthorized drugs and prescriptions.
Government crackdown on Florida’s pain clinics
For years, Interstate 75 in Florida was so notorious for prescription drug trafficking that it was known as the “Oxy Express,” oxy being a nickname for the prescription drug oxycodone. Pain clinics lined the interstate, which runs north and south along the length of Florida. Pain clinics, or “pill mills,” are storefront setups that are managed by actual medical personnel. Visitors can go to these pain clinics and purchase a prescription for opioid drugs for cash. Doctors and others who are legally permitted to write prescriptions have abandoned legitimate medical practices to open pill mills, which can be very lucrative. After a state crackdown led by the governor and followed up by state legislative action in 2011, doctors were limited in the amount of opioid drugs they could legally prescribe. Therefore, fewer pain clinics were in operation. Doctor’s purchases of oxycodone reportedly fell by 97 percent within the first month of the state imposing stricter regulations on prescriptions. As a downside, with oxycodone becoming less available, many prescription opioid addicts switched to heroin. In very recent years, the federal government has also taken an increased interest in fraudulent prescriptions and illegal activity among doctors, pharmacists, and others who illegally obtain, sell, and distribute prescription drugs.
Who can be arrested for prescription drug crimes
With Florida being home to a large concentration of sources for illegal prescriptions, a large concentration of addicts also reside in the state, though some people travel across several states to obtain their supply. Most people who are arrested for a prescription drug charge are accused of possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute; separate charges for actually obtaining the illegal controlled substance and conspiracy are usually added. A broad range of individuals, including everyday drug addicts to people who are part of large drug distribution networks, may be arrested and indicted on these charges. In some cases, doctors may be involved and can be charged for distributing drugs outside the scope of their professional activities.
How prescription drug arrests take place in West Palm Beach
Federal and local law enforcement often target areas with high drug trafficking activity by conducting sting operations. During sting operations, a law enforcement officer, government agent, or undercover informant will play the role of a person who is looking to engage in a prescription drug transaction. In theory, a person who is involved in illegal drug distribution will see the opportunity to make the transaction and do so. Once the person agrees to conduct a transaction with the undercover party and commits an illegal act, police officers enter the scene and the person is then arrested.
Defenses against federal prescription drug charges
Attorneys for individuals who are arrested for possession of a controlled substances with intent to distribute argue a variety of defenses based on the circumstances of each case. In some situations, the accused may be able to establish he or she had permission to carry the drug while other defenses focus on dismantling the prosecution’s case from an procedural standpoint, particularly if law enforcement violated the law in the manner in which they went about obtaining evidence or catching the accused in the act of a crime.
Authorized person defense
There are valid reasons a person may be carrying a prescription drug for someone else, which might initially give the appearance that the individual is violating the law. People who are responsible for helping a child or sick family member by maintaining and dispensing medicine to the person may be stopped by law enforcement and even arrested for having an unauthorized prescription drug. If Person A is the nephew of elderly Person B, who requires prescription painkillers following surgery, Person A may stop to pick of Person B’s prescription while en route to Person B’s home or Person A may simply have a travel pill box containing Person B’s medicine after venturing out to run errands together. If the police stop Person A and find the pill box in the vehicle, Person A may be arrested and charged. Person A should immediately call an experienced prescription drug defense attorney, who would then begin working on building a case to establish Person A’s innocence as a person who is authorized to possess the prescription drug due to providing care and assistance to a sick family member.
One of the biggest criticisms of sting operations is that the line between a valid sting operation and entrapment is often blurred. If the accused felt pressured to commit a crime during the sting operation, his attorney would likely argue entrapment, which would require proving:
- The idea to commit the crime originated from the undercover agents, not the accused
- Government agent persuaded the accused to commit the crime, versus simply providing an opportunity
- The accused was not willing or able to commit the crime prior to the undercover person’s suggestion
Illegal search defense
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits law enforcement from conducting unreasonable searches. If a police officer demands, without probable cause, to search an individual’s car, home, physical person, or other area under the individual’s control, evidence obtained from the search cannot be used in court. In other cases, law enforcement may violate the law by exceeding the specified boundaries of their search without probable cause or by searching without a warrant in a situation that did not call for the immediacy of a warrantless search.
Contact a West Palm Beach prescription drug defense lawyer
Individuals who are arrested for illegally possessing and/or distributing prescription drugs should contact an experienced prescription drug defense lawyer upon learning of the criminal charge. The accused should also remain silent about the situation until his or her attorney arrives and is present for police questioning. Requesting the help of a lawyer is easy: simply call the office of a knowledgeable attorney, and the law office staff will ask all the necessary questions and respond with urgency in providing the help you need.