Tampa Prescription Drug Crime Attorneys
Experienced Prescription Drug Crime Lawyers
When most people think of drug crimes, they think of illegal street drugs such as cocaineor heroin. However, prescription drug crimes are one of the fastest-growing areas of drug-related offenses throughout Florida. Possession of prescription drugs comes with lengthy prison sentences, heavy fines, and in some cases, could end your career. All prescription drugs are covered under state and federal drug laws.
These substances are regulated and subject to the same classification system, charges, and harsh penalties as illegal narcotics. A defendant may therefore face charges for the unlawful possession, possession with intent, sale, distribution, manufacturing, or trafficking of prescription drugs.
At Thomas & Paulk, we are dedicated to protecting our clients’ rights in handling all types of drug charges related to prescriptions such as:
As prescription medications are controlled substances, a person may face felony charges if found to be in possession of any one or more of these drugs without a prescription. A person may also face criminal charges for prescription fraud, which involves committing fraud in order to obtain a prescription. All types of prescription drug charges come with severe penalties, so speak with us today to begin building your case.
Florida Mandatory Minimums for Prescription Drugs
Florida Statutes § 893.135 establishes mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of possession of prescription drugs, as well as prescription drug sales, delivery, manufacturing, or trafficking. Those penalties include the following:
- 3 years and/or a $50k fine for 4-14 grams
- 15 years and/or a $100k fine for 14-27 grams
- 25 years and/or a $500k fine for 28 grams-30kg
- Life in prison without parole for more than 30kg
Drugs included in these mandatory minimums are morphine, opium, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, or any of those drugs' derivatives. Regardless of the nature or severity of your charges, Thomas & Paulk, P.A. is here to help. The prescription drug crime lawyers at our firm can fight to protect your freedom if you're being accused of possession, regardless of whether those drugs were prescribed to you or not.
If you have been accused of a drug-related crime, call us at (813) 321-7323. We’ve served Tampa and all of Florida since 2001.
Types of Prescription Drug Offenses in Florida
Prescription drug crimes are criminalized under Section 499.03 of the Florida Statutes. Under this section, you cannot legally possess any prescription drug unless you obtained it through a valid prescription from a licensed practitioner. Under Sec. 499.03(3), illegally possessing a prescription drug is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, or by a fine not to exceed $500, or both.
If you illegally possess a prescription drug with the intent to sell, dispense, or deliver the drug, you commit a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to five years in prison, and by a fine not to exceed $5,000, or by a fine and imprisonment.
Prescription Drug Crimes Are a Big Business in Florida
Patients who commit prescription drug fraud usually fell into the practice to support their drug addictions. But these days, prescription drugs have become BIG business and carry a high retail value on the streets. Like other drug dealers, fraudsters will sell their prescriptions or try to dupe their own doctors so they can resell their drugs and make a profit. Sometimes, nurses, doctors, and employees at doctors’ offices engage in prescription drug fraud when they realize the potential for high-profit margins.
Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, young adults abuse prescription drugs more than any other age group. “Young adults (age 18 to 25) are the biggest abusers of prescription (RX) opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, and anti-anxiety drugs,” says the NIDA. Young adults may abuse prescription medications the most, but adults of all ages can be dangerously addicted.
According to the NIDA, “Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a matter or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking medication to feel euphoria.”
The most commonly abused prescription drugs include:
- Opioids, such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
- Stimulants, such as those prescribed to treat ADHD
- Central nervous system depressants, such as sedatives, hypnotics, and tranquilizers
Are Florida's Drug Crimes Too Harsh?
Florida has earned a reputation for having some of the harshest penalties for drug crimes in the United States. In fact, the state even lags behind with the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, something many states have done to reduce stress on the justice system.
Notably, prescription crime charges
carry heavy penalties while involving only small amounts of an illegal substance. This is partially
because of how the state weigh prescription drugs. For example, a pill
might only have a small percentage of its weight be from an illegal substance,
with the rest of the weight being added by inert substances. So, just
a few pills can trigger charges that match those for significant amounts
of pure substances such as cocaine.
Pharmacists & Prescription Fraud
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Association, “The abuse of prescription drugs – especially controlled substances – is a serious social and health problem in the United States today.” The DEA’s message to pharmacists: “You have a legal responsibility to acquaint yourself with the state and federal requirements for dispensing controlled substances.” The DOJ also explains to pharmacists that they have a legal and ethical responsibility to uphold the law and protect society from drug abuse.
With the above in mind, the DEA instructs pharmacists to: 1) know the prescriber; 2) know the prescriber’s signature; 3) know the patient; 4) check the dates on prescription orders; and 5) whenever there’s a question, call the prescriber. The DEA also tells pharmacists to find out which drugs are popular on the streets and which drugs are being resold in their area.
How are prescriptions being forged? Let's take a look at the common types of prescription forgeries:
- Patients are stealing their doctors’ prescription pads and writing prescriptions.
- Some patients are altering their doctor’s prescription to increase the dosage or number of pills dispensed.
- Some drug abusers will steal their doctor’s prescription pad and have the callback number altered, so the pharmacist reaches the patient when they make queries.
- Some people will call in their own prescriptions to pharmacies.
Drug abusers are not above leaving telltale signs of fraud. Often, mistakes are made and drug abusers are caught. Common red flags for prescription drug fraud include a patient receiving a suspiciously large number of prescriptions, the patient returns for refills too often, a prescription that should have lasted 30 days is running out after a week or two or even daily, the patient is picking up prescriptions for antagonistic drugs (depressants and stimulants) at the same time, patient keeps trying to pick up prescriptions for multiple people, or a number of strangers suddenly show up to pick up prescriptions from the same physician – people who do not live in the community.
Doctor Shopping & Drug Abuse in Florida
One recent phenomenon with regard to prescription pill abuse is what is known as doctor shopping. This is a practice of going to multiple different doctors about the same illness of symptoms in an attempt to gain multiple prescriptions. Usually, if someone is doctor shopping, it's from an addiction to a certain prescription and in many cases, the patient may exaggerate their symptoms or may fabricate them entirely. Common drugs that are abused in this process include painkillers and sedatives.
If you’re facing criminal charges for illegally possessing a prescription drug or for trying to sell prescription drugs on the street, contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. at once to set up a consultation with a Tampa prescription drug crime attorney.
Let our former prosecutors defend you – call (813) 321-7323 today! We offer free, confidential consultations.
Drug crimes range in degree of severity, but generally speaking, they follow a similar criminal process. View our latest video to learn more about how these cases typically operate.
You may know nothing about the criminal system and may be confused on what to do next. You need an attorney who can guide you through the entire process.
You won't be able to look into all the possibilities alone. We're well-versed in criminal law and can provide you with a strong strategy to turn the odds in your favor.
We've been working in the courts for a long time and have developed positive relationships with all the people you may face, which can help improve your chances.
Building a Case
Unlike a prosecutor, your criminal defense attorney can spend the time to build a strong case to help get your charges dismissed or your penalties reduced.