Prescription Fraud Charges
In North Carolina and the rest of the United States, there are many drugs, or controlled substances, that can be obtained legally with a valid prescription but are otherwise illegal. Many of these drugs, such as opioids like oxycodone, are highly addictive, which is why the government requires that only licensed medical personnel can prescribe them to patients. The addictive properties of these drugs sometimes lead to people going to great lengths to acquire prescriptions through illegal means, which is a crime known as Prescription Fraud.
If you have been accused or are facing charges for any crime related to fraud or forgery of drug prescriptions, you should seek legal representation as soon as possible. These criminal charges are very serious, with the possibility of being convicted of a felony if your legal counsel is inadequate.
Prescription Fraud Charges in North Carolina
Fraud, in general, refers to intentionally deceptive actions committed for personal gain, often at the expense of others. While most fraud crimes, such as bank fraud or marriage fraud, follow this definition tightly and only convict people for acting knowingly and intentionally, prescription fraud crimes in North Carolina are more loosely defined. In fact, the crimes we often refer to as “prescription fraud” in North Carolina also include punishment for misrepresentation and similar activities. The crime of obtaining a prescription unlawfully through unintentional means is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor, whereas intentional prescription fraud is punished as a class I felony. While a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, it does carry serious consequences including possible fines and jail time, and can greatly increase penalties for repeat offenders, which is common for people struggling with addiction.
Types of Prescription Fraud
There are several actions a person can take that constitute prescription fraud, forgery, or misrepresentation. These include, but are not limited to:
- Altering Original Prescription: Changing the details on a valid prescription, such as increasing the dosage that the physician wrote to obtain more drugs or drugs with a higher potency than prescribed.
- Doctor Shopping: Visiting multiple physicians to obtain several prescriptions for the same medical purpose.
- False Identity and Forgery: Using the identity of somebody else to obtain their prescription, often through forgery or other means.
- Impersonating Medical Staff: Pretending or impersonating medical staff to order a prescription unlawfully.
- Providing False or Fraudulent Information or Omitting Information: It is a crime to provide false information, or to omit important information, to obtain a prescription of a controlled substance.
- Stealing Drugs as Medical Staff: When a person who has access to controlled substance by virtue of their employer takes prescription drugs unlawfully.
It is important to note that while some of the above acts could be done either intentionally or unintentionally, some are based on intent, and are therefore felony crimes.
Defending Against Prescription Fraud Charges
Every case has its own unique elements, which is why it is essential to hire an experienced defense attorney to evaluate all the factors and come up with a solid defense. Some common defenses to prescription fraud include:
Prescription was Valid and Authorized
There are cases where people face prescription fraud charges when they have done absolutely nothing wrong and hold a valid prescription as the authorized recipient. There are many reasons a person can be wrongfully accused of this crime, including:
- Being found in possession of a controlled substance that was obtained through a valid prescription but storing it outside of its labelled prescription container.
- Misidentification from witnesses.
- Malicious false accusations
- Obtaining multiple drugs from multiple doctors for similar but separate medical purposes, having the appearance of doctor shopping.
If any of the above occur, the aim of the defense would be to absolve the defendant of any guilt, as they have not committed any crime.
Actions were Unintentional
In the case where the evidence shows that a prescription was obtained through some false information, the defense should shift towards showing that the false information was not fraudulent or presented with intent to obtain a prescription. Some claims that can be made are:
- The defendant believed the information they presented was accurate at the time.
- The false or omitted information was not consequential in obtaining the prescription.
- The defendant acted in good faith and worked to correct mistakes to the best of their ability.
Claiming that the defendant acted unintentionally needs to be backed up by more than just words. Carefully refuting the prosecutors evidence while providing evidence that shows the defendant acted in good faith is necessary to securing the validity of this defense.
Speak with a North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney
It is important to recognize that not all these approaches are applicable to every case, and misuse of any of the above defenses could harm the credibility of the defense. The lawyers at Tarlton Polk are skilled at devising the most effective defense strategy and know how to stick to it credibly while still readily adapting to changes as the case develops. If you or a loved one has been arrested for prescription fraud, you need to begin building your defense immediately, please call us today.