Prescription fraud is a fairly straightforward offense: misrepresenting a prescription in order to obtain a controlled substance which you do not have permission to purchase. While the premise might be simple, it’s actually perpetrated in a number of different ways.
On this blog, we’ll explain three common ways people commit prescription fraud and discuss the penalties if you’re convicted of them.
The first method of prescription fraud is when someone visits multiple doctors until they find one who will prescribe them the medication that they’re searching for. This is particularly common with those who are suffering from addition to things like opiates or painkillers—they’ll go from office to office explaining their symptoms and hoping that the doctor will recommend that they take the drug which they’re addicted to.
While it is legal to receive a second opinion if you don’t agree with your doctor’s initial diagnosis, it’s not legal to keep seeing new doctors until you get one who gives you the results that you want. Furthermore, as medical professionals, it’s against the law to prescribe these medications to patients who you know don’t need it in order to profit from it.
Impersonating a Doctor
A patient sees a doctor and gets a prescription from them, but it isn’t the one that they were hoping for. So what do they do? They pick up the phone, call the pharmacy where they’re going to fill the prescription, and pretend to be the doctor they just saw. They claim they made a mistake, and the actual prescription the patient needs is the one they’re hoping for. While this rarely works these days thanks to preventative measures in place, there are other ways as well.
It’s against the law to represent yourself as a medical professional without an appropriate license, and doing so for the purposes of illegally obtaining medication qualifies as the offense of prescription fraud.
Forging a Prescription
As a patient is leaving his doctor’s office, he walks by an open door and notices a blank pad of prescriptions sitting on a table. He quickly reaches in, swipes the pad, and pockets it. He then takes the pad, writes his own prescription, writes a horrendously bad signature (let’s face it, the stereotype has some truth to it), and takes it by his local pharmacy.
This is the offense of forging a prescription also is considered prescription fraud, and could be subject to criminal charges. This adds a further layer of complexity to a case, as someone could then be charged both with theft and with prescription forgery and prescription fraud. As a result, someone convicted of this string of offenses could face up to five years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines!
Penalties for Prescription Fraud
Prescription fraud is a serious offense that often features heavy penalties. Simple prescription fraud is considered a third-degree offense, which often carries no presumption of jail time. However, particularly serious cases or repeat offenders could find their prosecutors overcoming that presumption, at which point the case becomes far more severe. These convictions could carry up to five years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
Additionally, possession of a prescription drug without a prescription is also against the law. Possession of five or fewer units of a drug is a fourth-degree charge which usually carries no more than a fine. However, more than five units is a third-degree offense, which could carry jail time and more large fines.If you’ve been arrested and charged with prescription fraud, you need to begin working with a Bergen County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible! Call Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC at (201) 574-7919 to request a consultation today.