California Business & Professions Code Section 4324(a) BPC: Prescription Forgery
Prescription drugs pose a unique problem for law enforcement agencies, because unlike illegal street drugs, these substances can be lawfully purchased and possessed by those with lawful prescriptions. There may be a temptation by some to forge prescriptions in order to obtain drugs from a pharmacist. Under California Business and Professions Code Section 4324(a) BPC, prescription forgery is a serious criminal offense that can result in felony charges.
In order to prove a charge of prescription forgery under California Business and Professions Code Section 4324(a), a prosecutor must be able to establish the following:
- The defendant signed the name of another, or of a fictitious person, or falsely made, altered, forged, uttered, published, passed, or attempted to pass, as genuine, any prescription for any drug.
Other similar or related offenses include:
- False Representation to Obtain a Drug – California Business and Professions Code Section 4323 BPC
- Forgery – California Penal Code Section 470 PC
- Counterfeit Prescription Blank – California Health and Safety Code Section 11162.5 HSC
- Doctor Shopping / Prescription Fraud – California Health and Safety Code Section 11173 HSC
A man has been recently had back surgery and his doctor had prescribed him painkillers while he was in recovery. However, after several months the doctor is concerned that the man is becoming addicted to the painkillers so he decides to only authorize a lower dose and smaller amount of the prescription in order to wean him off of the painkillers. The man is not happy about this, so he takes the written prescription and changes the dose amount and number of refills authorized in order to obtain more of the drug. This man could be charged with prescription forgery in violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 4324(a) BPC.
In another example, a man is trying to get a prescription for Valium and cannot find a doctor who is willing to authorize this drug for him. The man uses his computer to create a fake doctor’s prescription pad using a made up name that looks very authentic. He prints the pad and writes himself a prescription for Valium. This man could also be prosecuted for prescription forgery in this scenario.4. Defenses to Prescription Forgery
There may be several defenses that may be applicable to a defendant who has been charged with prescription forgery. If the defendant did not actually sign the fraudulent prescription, he or she may be able to assert a valid defense if charged criminally. In addition if a call to a pharmacist was not made from the defendant’s phone, or was made from his or her phone but placed by another person, the defendant could argue that he or she was not responsible for the prescription forgery and thus not guilty of this offense.5. Penalties
Prescription forgery is what is commonly known as a “wobbler.” Under the law, a prosecutor can charge prescription forgery as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When deciding what level of charges to file, prosecutors will look to factors such as the defendant’s criminal record, whether the defendant committed multiple acts of forgery and other unique circumstances of the case. If the defendant is convicted of felony-level prescription forgery, he or she can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. Misdemeanor-level prescription forgery is punishable by up to a year in jail and usually includes conditions of probation such as completing a drug treatment program and submitting to random drug tests.6. Criminal Defense for Prescription Forgery Cases
If you have been arrested for or are facing charges of prescription forgery, it is crucial that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who knows how to effectively fight allegations of prescription forgery. Mr. Kraut is highly respected by judges, prosecutors and those in law enforcement and it is often the case that his early involvement in a matter before charges have been filed can potentially result in criminal charges being significantly reduced or even dismissed entirely.
For more information about prescription forgery, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.