California Health and Safety Code Section 11153 HSC: Prescribing A Controlled Substance Without A Legitimate Purpose

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimecontrolled substance prescription

While prescription drugs may serve legitimate therapeutic purposes for many patients, there are some people who are addicted to prescription drugs and who abuse these substances. While licensed doctors are allowed to write prescriptions authorizing the use of controlled substances, there may be cases where doctors unlawfully write such prescriptions. Prescribing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose is illegal under California Health & Safety Code Section 11153 HSC and can result in serious penalties for those convicted.

A doctor or other authorized medical professional violates California Health & Safety Code Section 11153 HSC when he or she does the following:

  1. Writes a prescription which is not issued in the usual course of professional treatment or in connection with legitimate and authorized research
  2. OR writes a prescription for an addict or a habitual user of controlled substances which is not issued in connection with professional treatment as part of an authorized narcotic treatment program for the purpose of providing the user with controlled substances in order to keep him or her comfortable by maintaining customary use.

Controlled substances are listed on state and federal drug classification schedules, and include opiates such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, depressants such as Xanax and valium and stimulants like adderall and ritalin.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Doctor Shopping / Prescription Fraud - California Health & Safety Code Section 11173 HSC
  2. Possession of a Controlled Substance - California Health & Safety Code Section 11350 HSC
3. Examples

A general practitioner sees a variety of patients in his course of business. One day a man visits him complaining of nausea and other symptoms. The man admits that he is addicted to painkillers and does not have any pills left. The man is not willing to enter treatment, but is physically ill from the side effects of drug withdrawal and asks the doctor to prescribe him Vicodin. The doctor agrees because the patient is clearly in distress, even though he is an admitted addict. The doctor could be charged with unlawfully prescribing Vicodin in violation of California Health & Safety Code Section 11153 HSC because supplying an addict with controlled substances is prohibited by the statute. Doctors are not allowed to feed a patient’s addiction by providing them drugs unless it is part of a professional treatment program (i.e. a methadone clinic).

In another example, a woman goes to see a doctor and complains of severe chronic back pain. The doctor performs a thorough examination and does not see any signs that the woman is lying. He writes a prescription for painkillers. In reality, the woman does not have any pain and is a painkiller addict who needed a fix. The doctor would not be guilty of prescribing a controlled substance without a legitimate purpose because he performed a thorough examination and legitimately believed he was writing a proper prescription.

4. Defenses to Prescribing a Controlled Substance without a Legitimate Purpose

As described above, a doctor who acts in good faith in writing a prescription for a controlled substance would not be criminally liable for this offense. This defense would apply even in instances where the doctor may have acted negligently or where the doctor’s practice is different from other medical professionals.

5. Penalties

Prescribing a controlled substance without a legitimate purpose is a "wobbler" offense that can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted of this offense as a misdemeanor, a defendant can be sentenced to up to a year in jail in addition to up to $20,000 in court fines. If convicted as a felony, the defendant can face up to three years in prison.

In addition, doctors and other medical professionals convicted of writing unlawful prescriptions can face significant collateral consequences, including losing their medical licenses and their ability to write prescriptions altogether.

6. Criminal Defense for Prescribing a Controlled Substance without a Legitimate Purpose Cases

If you have been accused of unlawfully writing prescriptions, it is critical that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut knows how to effectively defend professional clients charged with drug-related offenses. Mr. Kraut understands that jobs and livelihoods can be destroyed by charges like this and works hard to ensure the best possible outcome for his clients.

For more information about prescribing a controlled substance without a legitimate purpose, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group 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.

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