California Health and Safety Code Section 11154(a) HSC: Prescribing a Controlled Substance Without Treatment

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimecontrolled substance prescription

Prescription drug addiction is a serious problem that can destroy lives and tear apart families. Unlike street drugs, which are obtained through drug dealers, prescription drugs can often be obtained by simply receiving a prescription from a licensed doctor. However, under California Health & Safety Code Section 11154(a) HSC, prescribing a controlled substance to someone not undergoing treatment with that practitioner is a serious criminal offense that can result in a felony conviction.

In order to convict a doctor or other authorized practitioner under California Health & Safety Code Section 11154(a) HSC a prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant was a practitioner.

  2. The defendant knowingly prescribed, administered, dispensed or furnished a controlled substance to or for a person or animal.

  3. That person or animal was not under his or her treatment for a pathology or condition other than addiction to a controlled substance.
2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Prescribing a Controlled Substance without a Legitimate Purpose - California Health & Safety Code Section 11153 HSC
  2. Doctor Shopping / Prescription Fraud - California Health & Safety Code Section 11173 HSC
3. Examples

A doctor is fully licensed and is authorized to write prescription for certain controlled substances. The doctor does not believe in California’s drug laws and believes that anyone should be able to have access to whatever substance they desire. The doctor willingly writes prescriptions for controlled substances to people who contact him via his website, despite the fact that he has never treated the person in the past. This doctor could be prosecuted under California Health & Safety Code Section 11154(a) HSC because he wrote prescriptions without treating the patient.

In another example, a man goes to a new doctor complaining about serious back pain. The doctor examines the man and has serious concerns that the man is faking his pain and only wants painkillers. However, the doctor agrees to prescribe the pills anyways because he cannot be sure that the man is lying. This doctor would not be guilty of prescribing a controlled substance without treatment because he legitimately thought he was treating a patient he examined.

In another example, a doctor is hired by a methadone clinic that treats those addicted to heroin and other opiate drugs. The doctor is not able to meet with every client, but widely writes prescriptions for methadone, which is a controlled substance. The doctor would not be criminally liable under California Health & Safety Code Section 11154(a) HSC because the statute specifically exempts practitioners prescribing drugs to treat those addicted to controlled substances.

4. Defenses to Prescribing a Controlled Substance without Treatment

As described above, a doctor or other practitioner who prescribes medications intended to cure addiction to controlled substances to those not under his or her treatment are specifically exempted from prosecution for this offense.

5. Penalties

Prescribing a controlled substance without treatment is what is considered a "wobbler" offense. This means that a prosecutor can file either felony or misdemeanor charges, depending on a variety of factors such as the defendant’s criminal history and the specific circumstances of the offense. If convicted of this offense, the defendant can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. If convicted as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a year in jail.

In addition, practitioners convicted of this offense may risk losing their license to practice medicine in addition to other collateral consequences.

6. Criminal Defense for Prescribing a Controlled Substance without Treatment Cases

If you are a medical practitioner who is under investigation for or has been charged with prescribing a controlled substance without treatment, it is crucial that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney who understands how devastating a conviction for this offense can be for those in the medical profession. Mr. Kraut is known throughout the court system as a tough litigator who works tirelessly to ensure his clients receive the best defense possible.

For more information about prescribing a controlled substance without treatment, 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 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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