California Health and Safety Code Section 11156 HSC: Prescribing Controlled Substances to an Addict

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimeprescription drug addiction

Prescription drug addiction is a serious problem that can often be devastating to those afflicted. Those addicted to these drugs rely on doctors and other authorized medical practitioners to write prescriptions. As a result, it is a criminal offense to prescribe controlled substances to an addict under California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HSC.

In order to prove that a medical practitioner prescribed a controlled substance to an addict in violation of California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HSC, a prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant prescribed, administered or dispensed a controlled substance to a person.
  2. AND the person was an addict or represented himself or herself as such.

An addict is defined as a person whose actions are characterized by craving in combination with one or more of the following:

  1. Impaired control over drug use.

  2. Compulsive use.

  3. Continued use despite harm

A person whose drug-seeking behavior is primarily due to the inadequate control of pain is not an addict within the meaning of this section.

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. Prescribing a Controlled Substance without Treatment – California Health & Safety Code Section 11154(a) PC
3. Examples

A man goes to a new doctor for a consultation. The man tells the doctor that he suffers from chronic pain and that he needs a prescription for Vicodin. The man says that his normal doctor will not prescribe any more Vicodin because he believes that the man is addicted to this drug. The new doctor agrees to prescribe Vicodin to the man, despite the fact that he is an opiate addict. The doctor could be charged with prescribing controlled substances to an addict in violation of California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HSC.

In another example, a doctor meets with a new patient who complains of serious back pain. The patient had a prior injury which is obvious to the doctor and claims to have never been prescribed painkillers before. Based on the patient’s reported history, the doctor prescribes controlled substances to control the pain. The doctor did not know it at the time, but the patient was actually a serious painkiller addict. The doctor in this scenario would not be criminally liable under California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HSC because he did not knowingly prescribe a controlled substance to an addict.

4. Defenses to Prescribing Controlled Substances to an Addict

If the doctor or other medical conditioner did not know that the person he or she wrote a prescription for was an addict, he or she would not be guilty of this offense.

5. Penalties

Prescribing controlled substances to an addict is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When making a filing decision, prosecutors will look at the defendant’s criminal history, the severity of the crime and how many “patients” were involved. If convicted of this offense as a felony, the defendant can be sent to prison for up to three years. If charged and convicted of this crime as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a year in jail.

In addition, those medical professionals convicted under California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HSC can lose medical license and their ability to prescribe medicines.

6. Criminal Defense for Prescribing Controlled Substances to an Addict Cases

Prescribing controlled substances to an addict is a serious criminal offense that can result in serious penalties for those convicted. If you or someone you know are facing charges for this offense, it is very important that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who understands the sensitive nature of charges like this. Mr. Kraut works hard to make sure his clients’ professional careers are protected and that they receive the best representation possible.

For more information about prescribing controlled substances to an addict, 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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