The “Opioid Epidemic” in America is destroying lives on a daily basis. Abuse and misuse of powerful painkilling drugs such as Oxycontin, Fentanyl, Vicodin, and Percocet have killed tens of thousands of Americans, and other prescription medications like Adderall, Valium, and Xanax are commonly used by people who don’t have valid prescriptions. Addiction can lead people to engage in deceptive – and criminal – conduct to obtain these drugs. Other individuals engage in criminal acts to feed and profit from those addictions.
Given the increasing problem with prescription drug abuse, New York prosecutors are taking a much harder line on crimes involving prescription medications. There are specific laws that address the diversion of medication for improper purposes as well as fraud involved in obtaining prescriptions and drugs.
A conviction for these, or other charges arising out of illegal possession or distribution of prescription drugs, can result in hefty fines and time behind bars. If you are charged with a prescription drug offense, it is imperative that you retain an experienced Brooklyn drug defense attorney as soon as possible.
In Brooklyn and elsewhere throughout New York, the most common prescription drug offense is known as “criminal diversion of prescription medications.” Pursuant to New York Penal Law 178.00, a “criminal diversion act” means an act or acts in which a person
- Knowingly transfers or delivers, in exchange for anything of pecuniary value, a prescription medication, device, or prescription with knowledge or reasonable grounds to know that the recipient has no medical need for it; or
- Knowingly receives, in exchange for anything of pecuniary value, a prescription medication, device, or prescription with knowledge or reasonable grounds to know that the seller or transferor is not authorized by law to sell or transfer such prescription medication or device.
There are four degrees of criminal diversion under New York law. Which degree is charged depends, in part, on the value of the drugs exchanged as well as the defendant’s prior criminal history:
- 4th Degree Criminal Diversion: A person is guilty of this offense when he or she commits a criminal diversion act as described above. 4th degree criminal diversion is a class A misdemeanor.
- 3rd Degree Criminal Diversion. A criminal diversion act involving an exchange of more than $1,000, or the defendant has a prior criminal diversion conviction. 3rd Degree Criminal Diversion is a class E felony.
- 2nd Degree Criminal Diversion. If the amount at issue is greater than $3,000, the criminal diversion is considered a class D felony.
- 1st Degree Criminal Diversion. The most serious criminal diversion offense, Criminal Diversion in the First Degree involves transactions of more than $50,000. 1st Degree Criminal Diversion is a class C felony.
In an effort to obtain medication, individuals might wrongfully obtain prescription pads, forge a prescription, use someone else’s ID, or “doctor shop” to obtain multiple prescriptions for the same medication. Such actions can lead to an array of criminal charges, such as forgery, illegal possession of a controlled substance, or theft.
In addition to charges under New York law, individuals accused of wrongfully obtaining, possessing, or selling prescription drugs or prescriptions may face federal drug charges. Convictions for federal drug crimes often result in punishments much harsher than those under state law.
Prescription drug offenses may involve bottles and pills as opposed to bags and powders, but the offenses are just as serious and just as aggressively prosecuted as crimes involving “street” drugs. You need an aggressive Brooklyn drug defense attorney who understands the law and knows how to challenge prosecutors at every turn. The aggressive and committed criminal defense attorneys at Epstein & Conroy are experienced handling drug cases of all levels. Contact us today by calling (718) 852-6763 for a free consultation to discuss your case.