This article discusses the following:
Prescription drug offenses are primarily governed by the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) § 13-3406.
This statute makes possessing or selling a prescription-only drug without a valid prescription unlawful.
At Kolsrud Law Offices, we recognize the complexities and challenges individuals face when dealing with allegations related to the sale of prescription drugs.
Such charges can have profound personal, professional, and legal implications. As Arizona's leading legal advocates, our team is committed to shedding light on the intricacies of these offenses, helping our clients understand the implications, and ensuring they're equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions.
According to a 2019 study, Arizona had one of the highest rates of prescription opioid deaths in the U.S., underscoring the state's strict stance on prescription drug offenses.
Can I Face Charges for Possessing My Friend's Prescription?
In the state of Arizona, the possession of prescription drugs without a valid prescription is considered a violation of the law.
Even if you have no intention of misusing or selling the medication, simply having it without the appropriate prescription can lead to legal consequences.
In Arizona, under the Revised Statutes (ARS) § 13-3406, possessing or using a prescription-only drug without a valid prescription is illegal. The prescription must be from a medical professional licensed.
In practice, this can translate to real-world scenarios that some might not consider initially. For instance, borrowing a painkiller from a friend after a minor injury or holding onto a family member's anxiety medication can be grounds for legal consequences under ARS § 13-3406.
In Arizona, individuals have faced charges for possessing prescription drugs not prescribed to them.
One notable case involved a college student who was found with ADHD medication that was prescribed to a roommate. Though the student claimed the drugs were only for personal use and not for distribution, the mere possession without a valid prescription led to criminal charges.
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Is Sharing My Prescription with Someone Else Considered Selling?
Even if done with good intentions, giving someone prescription medications might unintentionally place individuals at legal risk in Arizona. Knowing the details is crucial, as simple acts of kindness can sometimes result in unexpected legal issues.
Per the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) § 13-3406, it's illegal to knowingly possess or use a prescription-only drug without a proper prescription. While the statute primarily targets possession and use, transferring your prescription medication to someone else can be interpreted as "selling" or "distributing," regardless of whether money changes hands.
- Distributing prescription medications, even without a monetary transaction, can result in misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the specific drug and the quantity shared.
- Penalties can span from fines and probation to more severe outcomes such as imprisonment.
- Helping a Friend in Pain: Imagine lending a friend a couple of your prescription painkillers after they complain of intense back pain. While it may seem like a kind gesture, this act can be seen as a distribution.
- Easing a Colleague's Stress: Offering an anxiety pill to a visibly stressed co-worker about an upcoming presentation might feel like the right thing to do. However, it's legally no different than selling the drug.
- Assisting a Family Member: Handing a few of your prescription sleeping pills to a sibling struggling with insomnia during a family visit might seem benign, but it falls under the same category as distributing prescription drugs.
While sharing prescription medications often comes from a place of empathy and concern, the legal implications in Arizona do not consider intent. It's important to remember that prescription medications are strictly for personal use and should never be distributed to others.
Can I Face Federal Charges for Selling Prescription Drugs?
Selling prescription drugs without the necessary authorization can result in both state and federal charges in Arizona. Federal charges often come with stricter penalties than state charges.
➤Federal involvement typically arises in prescription drug cases that include:
- Transporting the drugs across state or international boundaries.
- Handling substantial amounts of prescription drugs, which could indicate a large-scale operation.
- Using the internet or mail services for selling or distributing drugs.
- Connections to organized crime groups or broader drug trafficking networks.
The primary law at the federal level that addresses the illegal distribution and sale of prescription drugs is the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Within the CSA, prescription drugs are organized into distinct schedules, determined by their recognized medical applications and potential for misuse. Distributing or selling drugs listed under these schedules without the necessary authorization constitutes a federal crime.
➤Examples of Drugs and Their Scheduling under the CSA:
- Schedule II Drugs: These drugs have a high potential for abuse, which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin): A pain reliever often prescribed for moderate to severe pain.
- Methamphetamine: While it has limited medical uses, it's often associated with illicit drug trade.
- Adderall: Commonly prescribed for ADHD but has potential for misuse.
- Illegally selling or distributing Schedule II drugs can result in imprisonment for up to 20 years for first-time offenders.
- Schedule III Drugs: These drugs have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Examples include:
- Anabolic Steroids: Often misused for muscle building.
- Testosterone: A hormone with medical uses but can be misused.
- Unauthorized sale of Schedule III drugs can lead to up to 10 years in prison.
- Schedule IV Drugs: These have a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Examples include:
- Xanax (Alprazolam): Prescribed for anxiety disorders.
- Valium (Diazepam): Used for anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures.
- Selling these without proper authorization can result in up to 5 years of imprisonment.
It's important to note that these are just a few examples, and the CSA covers a broader range of drugs. The penalties can be severe if someone is accused of violating the CSA.
Can Felony Drug Charges Be Reduced?
Felony drug charges in Arizona have significant consequences, ranging from long-term imprisonment to hefty fines and a permanent criminal record. However, several avenues could reduce these charges or the penalties' severity.
Plea Bargaining: One of the most common methods to reduce felony drug charges is through plea bargaining. This involves:
- Negotiating with prosecutors to drop or reduce charges in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser offense.
- Achieving a reduced sentence or alternative penalties in place of lengthy prison terms.
Diversion Programs: Arizona offers several diversion programs, particularly for first-time offenders or those with non-violent charges. Participation might involve:
- Drug education courses or treatment programs.
- Community service or other restorative justice activities.
- Upon successful completion, charges can be dismissed or reduced, allowing the individual to avoid a criminal conviction on their record.
Effective Legal Defense: A strong defense strategy can challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution and potentially lead to reduced charges. Strategies may include:
- Challenging the legality of searches or seizures that led to the discovery of drugs.
- Questioning the accuracy or reliability of drug tests.
- Identifying procedural errors or violations of rights during the arrest or investigation.
Proposition 200 and Drug Offenses: Arizona's Proposition 200, passed in 1996, protects individuals charged with certain drug offenses. Under this provision:
- First- and second-time offenders charged with personal possession or use of controlled substances might be eligible for probation instead of jail or prison.
- Incarceration can only be considered if the individual violates terms of probation.
What Are the Penalties for Selling Prescription Drugs?
In Arizona, the unauthorized sale of prescription drugs carries stiff penalties, reflecting the state's stringent stance against such illicit activities.
- Misdemeanor Charges: Selling small amounts, typically viewed as for personal use, can lead to misdemeanor charges. Penalties might encompass jail sentences of up to 6 months and fines up to $2,500.
- Felony Charges: Engaging in the larger-scale distribution or sale, especially if intended for significant profit or targeting minors, can escalate to felony charges. These charges can carry prison sentences ranging from 1 year for lesser felonies up to 20 years for more severe offenses, along with fines reaching as high as $150,000.
- Aggravating Circumstances: Factors like selling close to schools, involving minors, or having previous drug-related convictions can enhance the charges and result in longer prison terms and increased fines. For instance, sales near a school zone can add an additional 2 years to a prison sentence.
- Asset Seizure: The state may confiscate assets believed to be tied to the drug sale proceeds.
➤Probation and Parole Limitations:
Convicted individuals may face probation periods where violations can mean additional jail time. Similarly, breaching parole terms, especially those related to drug activities, can lead to a return to prison.
Frequently Asked Questions
What constitutes a valid prescription in Arizona?
A valid prescription in Arizona is one that is issued by a licensed healthcare professional (like a doctor, dentist, or nurse practitioner) after a legitimate medical examination and for a valid medical reason. It must contain the patient's name, the prescribing doctor's details, the drug name, dosage, and instructions for use.
Can I be charged for possessing an expired prescription medication?
Yes, possessing a prescription drug past its expiration date without a current valid prescription can still lead to charges under ARS § 13-3406, as the authorization to possess the drug is no longer valid.
What if the prescription drugs were in my car, but they aren't mine?
Arizona law can still hold you responsible if prescription drugs not belonging to you are found in a vehicle or location under your control. However, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly possessed them. It's crucial to have legal representation to challenge such assumptions.
Are over-the-counter medications included in drug offenses?
No, over-the-counter medications are legally available without a prescription. However, misuse or abuse of these medications, especially if mixed with other substances, can still lead to legal consequences.
How is prescription drug DUI different from alcohol DUI?
While both offenses involve impaired driving, prescription drug DUI focuses on the effects of legally obtained drugs impairing one's ability to drive safely. Even if you're using medication as prescribed, if it impairs your driving, you can be charged with a DUI.
Are there special considerations for medical professionals charged with prescription drug offenses?
Yes, medical professionals may face additional consequences, such as losing their medical license or facing disciplinary action from medical boards, in addition to the standard legal penalties.
Can out-of-state prescriptions be used in Arizona?
- Generally, out-of-state prescriptions are honored in Arizona if they are legitimate. However, pharmacists have the discretion to verify and ensure the prescription's validity before dispensing medication.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Facing drug-related charges in Arizona can be challenging and stressful. At Kolsrud Law Offices, our track record speaks for itself.
During Josh's extensive career as an Arizona federal crimes attorney, he has managed over 3,500 cases and led over 100 jury trials. This depth of experience ensures that every client receives expert legal advice and a solid defense strategy tailored to their unique situation.
We recognize the weight of drug-related allegations and are dedicated to helping our clients achieve the best possible outcomes. If you or someone you know needs legal assistance, call us today at 480-680-9769 to discuss your case and understand the legal options available to you.
An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006
Why Choose Josh Kolsrud
With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication
Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients
Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.
As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort