Possession of prescription drugs, especially ones not prescribed to you, can be illegal in the state of Colorado. Depending on how much and what type of medications or controlled substances you possess can determine the level of legal consequences you might face.
Controlled substances are chemicals or drugs that are regulated by the United States government. Legal and illegal drugs and medications are classified into Schedules as a result of their potential for abuse as well as their accepted use as medicine. While it is legal to hold a controlled substance that is prescribed to you or purchased over-the-counter, it must be within the prescribed amount.
Prescription Medication Fraud
Over the counter and prescription drugs can be illegal to possess if the controlled substance is being used for recreational purposes, held with the intent to sell, or impairs the individual while in public or operating a motor vehicle. Xanax, Ritalin, Oxycodone, Steroids, Valium, OxyContin, and Vicodin are just a few examples of medications that are illegally used, abused, or sold without prescriptions.
Prescription drug fraud can include illegally sharing someone else’s medication, stealing prescription medicine, selling medications, and forging or altering a prescription to obtain medicine. Possession of medication without a valid prescription is considered to be a misdemeanor in Colorado. Punishment for misdemeanor drug possession can involve up to 18 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Furthermore, according to C.R.S. 18-18415 in the state of Colorado using deceit or forgery to acquire prescription drugs is considered a level 4 felony and can be associated with 6 to 12 months in jail and fines as much as $100,000. Depending on motive and evidence, altering or forging a prescription may be classified as a felony or misdemeanor. Selling prescription drugs can have a consequence of 6 months to 5 years in prison as well as criminal fines.
Drug Scheduling and Classification
Drugs, including prescription medications, are classified or “scheduled” to determine their level of danger if illegally used or possessed. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration drugs are classified into five specifications, Schedule I, II, III, IV, and V, according to their acceptable medical use as well as the drug’s potential risk for abuse.
Schedule I Drugs
Schedule I drugs are the most severe and potentially addictive drugs. These drugs are known for their psychological and physical dependence that can lead to abuse. While most of the drugs categorized as Schedule I are illegal such as heroine, LSD, and ecstasy, there are some prescription drugs that qualify. Prescription medication. Xyrem, a drug used to treat narcolepsy contains gamma-hydroxybutyrate is a Schedule I controlled substance. If possessed illegally one could be charged with Schedule I consequences.
Schedule II Drugs
Schedule II drugs are the next level down for addiction, dependency, and potential for risks if illegally being used. Many prescription medications fall under this category for sentencing if the medication is fraudulently held or being used. Some examples of Schedule II narcotic medications include but are not limited to: Percocet®, methadone, Demerol®, OxyContin®, dydrocodine, fentanyl, and morphine. Stimulant prescription medications such as Adderall® and Ritalin® are also Schedule II drugs.
Schedule III Drugs
Schedule III drugs have a lower physical and psychological dependence. Prescription medications containing 90 milligrams or less of codeine per dose are considered to be a controlled substance under Schedule III. Anabolic steroids such as Depo®-Testosterone and Tylenol with Codeine® are both Schedule III drugs. Benzphetamine, a prescription appetite suppressant used to treat obesity is also considered a Schedule III drug.
Schedule IV Drugs
Schedule IV drugs have a much lower risk for substance abuse. Medications such as alprazolam- also known as Xanax®, Valium®, clonazepam or Klonopin®, Ativan® are just a few prescription drugs that are identified by the drug administration as Schedule IV drugs.
Schedule V Drugs
Drugs categorized as Schedule V have the lowest risk for substance abuse. These drugs often contain limited amounts of narcotics. Some antihistamines and cough syrup medications that can be prescribed or purchased over-the-counter may be classified as Schedule V drugs. Just because a medication can be purchased without a prescription does not exempt this drug from being illegal if used improperly.
Seek Legal Aid
A well trained criminal attorney can defend repeat or first-time offenders to a best case scenario depending on their personal situation. “Presumptive punishment” or the normal sentencing can be negotiated based on mitigating circumstances and relevant factors. In some cases, reasonable explanations can be presented to reduce or eliminate legal consequences.
In the event an individual has previous convictions or “aggravating factors,” punishment may be more severe. A harsher sentence may be issued if the individual has a criminal history, especially if the defendant is currently on parole, probation, or bond for another felony.
Contact the law offices of M. Colin Bresee is you or someone you know is facing prescription drug fraud and needs legal assistance. Choose the right criminal defense lawyer to guide you through your legal process. With over 20 years of experience, M. Colin Bresee offers free consultations and has the experience you need.