Illegal possession of medications is a serious drug problem.
In recent years, the epidemic of addiction to prescription medications, especially pain killers has shifted the attention of law enforcement efforts to illegal possession, sale, and distribution of prescription medication (or drugs that could have and should have been legally prescribed by physicians). A patient with an authentic need of a powerful opioid pain-killer becomes physically addicted and dependent on the drug and then finds himself or herself obtaining supplies from illegal sources and facing serious charges for illegal possession.
The rate of opioid related deaths has been accelerating. Opioid overdose has killed nearly 3,000 Minnesotans in the last 15 years, more than half of those deaths were in the last 5 years. Every day, more than 1,000 people are received in emergency room for attention due to misused prescription medications. Available prescription opioids are related to street opioids and the illegal use of prescription drugs leads to a marketing channel that connects to street drugs and the legal problems that go with those.
What are the charges in Minnesota law?
Minnesota criminal law regarding prescription drugs mostly has to do with fraudulent and illegal procurement of the drug. People can face illegal possession of a controlled substance, even if they can show a prescription for the medication. Charges can be filed if:
- The prescription used to procure the drug is fraudulent, forged when it I presented to the pharmacy.
- A prescription made out to one patient is used by someone else. Pharmacies are not allowed to let a third-party collect controlled medications for the patient. It is illegal for the patient to misrepresent his or her identity when collecting a controlled substance.
- A stolen prescription pad, stolen from a physician’s office is used to obtain a controlled substance.
- Lending a dose of controlled substance to a person for whom it was not prescribed can be a criminal offense. The person receiving the drug is guilty of illegal possession.
Possible criminal consequences.
The worst part of the prescription drug problem is that the extended use of powerful opioid medications and other mood altering or anxiety-reducing medications leads to addiction or intense dependency that narrows and intensifies emotional drives, to the point that the user becomes desperate to obtain the drug. Controlled prescription drugs include three major classes:
- Opiates like Oxycontin, Percoset, and morphine usually prescribed for pain control.
- Stimulants like the amphetamines, Ritalin, and Phentermine usually prescribed to treat attention disorders.
- Depressants like Xanax, Valium, and clonazepam usually prescribed for anxiety reduction and for sleep disorders.
In some cases, the use of these mood-altering substances has produced major psychiatric crises that have contributed to criminal behavior or suicide.
Addiction or dependency on controlled substances to the point that they are illegally obtained can involve ordinary people in much deeper levels of criminal behavior where legal penalties are very severe and consequences can be catastrophic. The charges of simple illegal possession bear penalties that are serious enough in themselves.
Penalties for illegal possession.
Minnesota law treats illegal possession of a controlled substance that was a prescribed medication in the same way it treats criminal possession of street drugs. The severity of the charge depends on quantity. If convicted, one who possesses these substances illegally can receive sentences up to 30 years and fines up to a million dollars for first-degree possession. Possession of small amounts of illegal drugs can result in up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250 thousand.
How can you defend yourself against an illegal possession charge?
Experienced defense attorneys examine the process by which the charge was laid. Looking at the investigative procedures that led to the charge. Often, important pieces of evidence forming the basis for the charge were illegally obtained and the lawyers can file a motion to suppress the presentation of key evidence against you. Search and seizure laws prevent police from searching your person without a warrant, for instance. The charge of illegal possession might simply be based on the fact that your medications were prescription container expired or their medications were put in a travel container instead of a pill bottle.
An experienced attorney is vital to the defense of anyone charged with illegal drug possession. Charles Segal has been defending Minnesotans for over 20 years. Please contact us to learn more.
The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.