Law enforcement agencies and legislators are both concerned about the growing prescription drug addiction epidemic. Legislators are worried that addicts and other people who seek to obtain prescription drugs may try to receive drugs from a pharmacist through the impersonation of a doctor, or through the impersonation of another individual who is licensed to write prescriptions. This section of the business and professions code makes it illegal to falsely represent oneself to a pharmacist to get a prescription drug.
The following elements must be established to prove the guilt of a defendant:
- The defendant represented themselves as a person who can legally write prescriptions in order to receive prescriptions unlawfully
- The impersonation happened in an electronic or telephone communication with the pharmacist
- Alternatively, the defendant represented that they were acting for a person who can legally write prescriptions in order to receive prescriptions unlawfully
- The misrepresentation happened in an electronic or telephone communication with the pharmacist
Examples of the Crime
A patient may be waiting in their doctor’s office and hear a registered nurse call a local pharmacy with a prescription. When the office is unattended, the patient uses the office phone to call a pharmacy with a prescription for narcotic painkillers. He claims that he is the doctor who is authorized to write such a prescription. This man could be charged with a crime under the California Business and Professions Code Section 4323.
Perhaps a patient is waiting at the doctor’s office and notices that a prescription pad is lying in the open. The patient writes several prescriptions for himself for narcotic painkillers and sedatives. Then he brings these forged prescriptions to various pharmacies to have them filled. This patient could be charged with counterfeit prescription blank, but he wouldn’t be guilty under the California Business and Professions Code Section 4323. This is because this particular code only covers interactions that were made through an electronic or telephone communication.
Criminal Defenses for False Representation
In order to be prosecuted for this crime, the interaction must have been conducted over the telephone or through an electronic communication. If the impersonation did not happen in this manner (as with the previously listed example of forged paper prescriptions), then the defendant is not guilty of this particular crime.
The defendant might have made many provable statements to the pharmacist regarding their need for drugs. But this particular professions code regards only the impersonation of a doctor or another individual who can write a prescription. If the defendant didn’t impersonate a physician or another individual who can write a prescription, they are not guilty of breaching this particular section of code.
Penalties for False Representation
Impersonating a physician or other individual who is authorized to write a prescription can be charged as a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, a defendant can receive a sentence of up to one year in prison. This is added to any other probation conditions that the judge may impose.
It should be noted that this is only one section of the criminal code regarding the illegal acquiring of prescription drugs. Defendants who are found guilty of this misdemeanor will also likely be found guilty of multiple other crimes, the type and severity of which will depend on their unique circumstances.
There are related offenses that the defendant may find themselves charged with in addition to the Section 4323 offense. Alternatively, even if a defendant is not guilty of a Section 4323 offense, they may be guilty of one of the related offenses.
The most commonly related offenses are these:
- Excessive Prescription of Drugs
- Counterfeit Prescription Blank
- Prescription Fraud