Being addicted to prescription drugs is a serious problem that can ruin lives and even kill people. Many drug addicts will do whatever they can to obtain prescription drugs. Sometimes this involves creating a counterfeit prescription pad in order to trick a pharmacist into filling prescriptions for controlled substances. The California state legislature has implemented legislation which makes counterfeiting a prescription pad punishable by felony charges. The legislation is specified in California Health and Safety Code Section 11162.5 HSC.
In order to convict a defendant, a prosecutor must prove the following circumstances were at play:
- The defendant created a counterfeit prescription blank and attempted to pass it off as an official prescription blank which had been issued by a licensed medical practitioner with authority to write prescriptions
- Alternatively, the defendant was knowledgeable and willful regarding the possession of one or more counterfeit prescription blanks
A man is struggling with an Oxycontin addiction. He wants an easier way of obtaining prescriptions for the controlled drug. Rather than seeking a new prescription from a legitimate doctor, he replicates his doctor’s prescription pad by using his computer. Then he prints numerous copies of the pad. He writes false prescriptions on the fake blanks and attempts to fill them at a number of local pharmacies. This man can be criminally charged with the production of counterfeit prescription blanks.
A man has an appointment for his yearly physical. When the physician exits the room, the man realizes that the prescription pad has been left in the open. The patient takes a few of the prescription pages and hides them. Later, he writes a number of prescriptions with the stolen pages and attempts to pretend they are authentic at his pharmacy. He would not technically be criminally liable under this particular statute because he used legitimate prescription blanks rather than counterfeiting a prescription pad. That said, he could be criminally charged with the forgery of a narcotic prescription.
Defenses to Counterfeiting a Prescription Blank or Blanks
In some circumstances, the defendant might possess a counterfeit prescription blank or several blanks that were given to them by another person. In this case, the other person would be at fault for the creation and distribution of the counterfeit prescription blanks. If the defendant had no reason that they would know the pads were counterfeit, they would not be guilty of this particular offense in a criminal trial. However, in instances where the defendant knowingly possessed counterfeit prescription blanks, they would be guilty of this offense regardless of whether or not they attempted to fill a false prescription.
Penalties for Counterfeiting a Prescription Blank or Blanks
The counterfeiting of prescription blanks is considered a serious offense under California state law. In cases where the defendant possesses or is accused of possessing at least four counterfeit blanks, the offense is considered a “wobbler” which can either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If the defendant receives a felony charge, the maximum punishment is imprisonment for three years. If the defendant receives a misdemeanor charge, the maximum penalty is one year in jail.
In cases where the defendant possesses or is accused of possessing three or fewer counterfeit blanks, they will only be charged with a misdemeanor offense. The maximum penalty for this offense is a year in jail.
If a defendant is charged with the counterfeiting of prescription blanks or possession of counterfeit prescription blanks, there is a good chance that they will be charged with additional offenses. These are related offenses under California state laws:
- Doctor Shopping and Prescription Fraud
- Forging a Prescription for a Narcotic
A defendant may be charged with one or more of these without being charged with counterfeiting prescription blanks if they attempted to pass off false prescriptions written on the real prescription blanks (ie: they stole actual prescription blanks from their physician’s office). This particular offense only applies when the defendant physically copied or possessed physical copies of a physician’s prescription blanks.