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Patients and doctors are sometimes charged with prescription fraud. On the patient side, it’s called “doctor shopping” and involves committing fraud to get prescriptions from many doctors (Health & Safety Code 11173 HS). The Health & Safety Code for doctors who write illegal prescriptions is covered in 11153 HS.2.
HS 11173 covers a crime that includes shopping around for prescriptions at many different doctors to obtain prescription narcotics like Oxycodone, Vicodin, and other common controlled substances. There must be deception, misrepresentation, or subterfuge present in the commission of the crime. For example, concealment of the fact that the patient has been to many doctors in the last week to get the exact same prescription.
Doctors who knowingly provide these drugs to patients who don’t need them might be violating 11153 and can be charged with Prescription Fraud as well. This means that someone comes in complaining of pain frequently and the doctor scribbles out a prescription without verifying that there is a legitimate medical issue going on, or if the doctor simply writes too many scripts for a certain medical condition, knowing that the patient is shopping around for other doctors in the meantime.
Here are just a few of the ways that someone might commit prescription fraud:
– A patient sends a friend in to complain of chronic back pain and then buys the prescription from the friend or even just takes it because the friend allows him to
– A woman recovering from a painful car accident becomes addicted to meds and begins seeing a half dozen different doctors to get supplied with her medicine
– A doctor prescribes painkillers to any patient, at any time they ask, as long as they pay a flat fee (no real condition required to scribble out the script)
Each of these situations involves a breach of trust between the doctors and patients and each one is usually dealt with swiftly by the courts. In order for our healthcare system to work, trust must be established, and doctors who prescribe powerfully addictive painkillers for no reason violate their oath and the laws of California.
Penalties for doctors usually include more than just criminal court penalities. They’re likely to lose their license to practice medicine and this can be a severe, long-term consequence that forever alters the course of their life. Patients, too, can have severe consequences. Under California law, this is a “wobbler” offense, meaning it can be a felony or a misdemeanor.
If a misdemeanor
– Up to a year in county jail
If a felony
– 16 months, two years, or three years in jail
If you’re charged with this crime, a good defense attorney can aid you in defending yourself. They might argue that you did not use fraud or deceit to obtain the prescription. In other words, the patient can say that they were forthright about where they’ve obtained prescriptions and the doctor still wrote the script. The most common defense for doctors is that they truly did write the script because they believed the client was in pain, and it was for a legitimate medical reason. Sometimes this defense works very well because the bulk of people on narcotic pain meds DO have legitimate medical conditions that make life miserable for them. The courts sometimes have compassion about those things, and defense lawyers can use it to your advantage if you really do have a legitimate medical condition. Entrapment (someone set you up) is another common defense.
Whatever the circumstances behind your Prescription Fraud charge is, you NEED to contact a lawyer as soon as possible and let them help you. If your charge is a felony, there’s no excuse to go it alone. You’re facing up to 3 years in jail and a possible fine as well. A lawyer will construct a defense for you or work to have the charges dropped altogether. Another possibility is probation instead of jail for you. If you are already charged with this crime, there’s no time to lose. Call on a great lawyer today and get help.