Prescription Drug Charges in New Jersey

In 2017, medical providers in the U.S. prescribed approximately 58.7 opioid medications per 100 people. New Jersey's rate that year was 44.2. The majority of patients use these types of medications responsibly; however, in 2017, roughly 18 million people misused them. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, nearly 80% of heroin users initially began their opioid abuse using prescribed pain medication.

New Jersey Division of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

The DEA has a New Jersey Division that recognizes the statewide problems with prescription drug abuse, much of which involves prescription fraud. They report that prescription opioids that are used to treat severe pain are among the most dangerous and troublesome. Users may quickly become addicted and transition over to “street” opioids such as heroin.

Three Most Commonly Abused Prescription Medications

  • Opioids: These are pain relievers that include the OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin brands.
  • Depressants: The include drugs that depress the central nervous system including classifications such as sedatives, benzodiazepines, and tranquilizers. Some of the common brand names include Xanax, Valium, and Ambien.
  • Stimulants: These include products used to treat an attention-deficit disorder such as Ritalin and Adderall.

How is Prescription Fraud Occurring?

One means of diversion involves the theft of blank prescription pads from medical offices. The prescriptions are then simply forged and the medications are obtained through a pharmacy. Another way this occurs is through the creation of counterfeit prescription blanks.

Illegal Online Pharmacies

Agencies of law enforcement often encounter pharmacies that are operating illegally on the internet. These sites are offering medications without having to visit a medical provider. This has been made easier through the ability to accept credit or debit cards for electronic payment. These illicit drugs are then mailed or otherwise shipped.

“Doctor Shopping” and “Pill Mills”

The New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program has largely reduced these practices used by drug seekers. Doctor shopping involves visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain prescription medications. The term “pill mills” refers to medical practices that are routinely providing prescription medications to many patients that are not medically necessary. These practices are often located in rural areas and may attract hundreds of patients that they otherwise would not.

Understanding Scheduled Drugs

The provisions of the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act outline the factors that influence how drugs that are controlled substances are classified. One critical consideration is whether the substance is likely to be abused. Other factors include the potential risks to public health, the likelihood that users may become dependent on the drug, and if the substance is a precursor to a highly controlled substance.

Types of Drugs Classified

 

Examples

Description

Schedule I

LSD, Peyote, Mescaline, Heroin

Very likely to be abused--no medical purposes

Schedule II

Fentanyl, Methadone, Opium

High potential to be abused--some medical purposes

Schedule III

Amphetamine, Methamphetamine

Some potential for abuse—some medical purposes

Schedule IV

Phenobarbital, Valium

Lower potential for abuse—many medical purposes

Schedule V

Lyrica, Various Cough Suppressants

Low potential for abuse--many medical purposes

Controlled Substances Law (2C:35-5)

It is a crime to knowingly “manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled dangerous substance.” This includes narcotic drugs that are classified as Schedule I or II in addition to a host of other drugs. Those convicted of the offense involving a quantity of one ounce or more may be charged with a crime of the second-degree. The offense is charged as a crime of the third degree when the quantity involved is less than one ounce.

Possession of a Controlled Substance (2C:35-10)

It is a crime of the third-degree to knowingly possess a Schedule I, II, III, IV controlled substance that was not obtained by a prescription written from a licensed medical practitioner. If it is a Schedule V controlled substance, the offense is charged as a crime of the fourth degree.

Prescription Legend Drugs (2C:35-10.5)

  • Distribution of a prescription legend drug in a quantity of four doses or less without a prescription from a licensed medical professional is a disorderly person offense
  • Distribution for monetary gain or having possession with intent to do so of a prescription legend drug of four doses or less without a prescription from a licensed medical professional is a fourth-degree offense
  • Distribution or possession with intent to distribute of prescription legend drugs in a quantity of five to 100 doses without a prescription from a licensed medical professional is a third-degree offense
  • Distribution or possession with intent to distribute of prescription legend drugs in a quantity of 100 or more doses without a prescription from a licensed medical professional is a second-degree offense
  • Obtaining or attempting to obtain a prescription legend drug through acts of forgery or deceit is a crime of the fourth-degree

Obtaining Through Fraud (2C:35-13)

It is not lawful for someone to gain possession of a controlled substance through acts of “misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.” This includes fraud involving certificates of destruction that indicate a New Jersey Prescription Blank has been destroyed. These crimes and any acts of forgery involving a New Jersey Prescription Blank are charged as third-degree offenses. 

Offense Level

Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

First Offense

10 to 20 years

Up to $200,000

Second Degree

5 to 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

3 to 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

18 months

Up to $10,000

Disorderly Person Offense

Six months

Up to $1,000

About New Jersey Prescription Blanks

In efforts to limit fraud or forgery, medical providers that write prescriptions are required to use a standardized form that is approved by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. These are considered as “non-reproducible” and use a safety paper that is not erasable. Any practitioner who determines that a blank has been stolen must notify the Office of Drug Control within 72 hours.

Experienced Defense Attorney for Prescription Drug Offenses

Have you been alleged to have committed a crime that relates to prescription drugs? With the recent “opioid epidemic” and other abuses involving prescription medications, legislators and law enforcement at the state and federal levels have taken significant action. The penalties that may be imposed following a conviction are increasingly harsh. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been effectively representing clients facing criminal charges for many years in New Jersey. Contact the office today for a consultation at (888) 535-3686.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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