Prescription Drug Crimes in Florida
Prescription painkillers and heroin have a similar chemical makeup. For almost two decades, these medicines have been used to treat patients throughout the United States who experience moderate to severe pain. Unfortunately, these drugs have resulted in abuse, addiction, and fatal overdoses.
Due to the national opioid epidemic, Florida has seen a significant rise in the number of fatalities related to opioid-related overdoses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were nearly 2,800 deaths in the state caused by overdose in 2016, which is a rate of 14.4 fatalities per 100,000 individuals.
Lawmakers in Florida and throughout the country have enacted tough laws designed to crack down on drug crimes involving prescription narcotics, including carrying medication without a prescription or overprescribing drugs to those who are addicted.
Florida Prescription Drug Laws & Penalties
State law provides a list of drugs known as “controlled substances,” which are separated into five “schedules.” While Schedule I has the highest potential for abuse and addiction without any current and accepted medical use in the United States, Schedule V has the lowest potential for abuse compared to other narcotics.
Many prescription drugs are considered Schedule II substances, including oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, Adderall, Percocet, and Ritalin. Although they are currently accepted for medical use, access to these narcotics is quite limited. Other prescription medications fall under Schedule III, IV, and V drugs.
Unlawful possession of a prescribed drug happens when a person gains access to a narcotic without a doctor’s prescription. Unlawful possession of a Schedule II narcotic is a third-degree felony, punishable by a maximum five-year prison sentence and a fine no larger than $5,000. Possession with intent to sell a Schedule II drug is a second-degree felony, resulting in a maximum 15-year prison term and a fine of up to $10,000.
If law enforcement discovers a significant amount of prescription medication in a person’s possession, he/she may be charged with drug trafficking. For instance, Possession of at least 14 grams of a Schedule II drug is considered a felony in the first degree, which carries a maximum 30-year prison sentence with a mandatory minimum of three years in prison.
Prescription fraud is defined as gaining access to a controlled substance through fraud and misrepresentation. Common examples include forging a doctor’s signature on a prescription pad, providing false information to obtain a prescription, and “doctor shopping.” This crime is a felony in the third degree in Florida.