Former Fairfax Prosecutor Discusses Virginia’s Prescription Fraud Laws

What is Prescription Drug Fraud?

The abuse of prescription drugs is becoming more and moreprevalent. Prescription drug addiction can happen accidentally, for example when someone is legitimately prescribed drugs for pain and reacts adversely to them. However, prescription drugs also have high street values and are attractive targets for those looking to make profits illicitly. In any case, prescription drug abuse is a tricky area of the lawbecause the drugs are often obtained from a legal source through illegal methods.Virginia law approaches prescription drug fraud under Virginia Statute 18.2-258.1. The statute makes it illegal to engage in a wide variety of activity aimed at obtaining illegal prescriptions.

What are the Specifics of the Prescription Fraud?

A couple of key components of the prescription fraud statute are worth mentioning.Prescription drugs are commonly illegally gotten through the use of a doctor’s prescription pad. Defendants sometimes steal a prescription pad directly from a doctor or copy of a prescription that was legitimately made. Defendants may even create entirely fraudulent prescriptions. The statute prohibits forgery or alteration of prescriptions and all of the above methods of getting prescription drugs are illegal under the statute.

As well, providing mislead facts in order to obtain medication is unlawful. A defendant can be charged under the statute for merely hiding information that is considered “material” to the prescription. Material information is basically that which would be necessary in order for a doctor or other authorized prescriber to make a decision reasonably grounded in fact. However, the statute specifically states that giving a false name or address is covered. At the end of the day, Virginia has gone to great lengths to restrict access to prescription drugs. It is important that those seeking prescriptions follow the required steps carefully and be honest at every step in the process.

What is the Punishment for Prescription Fraud?

Prescription drug fraud is a class 6 felony. Class 6 felonies carry a term of imprisonment of between one and five years or imprisonment for no more than twelve months and a fine of up to $2,500.00.  However, it is worth noting that the sentence actually imposed will be harshest when the fraud is committed with the purpose of obtaining prescription drugs for distribution. Indeed, there is an entirely separate statute that provides heftier sentences for drug distribution. There is a much better argument against incarceration when the defendant was attempting to acquire medication for pain.

The Virginia statute dealing with prescription drug fraud also sets out special rules that can be helpful to first time offenders. This first time offender rule creates a rare situation in Virginia’s law that can allow a charge to be dropped to a misdemeanor when the Commonwealth’s Attorney can prove a felony. To be a first time offender, the defendant cannot have been convicted of any prior drug offenses. The court may place a first time offender essentially on probation, after the successful completion of which the defendant will be convicted of a misdemeanor. The probation terms will require the defendant to undergo a drug evaluation and attend an education or treatment program as well as submit to drug testing.

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