Forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs is covered under California Health and Safety Code 11368.
It should be noted that actual possession of drugs by forged prescription is a violation of the similar law under California Business and Professions Code 4324.
Additionally, a similar drug crime to HS 11368 is California Health & Safety Code 11173, prescription fraud, but more commonly known as “doctor shopping.”
Clearly, prescription drugs have countless legitimate uses for patients with a wide range of medical conditions. However, in the state of California, prescription drugs are highly regulated.
The unlawful use or sale of prescription drugs in Los Angeles County has become a major problem.
Due to the fact that narcotic drugs can be obtained legally with a valid prescription from a doctor, many people attempt to forge prescriptions to get possession of the drugs.
Health and Safety Code 11368 criminalizes the act of forging or altering a prescription, using a forged prescription to obtain narcotic drugs, or possessing the narcotic drugs that were obtained from a forged prescription.
The most common types of narcotic drugs that are abused with a prescription include Demerol, Fentanyl, Codeine, Opium, and Morphine.
In Los Angeles County, a common example of an HS 11368 violation includes a situation where someone steals a prescription pad from their doctor's office and then writes and forges a prescription for themselves.
Another common example is a situation where someone buys a narcotic drug from another person they knew was obtained using a forged prescription.
California Health and Safety Code 11368 is a “wobbler” crime, meaning the prosecutor has the discretion to charge the violation as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.
If you have been accused of the drug crime of forging or altering a prescription for a narcotic drug, you need to contact the Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP.
Don't make any statements to police detectives. Let's take a closer look at the legal definitions, penalties, and potential legal defenses below.
Legal Definition of Forging a Prescription
California Health and Safety Code 11368, forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs, is legally defined as follows:
- Anyone who forges, alters a prescription, or issues or utters a prescription with a forged or fictitious signature for a narcotic drug, or in possession of a narcotic drug obtained using forged, fictitious, or altered prescription, will be punished by a jail sentence of 6 months to one year in a county jail or California state prison.
Under Health and Safety Code 11027, a prescription is defined as any order from a legal prescriber for a controlled substance to a patient. The prescription can be in writing, verbal, or even by fax.
The term “utter” means you used, or attempted to use, a forged or altered prescription and you represented it as a valid prescription.
The term “possession” can include actual possession of the drug or even constructive possession, meaning you have control over it.
A “narcotic drug” in defined under California Health and Safety Code 11019 and includes the following:
It should be noted that controlled substances are categorized based on their medical uses, the potential for abuse, and safety level.
The list above includes the most common abused medication and is not limited to this list. If you need additional information, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at our law firm.
Elements of the Crime - Forging a Prescription
In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to obtain a conviction for forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs, a violation of California Health and Safety Code 11368, they must be able to prove what is commonly known as the “elements of the crime.” These include the following:
- You either forged or altered, or used a forged or altered prescription;
- The prescription was issued for a narcotic drug;
- You knew the prescription was forged or altered.
As you can see above, it's important to note you can still violate HS 11368 even if you didn't actually forge or alter the prescription yourself.
It's still a crime to use a forged prescription for narcotic drugs if you had knowledge it was forged.
Likewise, you can still violate HS 11368 if you forged or altered a prescription, but did not use it for yourself, rather gave it to another person to use.
If you actually obtain narcotic drugs using a forged or altered prescription, you could face additional drug related charges.
HC 11368 covers forging or altering a prescription, not possession.
As stated above, California Business and Professions Code 4324 covers the actual possession of narcotic drugs obtain by a forged prescription.
- California Health & Safety Code 11153 – Prescribing without Legitimate Purpose,
- California Health & Safety Code 11156 – Prescribing Controlled Substance to Addict,
- California Health & Safety Code 11173 – Prescription Fraud,
- California Health & Safety Code 11350 – Possession of Controlled Substance,
- California Health & Safety Code 11162.5 – Counterfeit a Prescription Blank,
- California Business and Professions Code 4324 – Forging, Altering, and Possession of Prescription Drugs obtained Using Forged Prescription.
Legal Penalties for Forging a Prescription
California Health and Safety Code 11368 is a “wobbler,” which means the Los Angeles County prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.
In other words, it's the prosecutor's discretion and they will typically base their decision on how to file the case based on the specific circumstances of the criminal conduct and your criminal history.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor case of forging or altering a prescription, you will face 6 months to one year in a Los Angeles County jail, a fine up to $1,000, and informal probation.
If you are convicted of a felony case under HS 11368, you will face up to 3 years in a California state prison and formal probation.
It should be noted you could also face additional legal penalties, such as registration as a California drug offender with your local police station, and deportation for undocumented immigrants. A felony conviction could also carry a firearm prohibition.
Legal Defenses for Forging a Prescription
Our criminal defense lawyers could use a variety of legal defenses against charges of forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs in violation of California Health and Safety Code 11368.
Every case is unique and will first require a close review of the specific details on your case in order to determine the most effective strategy.
However, the most commonly used legal defense for an HS 11368 includes the following:
- Knowledge of the prescription being forged or altered: In some cases, our lawyers may be able to argue you simply didn't know the prescription was not valid. For example, a friend may have asked you to pick up their prescription which had been altered by increasing the amount of pills. If we can cast doubt about this important element of the crime, you could avoid a conviction.
- Knowledge the prescription drugs were obtained with a forged prescription: In certain cases where you may have purchased a prescription drug from someone else, our attorney's might be able to make an argument you didn't know the prescription drugs were obtained by using an unlawful prescription. Remember, a key element of the crime is that you knew they were obtained with a forged prescription. If successful, you can't be guilty of possessing drugs obtained with an altered prescription.
Contact our Criminal Defense Law Firm
If you are under investigation or already charged with forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs that violated California Health and Safety Code 11368, you should contact the experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP. The consequences of a conviction are harsh and life-altering.
We have a track record of success defending our clients against drug related charges throughout the LA County criminal court system. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Contact our office at 877-781-1570.