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Prescription drug fraud charges can include significant fines and imprisonment. This type of criminal activity involves the illegal acquisition, possession, or distribution of prescription medications through deceitful practices such as forging prescriptions, doctor shopping, or falsifying medical conditions to unlawfully obtain drugs.

Under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S), it is illegal to obtain a prescription through deceptive means or to possess prescription drugs without a valid prescription.

If you are facing a prescription drug charge, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney who can defend your rights. The Law Office of Daniel Hutto offers a free consultation for individuals facing prescription drug fraud charges in Arizona. 

Here’s what this article will cover:

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According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, prescription drug misuse is a growing concern, with over 15% of adults admitting to using prescription drugs non-medically.

prescription drug fraud

What is a Prescription Drug Fraud Charge 

A Prescription Drug Fraud Charge in Arizona involves the illegal acquisition, possession, or distribution of prescription medications through fraudulent methods.

This type of criminal charge is serious and falls under the category of drug crimes, which are stringently prosecuted under Arizona law. 

Key Aspects of a Prescription Drug Fraud Charge include:

  • Forging Prescriptions: This includes altering existing prescriptions or creating fake prescriptions to obtain medication unlawly.
  • Misrepresentation: Posing as a medical professional or falsely using another person’s identity to procure prescriptions.
  • Deception to Obtain Drugs: Using deceptive practices such as doctor shopping or falsifying medical conditions to acquire prescriptions from multiple healthcare providers without their knowledge of other prescriptions.
  • Illegal Possession of Prescription Pads: Theft or unauthorized possession of prescription pads, which is often a precursor to forging prescriptions.

In legal terms, these activities are predominantly covered under the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §13-3406. This law specifically makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly possess any prescription-only drug unless obtained under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner while acting in the course of professional practice.

The statute further expands on fraud to include acquiring or obtaining possession of a prescription-only drug through fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or use of a false statement.

Understanding the Law:

  • ARS §13-3406(A)(1) explicitly forbids the acquisition or obtaining of prescription drugs through misrepresentation, deceit, fraud, or subterfuge.
  • ARS §13-3406(A)(3) details the illegal act of procuring drugs or obtaining prescriptions through concealment of a material fact, which could include withholding information about other prescriptions obtained from different doctors.

Prescription drug fraud can be prosecuted whether the drugs were intended for personal use or for distribution.

The severity of the offense and the consequent legal penalties can vary based on the quantity of the drugs involved, the method of fraud employed, and the defendant’s criminal history.

doctor shopping

What is Considered Doctor Shopping? 

Doctor shopping is the practice of visiting multiple healthcare providers to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances without the doctors’ knowledge of the other consultations.

This behavior is often motivated by a desire to acquire a larger amount of medication than would legally be prescribed by any single doctor, or to obtain prescriptions for the purpose of misuse or illegal distribution.

Legal Definition

In Arizona, doctor shopping is explicitly illegal and is considered a form of prescription drug fraud. According to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §13-3406(A)(3), it is unlawful for a person to knowingly procure or attempt to procure the administration of a prescription-only drug or drugs by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or concealment of a material fact.

Here, the concealment typically involves not disclosing to a physician that the patient has already received a prescription for the same or a similar substance from another doctor.

Examples of Doctor Shopping

Doctor shopping can take various forms, including:

  • Multiple Prescriptions: Obtaining overlapping prescriptions by misleading several practitioners about the extent of prescriptions already received.
  • Different Locations: Visiting doctors in different towns or even states to avoid detection by a centralized system that tracks drug prescriptions.
  • Falsified Symptoms: Lying about symptoms to several practitioners to obtain prescriptions for drugs that are commonly abused, such as opioids.

Detection and Prevention

To combat prescription drug fraud through doctor shopping, Arizona utilizes the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). This program allows pharmacists and qualified healthcare providers to access a central database that tracks controlled substance prescriptions dispensed within the state. 

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Penalties for Prescription Fraud 

Prescription fraud is considered a serious criminal offense in Arizona and carries substantial penalties under state law, particularly as outlined in the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §13-3406.

This statute categorizes various activities related to the fraudulent acquisition, possession, or distribution of prescription-only drugs as felonies, the severity of which depends on specific details of the offense, such as the amount of medication involved and the defendant’s prior criminal history.

Classifications and Penalties:

  • Class 4 Felony: This is the most common classification for prescription fraud offenses. Penalties for a Class 4 felony include:
    • A prison term of up to 3.75 years for first-time offenders.
    • Fines that may exceed $150,000 depending on the severity of the offense.
    • Potential probation terms, which could include mandatory drug treatment programs or community service.
  • Class 3 Felony: In cases where the fraudulent activities involve larger quantities of drugs or if the offender has prior felony convictions, the offense may be elevated to a Class 3 felony. Penalties for a Class 3 felony can be more severe, including:
    • A prison term of up to 8.75 years if the individual has previous felony convictions.
    • Heavier fines and potentially longer terms of probation.

Aggravating Factors:

Several factors can influence the severity of the penalties for prescription fraud, such as:

  • Quantity of Drugs: The larger the quantity of drugs involved in the fraud, the more severe the potential penalties.
  • Harm Caused: If the fraudulent activity results in harm to individuals, such as overdose or death, this can significantly increase the severity of the penalties.
  • Previous Offenses: Individuals with a history of drug-related offenses typically face harsher penalties compared to first-time offenders.

Additional Legal Consequences:

Conviction for prescription fraud can also lead to additional consequences beyond the immediate legal penalties. These include:

  • Loss of Professional Licenses: Medical professionals convicted of prescription fraud may face revocation or suspension of their professional licenses.
  • Permanent Criminal Record: A felony conviction can hinder future employment opportunities, professional relationships, and personal reputations.
  • Restitution: Courts may order individuals convicted of prescription fraud to pay restitution to victims or institutions harmed by their actions.

Given the complexity of these cases and the potentially life-altering consequences of a conviction, it is crucial for anyone accused of prescription fraud to seek competent legal counsel. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide a robust defense, negotiate plea deals, or work to mitigate the penalties based on the specifics of the case.

Defenses to Drug Charges 

Effective defenses can challenge the prosecution’s evidence, dispute legal interpretations, or introduce mitigating factors that reduce the severity of potential penalties.

Here are some of the most common defenses used in cases of prescription drug fraud:

Lack of Knowledge

One of the fundamental defenses is to prove that the defendant lacked knowledge that they were committing a crime. Under Arizona law, intent is a critical element of prescription fraud. If the defense can establish that the accused did not know that the prescriptions were obtained or forged illegally, this can be a valid defense to the charges.

No Intent to Defraud

Closely related to the lack of knowledge, demonstrating that there was no intent to defraud can also serve as a defense. This might apply in situations where the accused believed they had a legitimate prescription or were otherwise acting under instructions that they thought were lawful.

Invalid Proof of Fraud

Challenging the prosecution’s evidence regarding the fraudulent nature of the transaction is another strategy. This defense argues that the evidence does not meet the legal standard to prove fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. It could involve questioning the reliability of witnesses, the authenticity of documents, or the integrity of investigative methods.

Prescription Validity

Asserting that all prescriptions involved were valid and lawfully obtained is a strong defense. This could involve providing evidence that all medical procedures and prescriptions were conducted under standard medical practice guidelines and with proper medical oversight.

Entrapment

Entrapment occurs when law enforcement officers or agents induce a person to commit a crime that they otherwise would not have committed. If a defendant can prove that they were persuaded or tricked into committing prescription fraud by police practices, this might be a successful defense.

Medical Necessity

In some cases, defendants may argue medical necessity, particularly if the drugs were obtained for personal use and there was a genuine medical need. This defense has to be carefully managed, as it can be complex to prove and is not always accepted by courts.

Constitutional Violations

Violations of constitutional rights during the investigation, such as illegal search and seizure, can lead to evidence being inadmissible in court. If critical evidence is thrown out, the prosecution may have insufficient proof to carry their case.

Get Help From a Criminal Defense Attorney

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The Law Office of Daniel Hutto is dedicated to defending individuals accused of criminal offenses, such as prescription drug fraud.

To ease your initial concerns, they offer a free consultation where you can openly discuss your situation without any financial obligation.

Contact them at 602 536-7878. to schedule a consultation and ensure that your rights are defended throughout the legal process.

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