If you’ve been following the news lately, you probably know the use of opiate and other prescription drugs has become a hot topic. Law enforcement agencies across the country, including in New Orleans, have begun paying increased attention to prescription drug crimes. At Bloom Legal think it’s important to understand how the law works. Our New Orleans drug defense lawyers would like to shed some light on some of the most common misconceptions about prescription drug crimes.
Let’s start at the beginning
The state of Louisiana considers prescription drugs to be controlled substances. That’s why you are required a doctor’s prescription to legally obtain medicines like:
The state classifies all controlled dangerous substances, or CDSs, into five schedules. It considers drugs with high addiction potential and few therapeutic uses Schedule I products. It places items with low risk of addiction and several legitimate uses in Schedule V. Heroine and LSD are Schedule I drugs. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are Schedule V drugs. According to the law, one can only be in possession of any medications listed on these schedules if they possess a legally-obtained prescription or the drug falls into an excepted category.
What if a friend has a prescription and they share a few of their pills with me?
If you don’t have a prescription for a scheduled drug, it’s illegal to have it. The police can arrest you for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription in your name. It doesn’t matter if your friend has a valid prescription.
Will my friend be charged with a drug crime for sharing medication with me?
The police can charge your friend with possession with intent to distribute for sharing pills that a doctor legally prescribed for them. This is true even if we’re only talking about one or two pills.
The Louisiana police arrested me after a blood or urine drug test. Is that allowed?
Because prescription drugs are completely illegal in Louisiana unless you have a prescription, you can face possession charges if a law enforcement or health care agency finds traces of a controlled dangerous substance in your blood or urine. This most frequently happens after car or workplace accidents where a health care provider or law enforcement agency collects blood or urine samples. If the police have arrested you as a result of a positive blood or urine test, it’s critical to have an experienced Louisiana drug defense attorney review your case. This area of search and seizure law is quite complex, so it’s vital to have an attorney who understands the ins and outs of the law on your side to protect your rights.
What about pills that are stronger than the ones my physician prescribed?
To stay on the right side of the law, you can only have the exact type of pills prescribed by your doctor. Here’s an example: Let’s say that Karen has a prescription for 300 mg Vicodin tablets. The police pull Karen over for rolling through a stop sign. The officer asks Karen for her driver’s license and proof of insurance. He runs Karen’s name and learns that she has an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court on an unrelated traffic matter. The police take Karen into custody and conduct an inventory search. During the search, they see the Vicodin bottle with Karen’s name on it lying on the front seat. The bottle clearly indicates that the prescription is for 300 mg pills. When the officers open the bottle as part of the inventory search, they see tablets marked 500 mg. They take the pills to the lab, and later that week get a report stating the bottle was full of 500 mg Vicodin pills. Law enforcement officials can arrest Karen for possession of a controlled substance because her prescription was for 300 mg, not 500 mg, Vicodin pills. The same is true if you have too many pills. If a doctor gives you a prescription for 30 Ritalin capsules and the police catch you with 60, a law enforcement official can arrest you for possession.
What are the penalties for a prescription drug crime in New Orleans?
Statutes set the possible penalties for possession of controlled dangerous substances. Penalties vary depending on the type of drug. In general, the harshest penalties apply to crimes involving Schedule I drugs. Other factors that influence possible penalties include whether you’ve been charged with simple possession or possession with intent to distribute. Distribution convictions carry longer possible terms of imprisonment and heavier fines than simple possession charges. The law often requires enhanced punishment for repeat convictions. Prosecutors can also charge you with additional crimes related to how you obtained the prescription. Additional crimes like forgery or identity theft can increase your sentencing exposure. If you’re facing a possession of controlled substance charge in New Orleans, the best way to get a complete understanding of the possible penalties you face if convicted is to speak with a New Orleans criminal attorney well-versed in Louisiana drug and sentencing law. Understanding the full range of possible penalties is the first step when it comes to making an informed decision about how to move forward with your case.
The prosecutor offered probation or diversion. Do I need to speak with a New Orleans drug defense attorney?
Yes. Even if the prosecution has offered you an attractive deal, you should still speak with a Louisiana drug defense attorney before making a decision. All drug convictions come with serious consequences, some of which can impact you for the rest of your life. Felony convictions can adversely affect your ability to obtain housing, qualify for federal student aid, vote or own a firearm. Prosecutors and judges don’t always fully advise defendants of the possible consequences of criminal convictions. A criminal defense attorney working on your behalf will take the time to get to know you and explain how any possible penalties might play out in your life.
Can you tell me a bit about probation for drug crimes?
Probation and deferred sentences aren’t get-out-of-jail-free cards. They come with serious expectations and hefty requirements. If you’re unable to complete probation for any reason, the prosecution can ask the court to sentence you to a period of incarceration. Said another way: if you accept probation or deferred sentencing, and then things go wrong, you may still end up facing the full range of potential penalties associated with the charge you pled guilty to. People sometimes find it difficult to complete probation, often because they’re unaware of just how many demands the probation department regularly imposes and the costs associated with supervision. Standard requirements include regular employment, drug tests (that you have to pay for), regular check-ins (often during working hours) and geographical restrictions that can limit your freedom of movement. And probation fees can be quite hefty. That said, probation is often a strong alternative to jail time and/or hefty fines. At Bloom Legal, we take pride in advising our clients. We give you the information you need to make a smart, informed decision that will be best for your future and your family.
Bloom Legal is Here to Help with Your Prescription Drug Charges in Louisiana
Drug defense attorneys work for their clients and no one else. It’s our job to get to know you and make sure you understand what’s happening with your particular case. We listen. We advocate. We negotiate. And when it’s necessary, our New Orleans drug defense attorneys are happy to go to trial for you. Give us a call and set up an appointment if you’d like to get started. Your first consultation is always free.