Prescription Drug Possession, Distribution & Sales
The illegal possession and distribution of prescription drugs has drawn increased media and law enforcement attention in recent years. Use of pain medications and so called “study drugs,” such as Adderall and Vynanse has risen steadily. Because of this, many people have gotten caught up in the justice system due to the increased efforts to control these substances.
There are many nuances to the laws related to drug crimes, and having an attorney that understands how to navigate these serious felony charges is important.
Being Charged with Drug Possession
All prescription drugs are regulated, and possession without a valid medical prescription can be a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the drug’s classification. For example, certain prescription drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, etc., are classified as narcotics. Violations involving these medications carry steeper penalties.
Misdemeanor possession charges often have a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail, while felony possession charges (i.e., possession of hydrocodone, possession of oxycodone, possession of Adderall) can carry a maximum of 42 months prison time depending on criminal history.In addition, a conviction cannot be removed from your record for at least 3 years after your sentence is completed.
With these consequences, fighting drug possession charges is important. An attorney’s knowledge of search and seizure law is crucial in beating these charges. Often, denying possession is difficult because the drugs are found on your person or in very close proximity to you in a vehicle. The most successful challenge will often come from arguing that the police officer did not have adequate reason to initiate a stop or conduct a search.
Distribution of dangerous prescription drugs without proper authorization or licensure is a felony under Kansas law, and could expose you to penalties that include up to 20 years imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Importantly, intention is necessary for the imposition of criminal liability — if you can show that you were not aware that you were distributing such substances illegally, then you may be able to avoid liability. For example, if you can effectively show that your pain medication was mislabeled and that you accidentally gave your bottle to your friend (thinking that it was a bottle of over-the-counter pain medication), then you could likely avoid conviction.
Regardless of whether you have a valid prescription, you can be charged if you sell or even give away your prescription. Distribution is always a felony regardless of the drug being distributed. The severity level of the distribution felony will depend on the amount of the drug being transferred.
Many people wonder how they can be charged with such a serious drug offense after sharing just a single pill with a friend. A common misperception is that illegal drug transactions only occur during alleyway meetings where drugs and cash are exchanged. But what may feel like a casual interaction of sharing ADHD medication with a friend, can lead to serious penalties.
Felony charges of drug distribution, could expose you to penalties that include up to 17 years in prison time depending on criminal history. Drug distribution charges almost always start out with a presumption of prison time. It is important to have an attorney that will work to spot issues which could result in the charges getting dropped. Or they might be able to obtain an agreement for reducing the charges. While, the goal is to beat all charges, sometimes the facts and evidence can mean that probation is the best option to keep someone out of prison. Conditions of probation may include jail time and mandated drug treatment.
In addition to prison time, anyone convicted of distribution is required to register for 15 years on a public drug offender list. It is similar to the sex offender registry, and can affect your employment and how people view you.
Possession With Intent to Distribute
Even if you are not caught distributing prescription drugs, you can be charged with Possession with intent to distribute if you have a certain quantity of drugs. Similarly, you can be charged if circumstantial evidence exists that you intended to sell. If you possess at least 100 dosage units of any prescription drug (for example: oxycontin, methadone, Vyvanse or others) the law creates a presumption that you intended to sell them. Possession with Intent to Distribute carries the exact same.
Facing Prescription Drug Crimes
The Johnson County District Attorney’s office has a drug crimes unit, and will assign an experienced prosecutor to your case. Charges are often the result of prosecutor discretion because the current statutes can be considered vague. Due to an emphasis on enforcement, felony charges have been filed in situations which are not always obvious. Individuals have been charged with felony possession charges when they obtained medications with a valid prescription, but the prescription has since expired.
Additionally, the vagueness of the law creates a gray area where an aggressive prosecutor could bring a felony charge against a person who has a valid prescription, but is using the medication contrary to the recommendations of use.
All of these situations make it important for a defense attorney to know which approach to take based upon the viewpoint of the prosecutor.
Contact an Experienced Drug Crimes Lawyer in Johnson County
If you have been charged with a prescription drug crime — possession, possession with intent to distribute, or distribution — then you could be exposed to significant penalties in the event of conviction. It’s critical that you consult with an experienced attorney who is capable of handling your defense with skill and confidence.
I’m Jerry Merrill, a Criminal Defense Attorney in Johnson County. I have devoted my career to the practice of criminal law, and have served in a number of capacities — as a former prosecutor, special counsel, and pro tempore judge in multiple jurisdictions. I have been involved in the criminal law process from a range of different perspectives, and can help clients achieve the best possible outcome.
This is your life, and you need to be confident in your defense. Interested in speaking for further guidance?