Distribution of prescription drugs is treated under the law with the same severity as other drug distribution crimes. The same goes for possession of these drugs without a prescription. The law also does not make a distinction between cases where, for example, prescription drugs are sold to addicts to capitalize on their addition, and cases where they are sold for recreational use or as study aids to college students.
Because of this, there are often young people who find themselves facing severe criminal charges and potential prison sentences due to poor decisions in their youth. If you or your child is facing prescription drug charges, it does not have to be something that will end your life. An experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at the Law Offices of John Zarych, can help you fight prescription drug charges. For a consultation with our attorneys, call (609) 625-3006.
Prescription Drug Charges, Defined
The general prohibition on possessing and using drugs is found in N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10, whereas the prohibition on manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing drugs is found in § 2C:35-5. These refer not only to prescription drugs, but any drug that is classified in New Jersey’s drug “schedules.” These schedules rank from Schedule I, the worst, to Schedule V, and are found in the Food and Drug section of New Jersey’s laws, at N.J.S.A. § 24:21-5 through § 24.21-9. Some brief examples include cocaine (Schedule II), heroin (Schedule I), and crystal meth (Schedule III). For comparison, a common prescription drug, Adderall, is also a Schedule III drug. These crimes all change severity based on the schedule and weight of the drug possessed, used, or distributed.
New Jersey also has laws aimed particularly at prescription drugs. Since prescription drugs must usually be sold and dispensed by licensed pharmacists, doctors, veterinarians, or dentists, there is a specific offense aimed at distribution of prescription drugs without meeting this licensing requirement. This is found in N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10.5. This includes distributing common prescription drugs like Adderall, Ritalin, Valium, Percoset, and Xanax.
Unlike the other drug possession and distribution crimes, this is based not on weight but on the number of doses that are distributed. The lowest level of the offense is for four or fewer doses, the middle level is for five through ninety-nine doses, and the highest level is for 100 or more doses. The punishment varies between offenses, but the highest version carries a potential punishment of a $300,000 and five to ten years in prison.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-24 even makes it a crime to carry your own prescription drugs, in some cases. You can certainly have your own prescription with you, but it is a crime to carry more than a ten-day supply with you outside of the original container.
Defenses to these Drug Charges
Depending on the crime you are charged with, there might be defenses built directly into the law that help protect some people from being prosecuted under these laws.
Contact a Cape May Prescription Drug Charge Lawyer
For any prescription drug charge based solely on possession, it is a defense that you possessed your own prescription. As long as this prescription was in its original bottle and you did not possess it with the intent to distribute it to others, you did not violate any laws. The fact that you owned the prescription will not be a defense if you are charged with possession with the intent to distribute. It is just illegal to sell or give out your own prescription without a license as it is to give out anyone else’s prescription; this defense will not help for possession with intent to distribute cases.
There is also a built-in defense for prescription distribution charges, called a “de minimis infraction” defense. This says that the law was broken only slightly, and in such a way that there was no real criminal action involved. For distributing prescription meds, it is illegal to give even four or less doses, but it will be considered a de minimis infraction if the following circumstances are met:
the pills were from your own prescription,
you did not distribute more than six doses in twenty-four hours, and
the drugs were given to the recipient for the recipient’s personal use.
This is used to cover situations where people give others a prescription drug to use, such as loaning your family member a Valium to take before a flight. You are not supposed to share prescription meds, but at the same time, there is no real criminal intent behind an action like this.
If you or your child has been charged with a prescription drug crime in Cape May, it is important that you seek legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Law Offices of John Zarych serve Cape May and the surrounding area. Our attorneys will fight to get your prescription drug charges dropped. Call (609) 625-3006 for a consultation.