Prescription Drug Offenses

In recent years, the federal prosecution of prescription drug crimes has ballooned as the abuse of oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin), amphetamine (e.g., Adderall), methylphenidate (e.g. Ritalin), benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin), meperidine (e.g., Demerol) and other addictive medications has skyrocketed. This focus by law enforcement has resulted in the prosecution of many doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers in federal courts. For any individual, a conviction for the illegal distribution or unauthorized possession of prescription drugs is a life altering event, with lengthy prison sentences and large fines imposed by courts. For an individual who works in the healthcare or medical fields, however, just the allegation that one has illegally dispensed prescription drugs can result in the loss or suspension of a professional license, career ending reputational damage, or the costly interruption of one's business. Under either scenario, retaining an experienced New York federal criminal defense attorney at the earliest possible moment is vital - and may prove to be the difference between a prosecutor's decision not to go forward with a case and a lengthy term of incarceration.

Specifically, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(a), unless otherwise authorized by statute, it is unlawful for anyone to either knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, dispense or possess with intent to do the same, any controlled or counterfeit substance. Each controlled substance is then categorized into one of five schedules which largely determine the punishment that results in the event of a conviction. At issue here are Schedules II through V - which list drugs and other controlled substances for which there is a medically accepted use and some potential for abuse and dependency. A full list of these substances may be found at 21 U.S.C. § 812.

Schedule II contains narcotics, chemicals or other substances that have a high potential for abuse and psychological or physical dependence, including: hydrocodone, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone, meperidine, oxycodone, fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin. Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C), a conviction for the unauthorized possession, sale or distribution of a Schedule II controlled substance may result in a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine - which is increased to 30 years imprisonment if the defendant has previously been convicted of a felony drug offense. Worse, if serious bodily injury or death occurs from the use of this substance, a minimum term of 20 years imprisonment is imposed upon conviction, and if the defendant possesses a prior felony drug conviction and serious bodily injury or death occurred, the sentence becomes mandatory life imprisonment.

Schedule III contains drugs, substances, or chemicals with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence and a lesser potential for abuse than Schedule II drugs, and includes, for example: codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone. A conviction for the possession, sale or unauthorized distribution of a Schedule III controlled substance carries with it a term of imprisonment of up to ten years and a $500,000 fine - which increases to fifteen years imprisonment if death or serious bodily injury resulted from the use of this substance. See 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(E). Should the defendant possess a prior felony drug conviction, the maximum sentence then becomes twenty years imprisonment; and if the defendant possesses a prior felony drug conviction and serious bodily injury or death occurred, the maximum sentence becomes thirty years imprisonment. Id.

Schedule IV contains drugs, substances or chemicals with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence, including: Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien and Tramadol. A conviction for the possession, sale or unauthorized distribution of a Schedule IV controlled substance carries with it a term of imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of $250,000 - which increases to a maximum term of ten years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine if the defendant possesses a prior felony drug conviction. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(2).

Finally, Schedule V contains substances or chemicals that have the lowest risk for abuse and dependence. These drugs are commonly used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes, and include: cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC), Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin. A conviction for the possession, sale or unauthorized distribution of a Schedule V controlled substance carries with it a term of imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of $100,000 - which increases to a maximum term of four years imprisonment and a $200,000 fine if the defendant possesses a prior felony drug conviction. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(3).

Hiring a top New York criminal defense attorney to defend you in any federal prescription drug prosecution is crucial. Retaining a lawyer who has a wealth of experience with these charges, such as those at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman, will ensure that every viable defense is explored and utilized. Lawyers at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman have successfully handled many of these cases, exploiting holes in the prosecution's evidence to achieve the best possible result for our clients. Contact us today at (212) 518-1001 for a free consultation.