Prescription drug abuse affects millions of Americans and has been labeled an epidemic by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The increased prescription of medications containing opioids by doctors and medical professionals led to many individuals becoming seriously addicted to prescription drugs. In many cases, when individuals are unable to legally get prescription drugs, they resort to other measures to obtain their prescription medications.
However, criminal law in Illinois provides that a person must have a valid prescription to legally possess prescription drugs. Rather than helping those who are addicted to prescription medicine, police and the prosecution choose to punish and criminalize people, making their life much more difficult. If you have been charged with illegal possession of prescription drugs it is important that you seek legal help immediately.
Criminal charges of this nature can have serious consequences, and a conviction may result in serious time in jail. The criminal justice system does not take it easy on those who have a drug addiction problem, and their main priority is to secure a conviction against you.
An experienced lawyer from Hirsch Law Group can help ensure that you do not face jail time for your unlawful possession charges. Our lawyers understand the challenges faced by those who suffer from addiction, and we want to help protect your future by avoiding a criminal record. We have been defending drug possession charges for over 15 years, and we know what it takes to provide aggressive representation.
Laws on Illegal Possession of a Controlled Substance
Illegal possession of a controlled substance is considered a serious crime in Illinois. Possession charges carry with them severe penalties, such as jail time, massive fines, probation, or court-ordered rehab. The criminal justice system takes a tough approach to drug crimes, even when it comes to simple possession charges.
All drug crimes in Illinois are derived from the Illinois Controlled Substance Act. Like federal law, this act sets out different Schedules for illicit drugs depending on the risk of harm that they pose to members of the public. The higher the drug schedule, the more serious the penalties will be.
- Schedule I – These drugs pose the highest level of risk to members of the public and do not have any medical use. Examples include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.
- Schedule II – Although drugs in this schedule still pose a major risk to members of the public, there are some medical benefits. Examples include cocaine, fentanyl, Ritalin, morphine, and oxycodone.
- Schedule III – These drugs have a lower risk of harm to the public and may have some medical benefits. Examples include ketamine and anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV – These drugs have a low risk of addiction and harm to members of the public. Examples include Xanax, Valium, and Clonazepam.
- Schedule V – This is the lowest category of controlled substances and poses the lowest risk of dependence. These substances are often prescribed by medical professionals. Examples include cough medicines that contain codeine.
Naturally, the potential consequences for possession of a controlled substance in Schedule I will be much higher than those for a Schedule V substance. However, if you are convicted of illegal drug possession, regardless of the category, you will receive a permanent criminal record, which can seriously impact your future.
Are Prescription Drugs Controlled Substances?
Many drugs that have been classed as illegal controlled substances by Illinois state’s laws and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have some medical purpose. Substances such as Xanax, Vicodin, and OxyContin are often prescribed by medical professionals to patients who suffer from mental or physical pain. As such, these substances are completely legal when they are accompanied by valid prescriptions.
If you do not have a valid prescription from a medical professional for prescription medication, such as Adderall or Ritalin, you can be charged with possession of a controlled substance. Depending on the particular prescription drug found in your possession, your criminal penalties could vary. If you were found with a large number of prescription pills in your possession and these drugs are contained in a higher schedule, you could be looking at a lengthy prison sentence.
Our lawyers understand how easy it can be to get into legal trouble for possession of prescription drugs without a valid prescription, however, the prosecution and police officers do not care. To avoid the rest of your life being impacted by a drug crime conviction, it is important that you seek legal representation from a lawyer from our firm.
Penalties For Prescription Drug Possession
As noted previously, the penalties you receive for illegal possession of prescription drugs depends on the particular controlled substance and the Schedule it is contained in. There are other factors that can influence the sentence you receive including:
- Previous criminal record
- Previous drug crime convictions
- The quantity of drugs found in your possession
Most prescription drugs are contained within Schedule III, IV, and V of the controlled substances list. As such, if you are found with these drugs in your possession, you could be charged with a fourth-degree felony. The criminal penalties for a class 4 felony include up to one to three years of prison time and fines of up to $25,000. In addition to this, a conviction could result in a long period of probation and the requirement to complete a drug diversion program.
Being both a state and federal crime, the law takes a tough approach towards prescription drug offenses. To avoid a prison sentence, you will need to have fierce legal representation from an experienced attorney. First time offenders with a low Schedule prescription drug found in their possession will likely avoid jail time with the help of one of our attorneys.
If you were found with a significant amount of a substance in your possession, for example 3 or 4 tubs of prescription pills, the police officer may charge you with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Distribution charges can also arise if you share your prescription drugs with another person who does not have a prescription. The penalties for distribution can be much higher, as they are usually charged as a third-degree felony. If convicted of distributing prescription drugs, you could face up to five years in prison.
Prescription Drug Fraud
Many people who become addicted to prescription drugs feel like they must resort to obtaining these drugs illegally, particularly if their supply has been cut off by their doctor. In recent years, there has been a significant rise in prescription drug fraud cases, which can result from forging prescriptions, altering the prescription given to you by a doctor, “doctor shopping”, or purchasing prescription medication illegally online.
Being convicted of prescription drug fraud can result in a third or fourth degree felony, with up to five years of prison time.
Can I Go To Jail For Prescription Drug Possession?
Due to the opioid crisis and the rise in prescription drug fraud, the criminal justice system is tough on those found illegally possessing prescription medication. Often, those who receive a drug possession charge for prescription medicine suffer from addiction or abuse problems due to being previously overprescribed by their doctor.
Rather than recognizing this addiction problem, the criminal justice system chooses to categorize prescription drugs the same as street drugs and impose harsh penalties. To ensure that your future is not seriously impacted by a criminal record, and to help avoid the force of the criminal system, you should seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
At Hirsch Law Group, we have helped many defendants get their prescription drugs charges thrown out or penalties reduced substantially. Our lawyers have worked as former prosecutors, and we have seen how the prosecution uses scare tactics to secure a conviction, regardless of whether the evidence is there. As such, we know how to beat them at their game and help ensure that you are not sent to prison.
Our law firm has won multiple awards for our dedication to clients and we want to help you fight against your criminal charges. Our priority is to protect your future and ensure that you are not sent to jail for possession of prescription drugs.