When most people think of “drug crimes,” they think in terms of conduct involving illicit, or “street,” drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, or “crack.” While these substances certainly are illegal to possess, manufacture, or sell, there are other drugs that are perfectly legal to possess with a prescription but which can land you in prison for a long time if you are found to be in possession of them without a prescription. If you have already been arrested and charged with a violation of one of Nebraska’s controlled substance laws, but you have a prescription for the drugs in question, you may be wondering “Can my defense lawyer get my drug charges dropped?” The answer to that question depends on a number of factors.
Nebraska Law — What Is Illegal?
Nebraska Revised Statute § 28-416 governs controlled substances, and begins as follows:
“Except as authorized by the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally: (a) To manufacture, distribute, deliver, dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, deliver, or dispense a controlled substance; or (b) to create, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute a counterfeit controlled substance.”
Although most people do not initially think of prescription medications as “controlled substances,” a significant number of them are. The United States Controlled Substances Act defines the term “controlled substances” to include both illegal drugs and prescription drugs. In this state, Nebraska Revised Statute § 28-405 provides an exhaustive list of the substances that are included in the definition of “controlled substance.” Numerous medications commonly prescribed by a physician are included on the controlled substance list because of their chemical makeup. Medication commonly prescribed for pain, such as oxycodone, morphine, and Tylenol 3, are opiate-based, meaning they are a controlled substance. Prescription sleeping pills such as Ambien, Suprenza and Adipex also make the controlled substance list, as do a number of medications prescribed for depression, stress, and anxiety.
Is Having a Prescription a Defense to a Drug Offense?
If you have been charged with a drug offense involving a prescription drug, having a valid prescription for the medication in question may be a valid defense. However, it depends entirely on the facts and circumstances of the case. Only an experienced Nebraska drug defense lawyer can review and evaluate those facts and circumstances and provide you with a definitive answer to the question.
There are, however, some general guidelines which may help you understand what you are facing. If you were arrested with a small quantity of a prescription medication, and you have a recent, valid prescription for that medication, your defense lawyer can likely show that prescription to the prosecuting attorney and get your charges dropped. At the very least, your valid prescription will provide a solid defense at trial. Under those facts and circumstances, however, you are unlikely to be arrested in the first place. Therefore, the facts surrounding your arrest are most likely a bit more complex. If you gave, sold, or otherwise transferred prescription drugs for which you have a valid prescription to someone else, the fact that you have a prescription is not likely to provide you with a defense. For example, if your friend or co-worker was injured and you gave him/her one of your pain pills, you have violated the law and your valid prescription is not a defense. Another common fact pattern involves an accused being in possession of a large quantity of the drugs in question, but having a valid prescription. In this case, the State may try to allege that although you have a valid prescription, you clearly purchased additional pills illegally. In this case, it may depend on how many times your prescription has been refilled and/or whether the State has any additional evidence you purchased the drugs illegally.
As you can see, there are a virtually endless number of scenarios that could result in an arrest for a controlled substance offense involving a prescription drug. The only way to find out if your valid prescription is sufficient to get your charges dropped, or at least avoid a conviction, is to consult with a Nebraska drug defense lawyer.
If you are facing charges involving a prescription drug, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska lawyer right away. In Nebraska, contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss the specifics of your case.