North Carolina takes all drug charges extremely seriously and among the most serious charges are those relating to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, often called prescription fraud. Under NCGS § 90-108, it is unlawful for any person to:
- Obtain a controlled substance by representing that they are a licensed practitioner able to prescribe medication when they are not in fact, licensed
- Manufacture or distribute a controlled substance using a stolen or fraudulent registration number
- Acquire or obtain possession of a controlled substance by fraud, forgery or deception
- Obtain controlled substances through the use of a legal prescription which has been obtained by willful misrepresentation or withholding of information from one or more practitioners
- Steal a controlled substance made accessible during the court of employment to misapply or divert those substances for personal use
There are other components to this law, but the above identifies the broad brush strokes. So what does this really mean? There are a handful of situations that we most commonly see when dealing with prescription fraud charges.
The first example of prescription fraud is doctor shopping. This is where someone visits multiple doctors in an attempt to obtain a controlled substance, either because one doctor doesn’t prescribe and they try another, or that they are trying to amass a large quantity by getting multiple prescriptions. Prescriptions are tracked, so when a person requests that a prescription be filled and there are multiple requests from multiple doctors, this raises a red flag for law enforcement to investigate. This becomes an especially serious issue when a person doesn’t inform each doctor of other doctors visited and medications prescribed by those other doctors.
A second example is that of a fraudulent prescription. This occurs when a prescription pad is stolen, a forged one is created, or a doctor’s DEA number is stolen for the purpose of creating a prescription that can be submitted to a pharmacy to be filled. In some cases, someone has a valid prescription but changes the fill date because they have taken their previously allotted amount more quickly than prescribed. This is not only prescription fraud, but can also be construed as insurance fraud if it includes an attempt to have insurance cover the cost of a drug that is not due to be covered.
The third example is when an employee of a business with access to a controlled substance takes possession of the drug either for personal use or distribution. This is most commonly seen with employees of doctor’s offices and hospitals, but also occurs with veterinary practices and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Prescription fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor if the violation was committed unintentionally, but the vast majority of these crimes are done knowingly and willfully, making it a felony. A felony of this nature is not eligible for expungement for 15 years from date of completion of sentence, meaning that the result is that you’re labeled a convicted felon. However, there are options for dealing with this charge in a positive way if you have a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney.