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Prescription Fraud: Writing a False Prescription in CA – Misdemeanor Charge

Medicine and health concept. A stethoscope and ampoules lie on a white background, the doctor holds a business card with the inscription - FALSE

California law makes it a crime to falsify or forge a prescription for a narcotic drug. Depending on the drug prescribed and other factors, the crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, and one of several different statutes may apply. Even as a misdemeanor, writing a false prescription is a serious offense that can have a profound impact on your future. A criminal conviction can affect your professional license, your ability to get a loan, or your immigration status, as well as land you in jail. Below we discuss prescription fraud in California. If you are facing an investigation or charges for prescription fraud, call a seasoned California healthcare fraud defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Art Kalantar for advice and representation.

Business and Professions Code 4324: Forging or Altering a Prescription

California’s Business and Professions Code section 4324 makes it a criminal offense to forge or alter a prescription, to sign someone else’s name (real or fictitious) to obtain a prescription, or to obtain drugs by way of a false prescription. BPC 4324 is known as a “wobbler” offense because it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the prosecutor’s discretion.

A prescription need not be a classic, formal, written prescription. The crime includes any order for a drug given in writing, by phone, or via electronic transmission–including a fax of a written prescription. Covered drugs include prescription drugs and veterinary drugs.

As a misdemeanor, BPC 4324 carries a potential penalty of up to $1,000 in fines and up to one year in county jail. Prosecutors will make a decision as to whether to charge the crime as a felony based on the defendant’s prior criminal history and the facts and circumstances of the crime as charged, including the drugs involved, the means used, and the quantity of drugs fraudulently obtained.

A defendant may also be charged under BPC 4323 for falsely pretending to be a doctor or to be acting on behalf of a doctor in a phone call or electronic communication with a pharmacist in order to obtain a drug. BPC 4323 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Health and Safety Code 11368: Forging or Altering a Prescription for Narcotics

California Health and Safety Code 11368 also renders it a crime to forge or alter a prescription for drugs, or to use a forged prescription to obtain or try to obtain drugs, as well as to possess drugs obtained with a false prescription. Like BPC 4324, HSC 11368 is a wobbler offense.

HSC 11368 covers similar conduct to BPC 4324, but it is somewhat more serious. Section 11368 covers false prescriptions for narcotic drugs, such as opium, morphine, fentanyl, or codeine. Section 11368 is punishable by a minimum of six months and up to a year in jail if charged as a misdemeanor.

Defending Against Prescription Fraud Charges

Depending upon the specific charges and the facts and circumstances of the case, a defendant charged with prescription fraud may have a number of defenses available. The defendant may be able to argue, for instance:

  • They believed the prescription was legitimate, not forged or altered
  • They believed the drugs in their possession were obtained via a legitimate prescription
  • They did not sign the faulty prescription
  • They had the authority to sign the prescription
  • They had a faulty prescription, made by someone else, but never used it
  • The call for the drugs did not come from their phone and was perpetrated by someone else
  • Someone at the physician’s office or pharmacy made a mistake

If the defendant did not know they were doing anything wrong because they believed they were using a legitimate prescription, or they simply possessed a bad prescription and never used it, then they might not be guilty of any crime under the relevant statutes. An experienced healthcare fraud defense attorney can walk you through your defenses if you’ve been charged with prescription fraud.

Call a California Healthcare Fraud Defense Attorney for Help Defending Against Prescription Fraud Charges

For help defending against prescription fraud charges, for legal assistance with regulatory compliance issues, assistance with building your medical practice, or advice and representation concerning internal investigations, auditing, employment matters, governance issues, business disputes, licensing, or any other California healthcare law matter, contact the Law Offices of Art Kalantar in Los Angeles or California statewide at 310-773-0001.

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