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Be careful how you take care of prescription drugs

At some point, your doctor may have given you a prescription for a painkiller. It’s common for doctors to prescribe medicine to help people deal with pain after injuries. But did you know that holding those drugs could lead to felony charges?

Indiana's drug laws classify many of the most common painkillers as Schedule II narcotics. That means you could face felony charges for possessing or distributing painkillers like codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone or Vicodin.

Understanding possession and distribution charges

It’s unlikely your doctor would ever write a prescription that would run you afoul of the state’s most serious drug charges. For example, if you look at the most common Vicodin dosages, you’d need 500 of the strongest tablets to risk a Level 5 felony. But you could face Level 6 felony charges simply for holding a couple tablets without a valid prescription.

As with all drug possession charges, there are a couple issues at play in this scenario:

  • The matter of your possession
  • The validity of your prescription

It’s unlikely the police will stop you with a bag of drugs in your hand. Instead, “possession” usually breaks down into two questions: Did you know the substance in question was a drug? Did you have knowing—or intentional—control of it? This second question is important in cases where police find drugs in someone’s house or car. That doesn’t necessarily mean the owner of that house or car owned the drugs.

Meanwhile, it’s important to remember that a prescription is for a specific person, drug and dosage. The prescription has an end date. It also specifies a form, such as tablet, gel capsule or liquid. You need to make sure you’re attentive to all these things—and that you keep your prescription with you. Taking pills out of the bottle and putting them in a baggy to bring to work may subject you to needless risks.

In fact, when you split your pills into baggies, you might lead law officers to question if you intended to distribute the drugs. If so, you could find yourself facing even more serious charges. Indiana law allows prosecutors to charge you with a Level 5 felony if they find “evidence in addition to the weight of the drug” that you had planned to distribute it. Could your baggies count as “evidence”? Possibly.

It sounds ridiculous to think you’d be charged with a Level 5 felony because you took pills out of your prescription bottle and put them in baggies. But it’s best not to take the risk.

You can defend yourself from bad charges

Fortunately, there are many ways to defend yourself from bad drug charges, but you want to make sure your attorney understands the details of your case. Those details will determine which defense may work best.

At Kammen & Moudy, we understand that drug charges are rarely so clear-cut or serious as the prosecution may try to make them look. People are routinely caught with drugs that don’t belong to them or for which they have prescriptions. People are routinely charged with intent to distribute even when they had no such intent. Our attorneys work hard and ask tough questions to help juries understand the ways cases aren’t so simple as the prosecution would like them to believe.

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