It is unfortunate that there is a nationwide crisis involving prescription drugs in the United States, something that has reached into communities across Colorado, as well. Prosecutors are attempting to crack down on certain crimes involving prescription drugs, like prescription fraud.
There’s a lot to understand about prescription fraud in Colorado since it’s a crime that reaches beyond simple medical providers and into the lives of everyday Coloradans. Here’s what you need to know, including what prescription fraud is, who can get in trouble for it, and the consequences that can result.
Colorado Prescription Fraud: What Is It?
Prescription fraud in Colorado is perpetrated when someone attempts to falsify or fill a prescription fraudulently. Basically, it’s gaining access to prescription drugs, or trying to, through false means such as:
- Making a false statement
- Using a fake name or address
- Concealment of facts that are material to the situation
- Alteration or forgery of a prescription
Prescription fraud in Colorado is a level 4 drug felony.
What Is Considered a Prescription Drug?
In Colorado, drugs given by a medical professional through a prescription are considered controlled substances. These are substances that are immediate precursors to create a drug or a drug itself, identified on schedule I to IV according to the drug laws of the state.
Controlled substances provided by prescription often include:
- Anabolic steroids
What Are the Penalties for Prescription Fraud in Colorado?
Under Colorado law, prescription fraud is considered a drug crime. Therefore, those convicted of this crime must face drug sentencing specified under the law, which corresponds to different levels.
As a level 4 drug crime, a prescription fraud conviction can lead to up to one year in jail and make the defendant responsible to pay fines of up to $100,000. If aggravating factors are involved, the sentence can be even harsher.
What are aggravating factors? Things such as:
- If the accused was on parole for another crime when they committed the offense
- If they were on probation for some other felony
In those cases, the charge can increase to aggravated prescription fraud, and the penalty can increase to up to two years in prison along with the fines.
What About Alternatives?
In Colorado, the state recognizes that some drug crimes are committed because a person is addicted to drugs. They’re committing prescription fraud in order to obtain their supply.
If someone has a drug abuse issue, then the court may be able to offer them treatment in lieu of jail time. That’s something that should be explored with the help of an experienced attorney to ensure you’re getting a fair deal from the court.
Prescription charges are often eligible if they are low-level under “wobbler” sentencing in Colorado. That means that, if a person successfully completes a court-approved drug treatment program along with any other conditions imposed by the court, they can have a felony drug conviction vacated. Instead, they’ll have a level 1 drug misdemeanor on their record.
Prescription Fraud Defenses
Although every case is unique, and the defense you use in court with the help of your attorney will be tailored to reflect the specific facts of your case, there are some general ways that people defend themselves against these charges. This includes:
- A prescription that was actually valid, not fraudulent
- You had the legal authority to obtain the controlled substance in the prescription
- The label on the prescription was not false
- You did not make any false statements in order to obtain the prescription
What About Related Offenses?
Prescription fraud doesn’t occur in a bubble. There are often other crimes that are charged alongside it. These include:
It makes sense to think that, if a person accesses drugs with a fraudulent prescription, they then gain drugs in their possession that they shouldn’t have. This crime can be charged as a level 1 drug misdemeanor or a level 4 drug felony, depending on the circumstances.
Sale of Drugs
It is illegal to manufacture, dispense, or sell a controlled substance in Colorado. This charge can fall anywhere between a level 1 misdemeanor and a level 1 drug felony, depending on the circumstances.
Making a fake document or altering a document with the intent to commit fraud is forgery in Colorado. It is a Class 5 felony.
Prescription fraud is a serious drug crime in Colorado. Even though the state has decriminalized many drug offenses in the last few years, this is still one that can lead to serious legal problems. Make sure to have an experienced attorney on your side if you are accused of this crime.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.