Prescription drugs are a modern-day marvel. They can alleviate pain, fight disease, even save lives. However, prescription drug crimes are serious business in Colorado, and the penalties can be quite severe.
Drug Laws in Colorado
The criminal statutes in Colorado involving drugs are complex. Prior to 2013, Colorado did not have a special classification and penalty system for drug crimes. In late 2013, changes were made to the laws, and now drug crimes are classified as either “drug petty offenses,” “drug misdemeanors,” or “drug felonies.”
In Colorado, it is illegal to possess prescribed drugs without a valid prescription. There are also various “schedules,” or categories, of drugs. The penalties for illegal possession vary according to whether the drug is a Schedule II, III, IV or V drug. (Schedule I drugs in Colorado are those that are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.)
Types of Prescription Drug Crimes in Colorado
Prescription drug crimes can be committed by people from all walks of life – patients, doctors, pharmacists and, yes, drug dealers. Here are some of the most common types of prescription drug crimes:
- Altering prescriptions
- Copying prescriptions
- Forging prescriptions
- Stealing a prescription pad from a doctor or other medical professional
- Filling prescriptions for someone other than yourself
- Writing prescriptions for non-medical or recreational use
- Possession of prescription medications for recreational use
- Filling a prescription without proper authorization
Doctor shopping is also a common type of prescription drug crime. It’s defined as “obtaining controlled substances from multiple healthcare practitioners without the prescriber’s knowledge of other prescriptions.”
Colorado Prescription Drug Crime Penalties
Although they may seem like minor, victimless crimes, prescription fraud and other prescription drug crimes can carry severe penalties.
- Possession of four grams or less of a Schedule II substance is a level 6 felony, punishable by up to one and a half years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Unlawful possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance is a class 1 misdemeanor; it carries a jail sentence of up to 18 months and a maximum fine of $5,000.
- Unlawful sale or distribution of no more than four grams of a Schedule II controlled substance is a level 3 felony; it carries a maximum prison sentence of 12 years and a fine of as much as $750,000.
- Unlawful sale or distribution of no more than four grams of a Schedule III or IV controlled substance is a level 4 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
- Prescription fraud involves getting access to prescription drugs in a fraudulent manner, and is a level 4 felony.
In Colorado, some prescription drug offenses may be reduced from a level 4 felony to a level 1 misdemeanor if the defendant successfully completes probation or community corrections.
In addition to the above penalties, doctors, pharmacists, or other medical professionals who engage in prescription fraud may also lose their license.
Prescription drug crimes can also lead to related criminal offenses in Colorado, including drug possession, drug sales, and forgery.
If you have been charged with prescription fraud or another prescription drug crime, you do have options for your defense, particularly if your defense is substance abuse-related. Be sure to contact a Denver prescription drug crime lawyer in order to determine how best to proceed.
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.