Forging or Altering a Prescription for a Narcotic Drug – Health & Safety Code 11368

The crime of “forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs” is described under California Health and Safety Code 11368. The actual possession of drugs by a forged prescription is a described under a similar statute California Business and Professions Code 4324. Another similar drug crime is California Health & Safety Code 11173 –  prescription fraud, and commonly referred to as “doctor shopping.”

Clearly, prescription drugs have a legitimate use for a patient with a wide variety of medical conditions, but the state of California highly regulates prescription drugs. However, it’s not a secret that unlawful use of prescription drugs across the United States has become an epidemic problem.

Since prescription drugs can be legally obtained with a doctor’s prescription, there are countless attempts to forge or alter prescriptions to obtain possession of prescription drugs.

Health and Safety Code 11368 makes it a crime to forge or alter a prescription – use a forged prescription – or possess narcotic drugs obtained from a forged prescription. The common types of narcotics abused with a prescription include Codeine, Demerol, and Fentanyl.

A classic example includes a situation when somebody steals a prescription pad from the office of a healthcare professional and writes themselves a prescription and forges the doctors signature. Another example is when somebody purchases a narcotic drug from someone else when they know the drugs were obtained with a forged or altered prescription.

If you are facing drug crime allegations that you forged or altered a prescription for a narcotic drug, contact the Los Angeles criminal defense law firm of Cron, Israels & Stark. We need to review the details of your case to determine a strategy for best possible outcome.

Definition of Forging a Prescription – Health & Safety Code 11368

 Forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs is defined under California Health and Safety Code 11368 as:

Any person who forges, alters, issues, or utters a prescription with a forged or fictitious signature for a narcotic drug, or in possession of a narcotic drug obtained by forged prescription, will be punished by a jail sentence of 6 months to one year in a county jail or California state prison.

California Health and Safety Code 11027 defines a prescription as any order from a legal prescriber for a controlled substance to a patient. It should be noted the prescription can be in writing, verbal, or by a fax.

The phrase “utter” in the definition above means you used, or attempted to use, an altered prescription that was presented as a valid prescription. The phrase “possession” in the definition includes the actual physical possession of the narcotic and “constructive possession,” which means you had control over it.

California Health and Safety Code 11019 provides a definition of what the phrase “narcotic drug” means, and includes the following common controlled substances:

  • Codeine
  • Demerol
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • OxyContin
  • Fentanyl
  • Percocet
  • Xanax
  • Valium

Controlled substances are placed in categories based on their medical use, potential for abuse, and safety level.

Proving a Forging or Altering Prescription Case

In order to convict you of forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs – in violation of California Health and Safety Code 11368 – the Los Angeles County prosecutor has to be able to prove the elements of crime listed under CALCRIM 2320 Jury Instructions:

  • You forged or altered – or – used a forged or altered prescription
  • The prescription was written for a narcotic drug
  • You had knowledge that the prescription was forged or altered

It should be noted you can still be convicted of Health and Safety Code 11368 even in a situation where you didn’t forge or alter the prescription yourself. It is a crime to use a forged prescription for narcotic drugs – if it can be proven you knew it was forged. It is also a crime to forge or alter a prescription and the give it to another person to use.

Penalties for Forging or Altering a Prescription

California Health and Safety Code 11368 is a “wobbler” meaning the case can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. The decision on how exactly to file the case depends on the circumstances of your conduct and prior criminal history.

If convicted of a misdemeanor forging or altering a prescription, the penalties include up to one year in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and informal probation. If convicted of a felony case Health and Safety Code 11368, the penalties include up to three years in a California state prison and formal probation.

You could also face additional legal penalties, such as registration as a California drug offender, and deportation for undocumented immigrants.

Fighting Forging or Altering a Prescription Case in Los Angeles

If you have been accused of forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs in violation of California Health and Safety Code 11368, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a variety of legal strategies on your behalf to obtain the best possible outcome. It should be noted that each case is unique and needs to be closely reviewed to determine best possible strategy. Common defenses include:

Lack of knowledge the prescription was forged or altered

Our attorneys might be able to make a reasonable argument you didn’t know the prescription wasn’t valid. Perhaps a friend asked you to pick up their prescription, which was altered by greatly increasing the amount of pills. If we can show you simply lacked knowledge or intent, you might be able to avoid a avoid a conviction.

Lack of knowledge the narcotic drugs were obtained with a forged prescription

In cases where you might have purchased narcotic drugs from another person, we might be able to make an argument you didn’t know the prescription drugs were obtained using an altered or forged prescription. A primary element of the crime for a prosecutor is to show you had knowledge the narcotic drugs were obtained with a forged prescription. Perhaps you simply didn’t know and our goal is to cast reasonable doubt.

If you were arrested for forging or altering a prescription for narcotic drugs in violation of California Health and Safety Code 11368, you need to consult our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm.

A conviction can result is harsh consequences that will impact your life for years. We have a record of success in all types of drug related cases. We serve clients throughout Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles area and the San Fernando Valley. Contact our office at (424) 372-3112 for a free case evaluation.