Health & Safety Code 11156 HS – Prescribing Controlled Substances to an Addict
California Health and Safety Code 11156 HS prohibits medical professionals from prescribing drugs to a known addict.
In other words, this law makes it a crime to prescribe, dispense, or administer a controlled substance to a drug addict, and it applies primarily to doctors and healthcare professionals.
Most people know that prescription drug addiction is an ongoing crisis and that addicts rely on medical professionals to create prescriptions. This law, along with others, is an attempt by lawmakers to fight fraudulent prescriptions.
HS 11156 says, “(a) Except as provided in Section 2241 of the Business and Professions Code, no person shall prescribe for, or administer, or dispense a controlled substance to an addict, or any person representing themselves as such, except as permitted by this division.
(b)(1) For purposes of this section, “addict” means a person whose actions are characterized by craving in combination with one or more of the following:
(A) Impaired control over drug use.
(B) Compulsive use.
(C) Continued use despite harm.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), a person whose drug-seeking behavior is primarily due to the inadequate control of pain is not an addict within the meaning of this section.”
Simply put, it's illegal for somebody to possess prescription drugs without a prescription and to knowingly provide an addict with a controlled substance that is listed under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
Suppose a doctor has an appointment with a new patient who says they suffer from chronic pain and need a prescription for Vicodin and admits they are an addict. Their regular doctor refused to prescribe them any additional medication.
The new doctor did not know this but decided to prescribe Vicodin even though they were an addict. In that case, the doctor could face charges for prescribing a controlled substance to an addict under HS 11156. Other examples include medical professionals prescribing Oxycontin to an opiate addict or methamphetamine to a stimulant addict.
What Does the Law Say?
To convict you for violating Health and Safety Code 11156, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You prescribed, administered, or dispensed a controlled substance and
- It was prescribed to someone who represents themselves as an addict.
The law says, “Nobody shall prescribe for, administer, or dispense a controlled substance to an addict, or anyone representing themselves as such.”
The statutory language of this law covers a wide range of situations, any situation where a medical professional gives access to a drug to a known addict.
An “addict” is described as somebody with behavior that shows they crave controlled substances along with the following:
- Lack of control over drug use;
- Compulsive use of drugs
- Constant drug use despite apparent harm.
You don't have to be a physician, health care professional, or nurse qualified to write prescriptions to violate Health and Safety Code 11156, prescribing controlled substances to an addict.
What Are the Related Laws?
California has several statutes that are related to Health and Safety Code 11156 prescribing a controlled substance to a drug addict, such as the following:
- Health & Safety Code 11153 - Prescription fraud;
- Health & Safety Code 11173 - Doctor shopping;
- Health & Safety Code 11154(a) – Prescribe without treatment;
- Health & Safety Code 11162.5 - Counterfeit prescription blank;
- Health & Safety Code 11368 – Forge or alter prescription.
What Are the Penalties?
If convicted of a misdemeanor HS 11156, the penalties include:
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine of up to $20,000
- Misdemeanor summary probation
If convicted of a felony HS 11156, the penalties include:
- Up to three years in county jail
- A fine of up to $20,000
- Formal felony probation
Further, doctors or other medical professionals will generally face discipline within their occupational field, such as losing their professional medical license.
What Are the Defenses?
Suppose you are accused of violating California Health and Safety Code 11156 by prescribing controlled substances to an addict. In that case, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use different strategies to fight the charges.
For example, it can be challenging for a medical professional to know whether somebody is an addict. Perhaps we can argue you didn't know.
Maybe the patient lied to you to get you to write a prescription. Perhaps we can create reasonable doubt and avoid a conviction.
Recall that the person has to fall under the definition of an addict, which means their behavior has to be characterized by craving and some signs they are attempting to abuse prescribed controlled substances. Maybe we can argue that they are not an addict as defined under the statute.
Maybe we can negotiate with the prosecutor for lesser charges, case dismissal, or avoid filing criminal charges.
We have a track record of success in drug-related crimes in all Los Angeles criminal courthouses. Call us for a free case evaluation. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, CA.