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Abuse of prescription drugs is a serious problem in the United States. The rates of people dying from prescription drug overdoses — particularly from narcotic pain medicines — has skyrocketed over the last 15 years, and lawmakers have taken steps to try to crack down on prescription drug abuse.
One of those steps was to enact a law making it a serious crime in Ohio to possess or traffic in fake or forged prescriptions. When you’re charged with of one of the offenses defined as illegal processing of drug documents, you’re facing a possible conviction for a felony drug crime, with consequences that will affect the rest of your life. You may serve prison time, lose your driver’s license, have to pay thousands of dollars in fines, and be permanently labeled a felony drug offender.
If you’ve been charged with illegal processing of drug documents, you’re going to need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you want to avoid some of the more serious consequences of a conviction. A good Columbus defense lawyer can look at the facts and evidence with a unique perspective and find a defense strategy that may get your case dismissed, or advocate on your behalf to try to get your penalties reduced.
Ohio Rev. Code 2925.23 defines several offenses related to the illegal possession or processing of prescription documents. Under this statute, it’s a crime to:
If you are suspected of committing any one of those offenses, you may be charged in Ohio with illegal processing of drug documents.
Illegal processing of drug documents is a felony crime, but the category of felony depends on which of the forms of the offense you are alleged to have committed, and may be affected by the type of drug involved.
Illegal processing of drug documents is a fifth-degree felony, with a possible sentence of 6 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, when you:
Illegal processing of drug documents is a fourth-degree felony, with a possible sentence of 6 to 18 months and a fine of up to $5,000, when you:
Ohio law provides that a court may suspend or revoke your driver’s license when you’re convicted of any form of illegal processing of drug documents. You won’t be allowed to drive — including for your job if you hold a commercial driver’s license — for the duration of the suspension or revocation, and may face stiff penalties if you drive under suspension and are pulled over.
The statute also requires that a court report your conviction to any professional licensing board that issued you a license to practice your profession in Ohio. If you’re a doctor, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, or any other kind of health professional, a conviction related to an illegal prescription likely means at least a suspension, but could spell the end of your career.
Because illegal processing of drug documents is a felony, a conviction means a permanent record as a felony drug offender. Ways that may affect your life include:
When you’re accused of illegal processing of drug documents, a prosecutor must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. The elements of the offense will vary somewhat depending on which form of the offense is the basis for your charge. For example, if you’re charged with knowingly possessing a false or forged prescription or order, then the prosecutor has to prove each and every one of the following:
What if you didn’t know? What if you genuinely believed the prescription was legitimate and you had no idea that the doctor’s signature had been forged? Then you may have a defense to the charge. You also may have a defense if the document turns out to be legitimate and was not in fact falsified or forged.
An experienced Columbus defense lawyer can evaluate the facts and evidence in your case, hear your side of the story, and discuss your options for a defense strategy. In addition to attacking the facts the prosecutor claims support the charge, your Columbus defense lawyer also will look at the investigation process for ways that your rights may have been violated. When your rights have been violated, it may be possible to prevent evidence gathered using illegal means from being used against you in court, which in turn may open the door for your lawyer to get your case dismissed or your charge reduced. Some common ways that defendants’ rights are violated during investigations or arrests include: