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Criminal Charges for Stealing Prescriptions

March 9, 2024

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports that 18.4% or 52 million in the U.S. over 12 years old have misused prescription drugs at least one time, and 5.75% of Americans over 12 abuse prescription drugs overall. The most abused drugs by millions of people are prescription pain relievers (8.7), followed by tranquilizers (5), sedatives (3.9), and stimulants (3.7), according to a National Institutes of Health report. As a result, drug theft by various means, such as customer theft, armed robbery, burglary, and worker theft, remains high. However, prescription pad theft is also a standard method for stealing prescription drugs in New Jersey.

With the rising opioid crisis and untold measures across the nation attempting to control it, New Jersey law enforcement, prosecutors, and legislators take a firm stance against prescription theft and other related crimes. You will need a determined and well-informed criminal defense attorney to represent you in challenging the state’s case. Facing the vast array of severe consequences for stealing prescriptions in NJ should motivate you to find the toughest, most experienced lawyer to review your case and see what your top options are. Contact Proetta, Oliver, & Fay now for a free consultation.

New Jersey Imposes Strict Regulations on Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) in New Jersey. Only licensed and authorized individuals or companies may possess and distribute pharmaceuticals according to strict laws. Thus, only licensed physicians and pharmacists are authorized to dispense drugs to people with a valid doctor’s prescription. A prescription typically contains the patient’s name, date of birth, medication, quantity, dosage, method of taking the medication, and number of refills for a pharmacy to fill.

What Does NJ Law Say about Prescription Theft?

Stealing a prescription pad is considered theft. N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3 governs theft by unlawful taking or disposition, which defines theft as taking or exercising control over movable or immovable property to deprive the owner of such property. The penalties for a theft conviction under this section depend on the value of the stolen property but can range as high as a second degree criminal conviction, meaning a 5 to 10 year prison term and a potential $150,000.00 fine. When the value of the theft is between $500.00 and $75,000.00, the fine for third degree theft of a prescription is $15,000 plus additional fines if you face other charges such as forgery of a prescription or obtaining prescription drugs by fraud. Fines for third degree crimes are typically $15,000.00, but a prescription fraud charge carries up to $50,000 in fines.

Frequent Methods Used for Stealing Prescriptions in New Jersey

Prescription theft can occur in various scenarios. For example, someone can steal a prescription from a customer waiting in line at a pharmacy by stealing it from their hands, pockets, or purse. A healthcare employee or patient can steal a prescription pad from a medical facility to forge prescriptions. Some people may also break into clinics, pharmacies, or other facilities to steal prescription pads and prescription drugs. Thus, healthcare workers and ordinary citizens alike are vulnerable to prescription theft.

Doctors should lock prescription pads away and keep track of control numbers on the pads. They should keep the prescription pad on them while working and use a unique pen to write them. A medical staff member may observe a physician who does not take precautions to secure prescription pads and obtain a pad when one is lying around.

Moreover, stealing prescriptions allows an individual to illegally obtain and sell prescription drugs for a profit. Individuals may work alone or in a prescription theft ring. Members of a theft ring may engage in pharmacy burglaries, identity theft involving doctors or patients, or conspiracies to steal prescriptions with pharmacists, doctors, or nurses who cooperate for profits.

High Demand Prescription Drugs are Often Stolen

Prescription drugs on the streets can yield a sizable profit, not to mention that many people become addicted to these powerful medications and then resort to stealing them when their prescriptions run out. The most sought-after prescription drugs are opioids, depressants, and stimulants. Opioids include narcotics and pain relievers like Percocet, OxyContin, Percodan, and Vicodin. The street names for these drugs are Percs, Hillbilly Heroin (OxyContin), and Vikes. Depressants include barbiturates, sedatives, tranquilizers, and benzodiazepines, such as Librium, Valium, and Xanax. Barbiturate street names vary as blues, reds, and yellows. Benzos are downers or tranks, and Xanax are commonly called Totem Poles. Finally, stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, go by Bennies, Uppers, Black Beauties, Vitamin R, or Kiddy Cocaine.

Theft of Prescriptions, Pads, or Blanks vs. Using a Stolen Prescription to Collect Drugs in NJ

Regardless of the drug, stealing a prescription by any means can result in severe consequences. When you steal a prescription and then use it at a pharmacy or other medical facility, you may be charged with theft (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3) and prescription fraud (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-13). Prescription fraud occurs when you get prescription drugs through fraud, forgery, deception, or other illegal ways, including stealing prescriptions or prescription blanks and using them to obtain drugs. You face a three-to-five-year prison sentence, at minimum, potentially. Facing both charges, you stand to spend many years in prison and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Charged with Prescription Theft in NJ, What are my Options?

Your clean record may help you avoid prison when facing prescription theft charges in New Jersey. If you have no criminal history, you may qualify for the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, a diversionary program that allows you to complete a one to three-year supervised sentence in which you fulfill certain conditions, like staying drug and crime-free, submitting to drug tests, attending classes or counseling, and other conditions tailored to your criminal charges. You will have a probation officer who you must meet with to ensure progress and compliance. After you complete the program, the state will dismiss your prescription drug-related charges.

Avoiding prison is what you would hope for, but diversion is not a guarantee. The state does not accept all applications for the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, so you must prepare the application and have a skilled legal advocate to help you make a persuasive argument that you are someone who would benefit from such a program, which is aimed at rehabilitating first-time offenders rather than incarcerating them.

Our criminal attorneys will look at all of your options, whether it be a diversion like PTI or Drug Court, or a defense angle to get the charges dismissed. Did the police break any laws when they arrested you? If so, we may get a judge to throw out critical evidence for the prosecution and end your case before it starts. If the charges can’t be dropped altogether, our criminal defense lawyers may be able to convince the prosecution to give you a better sentence or reduce the charges for a more lenient punishment.

Contact a Prescription Theft Defense Lawyer in Burlington County for Immediate Assistance

If you are facing charges for stealing prescription drugs, forgery, or prescription fraud, call our Evesham Township, NJ office to talk to an attorney for assurance and guidance. There is hope after an arrest for prescription theft in Burlington County and throughout Southern New Jersey, and we are ready to help you today. Reach us online or by calling (609) 850-8284 for a free consultation.

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Burlington Office

525 Highway 73,
Suite 104, Marlton,
New Jersey 08053
Phone: 609-850-8284
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100 Horizon Center
Boulevard, Hamilton,
New Jersey, 08691
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3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
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180 Kings Highway,
Middletown Township,
New Jersey 07748
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