According to New Jersey law, forgery is intentionally deceiving or injuring another by falsifying a written document to look like someone else authenticated it, like forging a signature, altering the date or place of execution, or passing it off as an original when it is not. It could also be publishing a falsified document. Prescription forgery is a specific type of forgery governed by the forgery statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1. It is a third degree crime in New Jersey, which includes a possible term of imprisonment from 3 to 5 years. Fines can amount to $15,000 as well in prescription forgery cases.
Though rampant among those addicted to potent medications, not only patients commit prescription forgery. In fact, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers can also commit these felony offenses. Sometimes, people create a profitable enterprise by forging prescriptions and selling them illegally. In all of these cases when you or a loved one has been charged with prescription forgery, you will need solid legal representation to help you strategize a course of action for challenging the prosecutor’s case, negotiating a plea agreement, getting you into a diversionary program, or defending you at trial.
Contact the Burlington County criminal defense lawyers at Proetta, Oliver & Fay for experienced defense representation in your prescription forgery case. Our firm has successfully represented numerous clients charged with forging prescriptions, obtaining CDS by fraud, theft by deception, other related charges in Evesham, Burlington, Mount Holly, Medford, Bordentown, Mount Laurel, Willingboro, and other towns throughout Southern New Jersey. Call us at (609) 850-8284 for your free consultation today.
Important Aspects of NJ Prescription Forgery Law
The primary forgery statute that governs these offenses, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1, clarifies that “writing” includes anything printed or otherwise recorded. It is also money or tokens, like coins or bills, credit cards, trademarks, badges, and other items of value, identification, privilege, or right. It also specifies retail sales receipts, checks, and UPC labels. Later on in the statute, specifically in subsection (b), the law includes other certificates, licenses, and instruments in addition to prescription blanks.
Forging a prescription requires imitating a physician’s signature, forging a prescription blank, altering an existing prescription, or using a physician’s signature from one prescription to create another. There are other ways this offense occurs as well, from the most minor change like increasing the number of “renewals” from 2 to 3, or the amount from 17 to 72. The extent of prescription forgery can range from one person to a criminal enterprise. All forgery is a crime of deception, but prescription forgery may also constitute theft, including identity theft or impersonation.
Individuals may Commit Prescription Forgery
For example, a person addicted to oxycodone may steal their doctor’s prescription pad and forge the physician’s signature. Oxycodone, like morphine, valium, or Vicodin, is a highly addictive drug behind many prescription forgery offenses. Alternatively, a drug seeker may alter an existing prescription to obtain the medication or additional refills. Once they present the forged document to a pharmacist, they are liable for prescription forgery under NJ law.
Prescription Forgery by a Criminal Enterprise
A crime ring may engage in forging prescriptions with fake doctors’ names. These schemes can be elaborate, with fake duplicate doctor profiles, websites, and office addresses, who purport to sign prescriptions for those willing to pay for the forged documents. Likewise, computer hackers may gain access to online prescription services, which allow them to sign prescriptions as doctors digitally. The latter may constitute forgery and wire fraud, among other cybercrimes, if law enforcement catches them.
An enterprise trafficking in forged prescriptions may work with a medical staff insider who falsifies documents to smuggle prescription blanks to get a cut of the profits. The insider may be liable for fraud, embezzlement, and licensing violations, among other crimes and ethics violations.
Healthcare Providers may be Charged with Prescription Forgery
A nurse, doctor, or pharmacist who increases the medication dose on another’s prescription is guilty of prescription forgery. These offenses occur in many different ways among those in the medical profession, sometimes for profit and other times for a person’s own use.
New Jersey Prescription Forgery Offense Consequences
Your charge will be graded as a third degree crime for prescription forgery if you are accused of forging New Jersey Prescription Blanks. You could pay a fine as high as $15,000.00 and spend from three (3) to five (5) years in prison. You could also lose your license for six months.
According to the law, possessing tools and devices to commit forgery, whether mechanical, computer software, or electronic, is a fourth degree crime for prescription forgery. If found guilty, you could be behind bars for up to 18 months and the fines can be as high as $10,000.00
Third and fourth degree offenses are indictable crimes, meaning a serious crime that other states call a felony. A conviction for prescription forgery and accompanying crimes leaves you with a criminal record.Your criminal history negatively affects sentencing for future convictions. However, if convicted of multiple charges associated with faking prescriptions, you could face enhanced sentences, consecutive sentences, and maximum penalties for subsequent charges.
What Other Charges can Happen in a Prescription Forgery Case in New Jersey?
Since forgery is a type of fraud, other crimes may accompany a forgery conviction. N.J.S.A. 2C:35-13 governs obtaining CDS by fraud, another crime often charged in prescription forgery cases. Anyone who fraudulently obtains prescription drugs, otherwise known as a controlled dangerous substance, through forgery, misrepresentation, or other deceit, is guilty of a third degree crime. Prescription fraud may be charged in conjunction with prescription forgery. Also, obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors based on false information (doctor shopping), a fake medical condition, or unusual reason amounts to prescription fraud.
Another common offense is counterfeiting, when an accused person makes prescriptions with a device to duplicate prescription blanks or controlled dangerous substances. Often, the perpetrator creates the tool or vehicle to distribute prescriptions or drugs for financial gain, which could amount to theft, embezzlement, fraud, or misrepresentation, depending on who obtains, designs, duplicates, and distributes them. Wire fraud and cybercrime may apply if the perpetrator acquires or distributes a forged prescription online.
Stealing a prescription blank is also a crime. Prescription theft is a third degree crime with a fine of up to $100,000.00, contingent upon the value the theft yields. Lastly, possessing prescription drugs without a prescription can be a disorderly persons offense or an indictable crime, depending on the number of medication dosages in a given case.
What can I do if Charged with Prescription Forgery in Burlington County NJ?
Contact a criminal defense attorney at Proetta, Oliver & Fay to discuss your prescription forgery charges and what can be done to protect you from severe penalties. We defend clients accused of forging prescriptions in New Jersey using a variety of tactics. Since an accused’s intent is a critical element of proving forgery, we may be able to help you convince the prosecutor, judge, or jury that you did not intend to commit a crime if you thought you had permission to alter a prescription, for example.
You may also benefit as a first-time offender from drug counseling and testing through New Jersey’s Drug Court Program if addiction is the driving force behind your criminal offense. Often, prescription drugs cause addiction. Many people get injured in a car accident or on the job, and their doctors prescribe potent opioids for pain. Despite the legal limits to prescribing addictive opioids, people can get addicted and desperate to control their ongoing pain. If this applies to you, our defense lawyers can make a compelling argument that your clear criminal history and personal stability before your addiction make you a better candidate to serve your sentence outside a prison and in a rehabilitation facility.
We may also help you apply for one of the best diversionary programs offered by Superior Courts: the Pretrial Intervention Program for first-time offenders. The program aims to rehabilitate first-time offenders, so they can avoid prison and a conviction on their record. If you complete the program, your charges are dismissed.
If you’re not struggling with abusing substances and you have a criminal record from the past, we may seek to reduce the charges against you or negotiate a dismissal of some of the other charges you may face collateral to prescription forgery. Then there are cases in which the criminal process has clearly been violated, offering us the option to suppress evidence that shouldn’t be used to prosecute you.
If you have questions about the best way to handle your prescription forgery charges or you are seeking legal representation from an experienced criminal defense lawyer, call (609) 850-8284 to speak to the attorneys at Proetta, Oliver & Fay. Our practice is dedicated to protecting your rights and delivering positive results in forgery, drug, and fraud cases in Burlington County NJ communities. We are prepared to defend your prescription forgery charges in Pemberton, Moorestown, New Hanover, Tabernacle, Florence, Bass River, and Eastampton, among many other neighboring towns. Please contact us for a free consultation.
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