Posted on July 3, 2015

California B.P. Code § 4324: Forging or Altering a Prescription

Forging or altering a prescription is a wobbler offense which mean the prosecutor holds discretion on whether to charge someone with a felony or misdemeanor. Factors the prosecutor considers is the defendant’s prior criminal history and the severity of the circumstances. For a first offense, one can expect to have misdemeanor charges filed against them. However, there are a number of defenses available to defeat these charges with the use of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Additionally, these types of crimes are challenging to investigate because law enforcement do not have access to one’s medical records as your records are private information requiring a warrant. Thus, how is law enforce able to prove that a prescription is illegitimate? Usually through a suspects own incriminating statements given to police officers. For example, “…sorry I have a problem.” Thus, it is important not to give any statement to law enforcement whatsoever and demand the presence of an attorney.

Early Attorney Intervention

In some cases, early intervention by a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer may mean the difference of a slap on the wrist or having to serve time in county jail. When someone is arrested in a criminal case, the police officers write up a report and forwards it to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office or Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office for formal review to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. The prosecutor will read the evidence narrowly only considering what the police officer has to say and his or her opinions regarding the incident. However, upon retaining the Law Offices of John D. Rogers, Mr. Rogers will immediately get started on your case and catch and speak with the prosecutor prior to any criminal charges are filed. Mr. Rogers will submit character letters, additional evidence, mitigating evidence, and/or additional witness statements in an effort to explain or show your side of the story. That way the prosecutor may consider all of the evidence versus only the police officers side of the story. In some instances, this method may persuade a prosecutor to file reduced charges or perhaps reject the case completely and avoid ever having any charges brought against you. If you have been arrested, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers immediately.

Statute Defined

In California, Business and Professions Code § 4324(a) provides, “Every person who signs the name of another, or of a fictitious person, or falsely makes, alters, forges, utters, publishes, passes, or attempts to pass, as genuine, any prescription for any drugs is guilty.” This section punishes someone who makes the attempt to gain possession of prescription drugs or was caught with a forged prescription. However, if someone actually obtains medication as a result of forging a prescription, then the crime is punishable as either a felony or misdemeanor under B&P § 4324(b). It should be noted that one can be charged and convicted of both offenses – i.e., forging the prescription and obtaining the medication via forged prescription.

Elements of the Crime

According to CALCRIM 2320, in order for someone to be found guilty of forging or altering a prescription, the prosecutor must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Defendant forged/altered a prescription

OR

1. Defendant gave someone a forged or fictitious signature

OR

1. Defendant used or attempted to use with a forged or fictitious signature

OR

2. The prescription was for a narcotic drug

3. Defendant knew that the signature on the prescription was forged, altered, or fictitious for a narcotic drug.

Legal Defenses

• You did not know the prescription in your possession was forged

• Your prescription was valid from a licensed physician

• The medication was not for a narcotic substance

• You did not know the prescription was for a narcotic substance

• The police committed an unreasonable search or seizure in violation of your Fourth Amendment right

Penalties

As noted earlier, this crime is a wobbler offense which means the consequences differ depending on whether someone is convicted under this statute as to a felony or misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor, one faces:

• Up to one years in county jail
• Three years of court ordered probation
• Court fines and fees
• Community Service or Labor
• Immigration Consequences

If convicted under this statute as to a felony, the consequences are:

• 16 months, 2, or 3 years in California state prison
• Parole or probation supervision
• Permanent Firearm Restriction
• Immigration Consequences
• Community Service / Labor
• Temporary Loss of Search & Seizure Rights

Reducing Felony to Misdemeanor

Both B&P § 4324(a) and (b) are eligible convictions that may be reduced to misdemeanor upon successful completion of your sentence. The process requires a petition submitted made under P.C. § 17(b) with a points and authorities outlining the reasons why you are seeking a reduction. However, there are certain limitations to seeking this remedy. For more information, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to discuss your eligibility to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor.

Expungement

This statute is eligible for be expunged from your record upon proper petition made pursuant to P.C. § 1203.4. Much like reducing a felony to a misdemeanor, expunging your conviction may be done at the same hearing. Upon proper motion, the court will withdraw it’s finding of guilt and dismiss the conviction against you. From that point forward, you will have been judicially declared to be statutorily rehabilitated and California will no longer recognize you to be convicted of a crime thereby “releasing you from all liabilities and penalties” as a result of the conviction. For more information, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to discuss your eligibility to expunge your conviction.

Example

Dan was driving his friend to his doctor’s appointment in Los Angeles. While his friend was visiting the physician Dan waited in the car. Minutes later his friend get back into the car and asked for Dan to take him to the pharmacy so he can obtain his prescribed medication. They stop at a local gas station so his friend may use the restroom and Dan could fill his car with gas. A police officer approached Dan and began questioning him. The police officer asked Dan if he could search Dan’s car and Dan said “yes.” A search revealed a prescription but it appeared that an additional medication was written on the prescription that didn’t match the handwritten as the rest of the prescription. The police officer called the physician’s office to confirm the issuance of all the medication found on the prescription. It was revealed that there was an extra substance written on the prescription that the doctor did not authorize. The police officer arrested Dan for forging and altering a prescription. In this case, Dan would not be guilty of this crime because he had no knowledge that the prescription had been forged by his friend. Furthermore, Dan’s defense attorney would examine the Fourth Amendment legality of the police officer’s questioning of Dan when there was no reason to suspect he was committing a crime.

Related Offenses

Possession of a Controlled Substance
Possession of a Controlled Substance for Sale
Transportation of a Controlled Substance
Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance
P.C. § 459: Commercial Burglary
P.C. § 484(a): Petty Theft
P.C. § 470: Forgery

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested or charged with forging or altering a prescription, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers. Call 877-888-9820 for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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