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

July 3, 2015

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 an Newport Beach 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 the evidence to the District Attorney’s Office or local City Prosecutor 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.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove?

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


1. Defendant gave someone a forged or fictitious signature


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


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

Punishment & Sentencing

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 of incarceration
• Parole or probation supervision
• Permanent Firearm Restriction
• Immigration Consequences
• Community Service / Labor
• Temporary Loss of Search & Seizure Rights

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 to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested or charged with forging or altering a prescription, then contact an experienced Newport Beach criminal defense attorney that the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to schedule a free confidential case evaluation.

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