Codeine is one of the most prescribed drugs on the planet, but it is also an addictive drug. Can you be charged with a crime if you can prove you have a prescription for codeine? The answer is, surprisingly, yes!
A prescription does not mean you can freely possess or use codeine. If you use it as directed and keep your medicine in the bottle, there is little worry. If you don’t, here are the possible charges you could face even if you have a prescription.
You Could Get a Codeine DUI
California makes it illegal to drive under the influence of any drug that can impair your driving, even if it’s a legal prescription. This includes codeine. A prescription with this drug should have a warning that says not to operate a vehicle or heavy machinery while using it.
You may or may not go to jail for a first-time DUI under this offense, but you will see license suspension, 3-5 years of DUI probation, possible DUI school, and fines. Drug diversion is not a possibility with a DUI involving codeine.
Note that there is no necessary blood or breath test for this charge. All the state needs to prove is that you were taking codeine and that it impaired your driving. There is no legal limit for driving on codeine.
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Possession of Codeine with Intent to Sell
If you have more codeine in your possession than you should have according to your prescription, you could be charged with this crime. This is a felony charge that could land you in jail for 2-4 years and you could face fines of up to $25,000.
However, there is a lesser charge of possession for personal use that is only a misdemeanor. Your drug defense lawyer would have to convince the court that your extra pills were for your personal use and you had no intention of reselling the extra doses.
If you are an immigrant, either of these charges could put you at risk for deportation. Your safest route is to destroy the unused doses when you pick up your next prescription, or any remaining pills after you’re done with the drug.
Transportation or Sale of a Controlled Substance
If the police do have evidence that you were selling your prescription codeine or were transporting it to sell it, then you face even worse charges. You could face 3-9 years in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000.
The state would have to prove that a sale happened or was in progress to convict you of this charge. It is better not to drive while carrying a codeine prescription except when picking it up from the pharmacy. Since you cannot take it safely while driving, it’s easy for the state to think you were going to sell it.
Keep a receipt from the pharmacy just in case you’re unlucky enough to get pulled over while you have it with you. That can be used to prove you recently bought your prescription and you were intending to take it home.
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Doctor Shopping Is Fraud
An addict to opiates will sometimes go to multiple doctors that don’t know each other to build up a supply of drugs. This is called doctor shopping. It is a type of fraud and it is considered a felony in California. You could face 3 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
Even if you have a legitimate medical reason to take codeine, it’s illegal to use that reason to get medicine from multiple doctors. Stick with one doctor for your codeine prescription, and only take what you need to manage your pain.
Thanks to the opioid epidemic, many doctors limit the dosages of opioid-containing prescriptions they provide to patients. This can push addicts to take the risk of doctor shopping. If you are having trouble managing your pain, we encourage you to seek other ways to manage it besides opioids.