Colorado Criminal Charges Related to Prescription Drugs

The abuse of prescription drugs is an emerging epidemic that’s now recognized as a significant threat to public health. The death toll from prescription drug abuse is huge, and even includes a number of celebrities, like Prince, Tom Petty, and Anna Nicole Smith.

As the number of deaths from prescription drugs continues to rise sharply across the US, the federal government has commissioned various agencies to combat the prescription drug epidemic. Many states, including Colorado, augment the federal government’s efforts to control this crisis by drafting laws to curb the illegal manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of prescription drugs.

What Are Prescription Drug Crimes in Colorado?

Legally, nobody should use a prescription drug without a prescription from a licensed medical practitioner. In other words, popping a pill from another person’s bottle might not seem like a big deal, but it could land you into a lot of trouble with the law.

Every prescription drug that’s dispensed and used in Colorado must have a valid prescription based on a genuine practitioner-patient relationship. Any actions outside of this might constitute a prescription drug crime.

Common prescription drug charges in Colorado include:

  1. Unlawful possession of a prescription drug
  2. Unlawful selling of a prescription drug
  3. Prescription drug fraud

The State of Colorado has an aggressive prosecution strategy for drug-related crimes, and just like with other drugs, prescription drug charges carry harsh sentences. Because of this, you need to work with a skilled Denver drug crimes attorney to help you fight any prescription drug charge that you might face.

Unlawful Possession of a Prescription Drug in Colorado

Under Colorado Code C.R.S. 18-18-403.5, it’s unlawful to possess a prescription drug without a valid prescription.

Note, however, if the drug is a controlled substance, the charge could be “possession of a controlled substance.”

The state of Colorado classifies controlled substances according to schedules. Prescriptions drugs may be found in any of the five drug schedules.

Certain prescription drugs (e.g. methadone, morphine, and oxycodone) fall under Schedule II controlled substances. The administration and use of such drugs must be executed properly, prescriptions must be signed manually, and no refills are to be given. Possessing these drugs illegally may result in harsh sentencing.

The penalty for illegally possessing prescription drugs depends on the schedule under which the drug is classified as well as the amount and type of drug possessed.

For example, the unlawful possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V prescription drug could be treated as a class 1 misdemeanor, while possessing a class II prescription drug could be a level 6 felony.

How Colorado Handles Unlawful Sale of a Prescription Drug

By selling, offering for sale, giving away, or unlawfully administering a prescription drug to another person, one might be found to violate Colorado Code C.R.S. 18-18-405.

If the substance in question happens to be a controlled drug, one could be charged with a felony. The penalties would consequently be determined by the amount and type of drug involved.

For prescription drugs that aren’t controlled substances, the offense may be regarded as a misdemeanor. The sentence is based on the type and amount of prescription drugs involved.

Selling, administering, or unlawfully giving away prescription drugs to minors might be considered a felony, and come with the possibility of a long prison sentence, expensive fines, and several other consequences.

Prescription Drug Fraud in Colorado

Obtaining, procuring, or attempting to obtain/procure a prescription drug through deceit, fraud, misrepresentation, concealing of material facts, forgery, or using a false name or address is considered prescription fraud as per Colorado codes C.R.S. 18-18-415, C.R.S. 18-18-414 and C.R.S. 18-18-102.

Examples of actions that might constitute a prescription drug fraud charge in Colorado include:

  • Adulterating, removing or destroying part(s) of a drug’s labeling, thereby causing that drug to be misbranded and/or labeled as something other than the drug.
  • Repackaging, delivering, or selling a misbranded or counterfeit drug.
  • Counterfeiting, simulating, forging, or falsely representing a prescription drug without the manufacturer’s authorization.
  • Making or uttering a forged or false prescription whether written, oral, electronic, or otherwise.
  • Falsely assuming a physician’s, veterinary’s, wholesaler’s, or manufacturer’s title so as to obtain a prescription drug.

Denver Prescription Drug Fraud

Prescription drug fraud may take numerous other forms, which means that each case is unique. Generally, under Colorado law, the offense could be a felony with jail time, expensive fines, and other serious consequences.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.