Prescription Drug Offenses

Distribution or Possession of Prescription Drugs

Prescription Drug Offenses

In New Jersey the distribution or possession of prescription drugs is taken very seriously. Harsh criminal consequences can result from a conviction of these offenses.

N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.5(a) proscribes, a person who knowingly:

  1. distributes a prescription drug in an amount of four or fewer dosage units is a disorderly person;
  2. distributes for pecuniary gain or possesses or has under his control with intent to distribute for pecuniary gain a prescription drug in an amount of four or fewer dosage units is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree;
  3. distributes or possesses or has under his control with intent to distribute a prescription drug in an amount of at least five but fewer than 100 dosage units is guilty of a crime of the third degree. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J. S.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $200,000 may be imposed; or
  4. distributes or possesses or has under his control with intent to distribute a prescription drug in an amount of 100 or more dosage units is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $300,000 may be imposed.

Notwithstanding the above, a violation of paragraph (1) or (3) of this subsection shall be deemed a de minimis infraction. Under certain circumstances, when charged with third degree prescription drug violations, they are subject to dismissal if:

  • The conduct involved no more than six dosage units distributed within a 24 hour period;
  • The prescription drug was lawfully prescribed for or administered to that person by a licensed physician, veterinarian, dentist or other practitioner authorized by law to prescribe medication; and
  • The defendant intended for the amount he distributed to be solely for the recipient's personal use.

A motion must be filed in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:2-11 for this defense to be asserted.

For purposes of this statute, prescription drugs include steroids, cough syrup with codeine, and any other drug, which requires dispensing by prescription from a licensed physician. It must also have the statement, "Rx only" or similar wording to indicate it can only be dispensed per a licensed physician.

The penalties for the distribution of prescription drugs vary drastically and can be severe. However, in order to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove:

  • The drugs in question were prescription drugs
  • They were distributed or kept with the intent to distribute
  • The prescription drugs were for pecuniary gain (sold to make a profit)
  • The prescription drugs distributed were in an amount required under the statute.

Usually, the degree of the crime becomes greater as the amount of drugs increases. Possession of over 100 dosages of a given prescription drug can result in a second degree criminal charge. Possession of between 5 and 100 dosages can result in a third degree criminal charge. In either case, a prison sentence could be the result of a conviction. A person will be guilty of a disorderly persons offense if he distributes prescription drugs in the amount of four or fewer dosages. However, this can become a fourth degree offense if the individual distributes the drugs for pecuniary gain.

Possession or distribution of a prescription drug is only legal where it is lawfully prescribed or administered by a licensed physician. Obtaining the drug through a valid prescription from a physician is an affirmative defense.

If you have been charged with possession or distribution of prescription drugs, call the New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at LS&P Lawyers. Our attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced in this area of the law. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.