What Is the Penalty for Stealing Someone’s Prescription Drugs?

People who misuse prescription drugs may not realize that stealing prescriptions from a family member or a friend is a crime under New Jersey law. Obtaining drugs through other illegal conduct, such as forging or misusing written prescriptions, can also carry significant penalties in the event of a criminal conviction. Penalties for stealing prescription drugs may include prison time and expensive fines. 

Prevalence of Prescription Drug Theft

Unfortunately, millions of Americans misuse prescription drugs. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that in one recent year: 

  • Approximately 14.3 million people admitted to misusing prescription psychotherapeutic drugs.
  • About 3.7 million people reported misusing prescription stimulants.
  • Nearly 5 million people admitted to misusing prescription sedatives or tranquilizers.
  • Around 8.7 million people admitted to misusing prescription pain relievers.
  • About 3.9 million people reported misusing benzodiazepines.

Although many people misuse drugs through lawful prescriptions when healthcare providers continue approving refills without reevaluating patients, others obtain prescription drugs for personal use or to sell to others through unlawful means. 

Types of Prescription Drug Theft

People may attempt to steal or unlawfully obtain prescription drugs through a variety of means, including: 

  • Family members or friends – Individuals may try to steal validly obtained prescription drugs from household members or while visiting family members’ or friends’ homes.
  • Healthcare professionals – Healthcare professionals may commit prescription drug theft by writing fraudulent prescriptions. Individuals might try to deceive healthcare professionals into providing unnecessary medication. They may also steal blank prescription pads from healthcare professionals to unlawfully obtain drugs.
  • Pharmacy employees – Pharmacy employees may steal prescription drugs at their pharmacy. Individuals may also deceive pharmacy workers into providing prescription drugs under the pretense of a lawful prescription. 

Penalties for Prescription Medication Theft

Prescription medication theft may result in multiple criminal charges, including theft by unlawful taking or deception, forgery, and obtaining a controlled dangerous substance by fraud. Penalties for a conviction for theft by unlawful taking or deception vary depending on the value of the stolen prescription medications: 

  • Less than $200 – Up to 6 months in jail and a possible fine of up to $1,000
  • $200 to $500 – Up to 18 months in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000
  • $500 to $75,000 – 3 to 5 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $15,000
  • More than $75,000 – 5 to 10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $150,000

New Jersey grades the offense of forgery of prescription blanks as a third-degree crime, which carries a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $15,000. Obtaining prescription drugs by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, or deception also results in a third-degree criminal charge with a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $50,000. 

Contact an NJ Prescription Fraud Attorney Today

Contact Keith Oliver Criminal Law today for a confidential consultation regarding your prescription fraud charges in New Jersey. Let our firm help you understand your legal options and prepare you for what to expect in the criminal justice process. Our experienced NJ prescription fraud lawyers will ensure you have the knowledge and advice to make the best decisions for your interests.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.