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California Health And Safety Code 11153 HS - Prescription Fraud By Doctors


Under California Health & Safety Code Section 11153 HS, it is unlawful for doctors to prescribe controlled substances without a valid medical reason. This illegal activity is known as “prescription drug fraud” and can lead to severe consequences for those found guilty. Licensed medical professionals are authorized to issue prescriptions for controlled substances, there may be instances where doctors unlawfully write such prescriptions.

Although prescription drugs can provide crucial therapeutic benefits for numerous patients, some individuals abuse these substances, leading to addiction. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the illegality of writing unnecessary prescriptions for controlled substances and the potential penalties of engaging in this illicit behavior.

The term “medical professionals” refers to doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, and can even include unlicensed medical assistants, according to California courts. A “controlled substance” is defined as any substance listed on the five classification schedules outlined in federal drug laws and California drug laws. Some prescription drugs commonly associated with prescription fraud cases include Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Oxycodone, Xanax, and Valium.

11153: (a) A prescription for a controlled substance shall only be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his or her professional practice. The responsibility for the proper prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances is upon the prescribing practitioner, but a corresponding responsibility rests with the pharmacist who fills the prescription. Except as authorized by this division, the following are not legal prescriptions: (1) an order purporting to be a prescription which is issued not in the usual course of professional treatment or in legitimate and authorized research; or (2) an order for an addict or habitual user of controlled substances, which is issued not in the course of professional treatment or as part of an authorized narcotic treatment program, for the purpose of providing the user with controlled substances, sufficient to keep him or her comfortable by maintaining customary use.

(b) Any person who knowingly violates this section shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(c) No provision of the amendments to this section enacted during the second year of the 1981–82 Regular Session shall be construed as expanding the scope of practice of a pharmacist.


Elements of Crime Under HSC 11153

According to California Health & Safety Code Section 11153, a medical professional violates the law when they engage in the following actions:

  • Prescribing controlled substances outside of the usual course of professional treatment or for unauthorized research purposes.
  • Prescribing controlled substances to addicts or habitual users for the sole purpose of maintaining their customary use, without providing treatment as part of an authorized narcotic treatment program.

Controlled substances are classified on both state and federal schedules and include drugs such as opiates (oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine), depressants (Xanax, valium), and stimulants (adderall, ritalin).


Example 1: An orthopedic surgeon sees a professional athlete who reports mild knee discomfort after a recent sports injury. Despite the injury being relatively minor and manageable with physical therapy and rest, the surgeon prescribes a potent opioid painkiller, OxyContin, to ensure the athlete can continue competing without pain. If it is found that the prescription was not medically necessary and was primarily given to enhance the athlete’s performance, the surgeon could face charges of unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance under California law.

In these examples, the doctors may potentially violate California Health and Safety Code 11153 if they prescribe controlled substances without a genuine medical need or for non-medical purposes, even if they believe their actions are in the patient’s best interest. It underscores the importance of adhering to strict medical and ethical guidelines when prescribing controlled substances.

Example 2: A pediatrician sees a young teenager who complains of difficulty focusing in school and experiencing occasional mood swings. The teenager’s parents accompany them to the appointment and mention their concern about attention deficit issues. The doctor, without conducting a comprehensive evaluation or consulting with a specialist, writes a prescription for a potent stimulant medication, Adderall, to address the perceived attention deficit. This situation may constitute a violation of HSC 11153 if it is determined that the prescription was issued without sufficient medical justification.

Penalties, Punishment, And Sentencing

Prescribing a controlled substance without a legitimate purpose is considered a wobbler offense, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.


If charged under misdemeanor crimes, the potential penalties include:

  • Up to one year of imprisonment in the county jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000.

If charged under felony crimes, the potential penalties include:

  • Up to three years of imprisonment in the county jail
  • A maximum fine of $20,000.

Medical professionals, including doctors, can face significant collateral consequences if convicted of writing unlawful prescriptions. These consequences may include the loss of their medical licenses and the inability to write prescriptions in the future.

How To Fight Charges Under Health and Safety Code 11153?

A person accused of violating this statute has the opportunity to present a legal defense, which can potentially lead to the reduction or dismissal of the charges. Three common defenses that can be used against alleged violations of this statute are:

  • Lack of knowledge: Claiming that the accused had no knowledge that their actions violated the statute.
  • Entrapment: Arguing that the accused was coerced or induced by law enforcement to commit the violation.
  • False accusation: Asserting that the accused has been wrongly accused and did not engage in the alleged violation.

Immigration Consequences

Violations of Health and Safety Code 11153 can have significant immigration consequences, particularly for non-U.S. citizens, including legal permanent residents (green card holders). Under U.S. immigration law, certain criminal convictions can lead to deportation, denial of admission, or denial of naturalization. Specifically, a conviction under Health and Safety Code 11153 could be considered a drug offense, which is a deportable offense under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

However, the specific immigration consequences of a conviction under Health and Safety Code 11153 would depend on various factors, including the nature of the conviction, the substance involved, the amount, and the individual’s immigration status and history. It’s also worth noting that immigration law is complex and subject to change, and outcomes can vary significantly based on individual circumstances.


For anyone facing charges under Health and Safety Code 11153 or any other criminal charges with potential immigration consequences, it’s important to consult with both a criminal defense attorney and an immigration attorney who can work together. If you do not have or know of an immigration lawyer, the Tabibnia Law Firm can refer you to one.

Related Crimes

Speak With Criminal Defense Lawyer From Tabibnia Law Firm

If you find yourself facing charges for prescribing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical, it is essential to seek legal representation from an experienced drug crime defense lawyer. Cyrus Tabibnia at Tabibnia Law Firm is dedicated to helping individuals navigate their legal challenges and protect their rights. For a confidential consultation, you can reach Cyrus at 866-713-2159. Take the first step in defending your case by contacting Cyrus Tabibnia today.

For more information about prescribing a controlled substance without a legitimate purpose, and to schedule your free consultation, call 866-713-2159

Legal References:

California Code, Health and Safety Code – HSC § 11153 | Cal. Health & Saf. Code § 11153

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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