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“Prescription Fraud” & “Doctor Shopping” Laws In California

“PRESCRIPTION FRAUD” & “DOCTOR SHOPPING” LAWS IN CALIFORNIA

With the rise of prescription drug addiction, California has seen an increase in prescription fraud and doctor shopping charges. These offenses can be committed by both patients and healthcare professionals. In California, there are two main laws that prosecutors can use to bring charges related to prescription drug fraud: Health & Safety Code 11173 and Health & Safety Code 11153.

To provide readers with valuable insights into doctor shopping and prescription fraud charges under California’s Health and Safety Code, our experienced California criminal defense attorney has compiled the following overview:

Definition of Health And Safety Code 11173 (Doctor Shopping)

Under California’s doctor shopping laws, individuals can be charged with the crime of doctor shopping or prescription fraud if they obtain or attempt to obtain a prescription medication or a prescription for a controlled substance by engaging in fraudulent, deceitful, or deceptive behavior, or by concealing a material fact.

Who Can Be Charged With 11173 HS?

  • Patients who attempt to fraudulently obtain or successfully obtain a prescription for a controlled substance.
  • Medical professionals who make false statements in any prescription, order, report, or record.
  • Individuals who falsely represent themselves as licensed professionals, such as a manufacturer, wholesaler, pharmacist, physician, dentist, veterinarian, registered nurse, physician’s assistant, or other authorized personnel.
  • Individuals who affix false or forged labels to packages or containers that contain controlled substances.

Please note; This charge can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A felony charge under this Section carries significant legal consequences, including but not limited to:

  • Losing the right to possess firearms
  • Losing the right to vote
  • Losing the right to serve on a jury
  • Losing the right to hold public office
  • Being required to provide a DNA sample to law enforcement
  • Facing potential immigration consequences if you are a noncitizen and involved in drug abuse.
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Definition of Health And Safety Code 11153 (Prescription Fraud)

Prescription fraud is committed by medical professionals when they knowingly write a prescription for a controlled substance that meets either or both of the following conditions:

  • It is not intended for a legitimate medical purpose.
  • It is not issued as a part of their usual course of professional practice.

Who Can Be Charged With Violating HS 11153(a)?

“Medical professionals” refers to healthcare practitioners who have the authority to write and sign prescription forms, such as:

  • Doctors
  • Any licensed medical professional with prescribing authority (e.g., Registered Nurse, Physician’s Assistant, etc.)
  • Any wholesaler, manufacturer, agent, or employee associated with pharmaceuticals
  • Any pharmacist who fills the prescription

According to California courts, “medical professionals” may also include unlicensed medical assistants.

When Can Doctors Be Charged With A Crime Under HSC 11153?

A doctor can be charged with a crime under the following circumstances:

  • When they issue a prescription that is not a part of their usual course of professional treatment or legitimate authorized research.
  • When they issue a prescription to an addict or habitual user of controlled substances, not as part of their professional treatment or an authorized narcotic treatment program, with the intention of providing enough controlled substances to maintain the user’s customary use and keep them comfortable.

Penalties, Punishment, And Sentencing

Violations of both HS 11173 and HS 11153 are classified as wobbler offenses. This means that a prosecutor has the discretion to charge the offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal record.

The decision on whether to pursue a misdemeanor or felony charge will be based on factors such as the severity of the offense, any aggravating factors present, and the defendant’s prior criminal history. The prosecutor will assess these factors to determine the appropriate level of charges to pursue.

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PenaltiesMisdemeanorFelony
FineUp to $1,000Up to $20,000
ProbationSummary ProbationFormal Probation
Jail or PrisonUp to 1 year in county jail16 months, 2 or 3 years county jail

The state of California does not include prescription drug fraud offenses under its drug diversion program or California Proposition 36. As a result, individuals convicted under HS 11173 or HS 11153 are not eligible for these programs, which offer court-supervised drug treatment for individuals struggling with substance abuse issues.

How To Fight Charges?

Criminal defense attorney at Tabibnia Law Firm utilizes various legal strategies when defending clients in cases involving charges under HS 11173 and HS 11153. Three common defense strategies employed by attorneys include:

  • Demonstrating the absence of fraud or deceit: To be found guilty of prescription fraud, doctor shoppers must have employed some form of fraud or deceit to obtain a prescription. It is important to note that “fraud” has a specific legal definition. A potential defense in this scenario is to establish that fraud was not utilized in acquiring a prescription for a medical ailment.
  • One possible example of this type of defense is when the prescribing doctor issued a painkiller prescription without conducting a thorough examination or asking many questions. If the defendant can prove that they had a genuine medical condition and the prescribing doctor did not require any fraudulent actions or deceptive measures to obtain the prescription, it can be argued that prescription fraud was not committed.
  • Establishing a lack of criminal intent: Doctors who are accused of prescription fraud can often claim that they lacked criminal intent as a defense. They can argue that they didn’t knowingly write an illegitimate prescription and that any inaccuracies were a result of carelessness rather than an intentional act. This defense strategy aims to establish that the doctor did not knowingly engage in fraudulent practices.
  • Asserting the defense of entrapment: Prescription fraud charges often arise from undercover stings conducted by law enforcement. During these operations, officers attempt to entice individuals into committing a crime. If successful, the accused may be able to claim entrapment as a defense. This defense can be raised if the accused only engaged in illegal activity because of the officer’s provocation or coercive behavior.
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These defense strategies are employed to challenge the prosecution’s case and protect the rights and interests of the accused individuals.

Immigration Consequences:

Health & Safety Code 11153 and Health & Safety Code 11173 are considered “crimes involving moral turpitude” for immigration purposes, depending on the circumstances. Crimes of moral turpitude are offenses that are considered to be objectively morally inexcusable. If convicted of such a crime, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, it may result in removal proceedings before an immigration judge. Offenses that are considered to be “shocking to the conscience” of an average person may also prevent a noncitizen from accessing various immigration benefits. Additionally, they may be classified as an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes.

To fully understand the offenses categorized as “aggravated felonies,” “crimes of moral turpitude,” and other bars from relief from removal proceedings under immigration law, Visit: https://www.ilrc.org/sites/default/files/resources/aggravated_felonies_4_17_final.pdf

This resource will provide comprehensive information on the specific offenses and their implications in immigration cases.

Related Crimes

  • Forging or altering a prescription – HSC 11368,
  • Possession of a controlled substance – HSC 11350 (a),
  • Counterfeiting a prescription pad – HSC 11162.5
  • Prescribing Drugs Without Legitimate Purpose – HSC 11353

Speak With Criminal Defense Lawyer From Tabibnia Law Firm

In California, prescription fraud and doctor shopping are serious crimes that can lead to severe consequences, such as hefty fines and imprisonment. As a result, it is crucial to understand the laws regarding prescription drug use and to seek the guidance of a criminal defense lawyer if facing charges related to prescription fraud or doctor shopping. For additional assistance or to discuss your case with an experienced attorney, contact Tabibnia Law Firm. Our Los Angeles drug crime attorney, Cyrus Tabibnia, provides consultations and legal advice that you can trust. 

To schedule an initial consultation and get professional assistance, please call Cyrus Tabibnia at 866-713-2159. Take proactive steps now to protect yourself in this serious felony and misdemeanor offense case.

Legal References:

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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