Health & Safety Code 11156 HS – Prescribing Controlled Substances to an Addict
The crime of prescribing drugs to an addict is described under California Health and Safety Code 11156 HS, which criminalizes the act of prescribing, dispensing, or administering a controlled substance to a drug addict. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are typically the primary target under this statute.
Since prescription drug addiction has become a major issue in California, lawmakers have acted in an attempt to reduce the number of fraudulent prescriptions. However, controlled substances are not supposed to be prescribed in some situations.
Anyone who is addicted to prescription drugs is typically dependent on a medical professional to write their prescriptions. Thus, prescribing controlled substances to a drug addict is a crime under Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HS.
This means it's not only illegal for someone to possess prescription drugs without a prescription, but it's also illegal to provide an addict with a controlled substance knowingly. HS 11156 applies to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals.
An example can be found when a doctor has an appointment with a new patient. The patient tells the doctor they suffer from chronic pain and need a prescription for Vicodin. Still, his regular doctor told them they were addicted to Vicodin and won't prescribe more medication.
The patient eventually persuades the new doctor to prescribe Vicodin even though he is addicted. In this example, the doctor could face charges of prescribing a controlled substance to an addict under HS 11156. Let's review this law further below.
What Does the Law Say?
California Health and Safety Code 11156 defines prescribing controlled substances to an addict as “Nobody shall prescribe for, administer, or dispense a controlled substance to an addict or anyone representing themselves as such.”
As you can see, this statute has broad language with the intent that prescribing, administering, or dispensing a controlled substance can cover almost any situation where a medical professional gives access to a drug to an addict.
Controlled substances are listed under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. HS 11156 describes an “addict” as anyone whose actions are characterized by craving for a controlled substance in combination with the following (1) impaired control over drug use; (2) compulsive use; or (3) continued use despite harm.
You don't have to be a physician, health care professional, or nurse qualified to write prescriptions to violate Health and Safety Code 11156, prescribing controlled substances to an addict.
What Are the Related California Offenses?
- Health & Safety Code 11153 HS - Prescription fraud;
- Health & Safety Code 11173 HS - Doctor shopping;
- Health & Safety Code 11154(a) HS - Prescribing drugs without treatment;
- Health & Safety Code 11162.5 HS - Counterfeit a prescription blank;
- Business and Professions Code 4324 BPC - Forging or altering a prescription.
What Are the Penalties for HS 11156?
Prescribing controlled substances to an addict under California Health & Safety Code 11156 is a “wobbler,” meaning the prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.
Prosecutors will typically base their decision on the severity of the crime, prior criminal record, and if multiple patients were involved.
If convicted on an HS 11156 misdemeanor case, the penalties include the following:
- Up to one year in county jail;
- A fine of up to $20,000;
- Summary probation.
If convicted on an HS 11156 felony case, the penalties include the following:
- Up to three years in county jail;
- A fine of up to $20,000;
- Formal probation.
Also, any doctor or other medical professional will typically face some professional discipline if accused of prescribing controlled substances to an addict, including losing their medical license.
What Are the Defenses for HS 11156?
If you were accused of prescribing controlled substances to an addict violating California Health and Safety Code 11156, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review all the case details and options.
Based on the case's circumstances, we could use some common defenses to obtain the best possible outcome.
Even though HS 11156 describes an “addict,” it's not always that simple, and it can be challenging for a medical professional to know whether someone is an addict.
We might be able to argue that you didn't know and made an honest mistake. Perhaps the patient made false statements to convince you to write a prescription. If we can create reasonable doubt, then you might be able to avoid a conviction.
To be convicted of HS 11156, prescribing drugs to an addict, the person has to fall under the definition of an addict. Recall from above that their actions must be characterized by craving, which means there must be signs they are attempting to abuse prescribed controlled substances.
Therefore, we might be able to reasonably argue that they are not an addict as defined under the statute.
If you are under investigation or already charged with prescribing a controlled substance to an addict violating California Health and Safety Code 11156, call our criminal defense lawyers for a consultation.
We must review all the circumstances and evidence to plan a favorable outcome strategy. We might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to lesser charges or even to dismiss the case.
Also, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges. Finally, we have a record of success defending clients against all types of drug-related crimes in all Los Angeles criminal courthouses. Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm in Los Angeles.