The Crime of Prescription Fraud or “Doctor Shopping” in California - HS 11173
Now that prescription drug addiction has become so widespread in California, “doctor shopping” to obtain prescription drugs is common.
This type of drug crime activity is a form of prescription fraud and defined under California Health & Safety Code 11173 HS.
The term “doctor shopping” simply means to visit several different medical health care facilities or pharmacies in order to acquire multiple prescriptions for controlled substances.
Anyone who obtain multiple prescriptions that are not medically necessary by providing fraudulent statements or by concealing information from medical professionals can be charged with HS 11173 prescription fraud.
What are the Most Common Drugs in an HS 11173 Case?
The most common drugs involved in prescription fraud case include:
Health and Safety Code 11173 provides criminal penalties for patients who obtain, or attempt to obtain, a prescription from medical professionals for a controlled substance using:
- Misrepresentation, or
- Concealment of material fact
To give readers a better understanding of California doctor shopping and prescription fraud laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.
What Type of Conduct is Prohibited Under HS 11173 Prescription Fraud?
California Health and Safety Code 11173 defines the crime of prescription fraud and doctor shopping as:
- No person shall obtain, attempt to obtain controlled substances, or procure a prescription by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or subterfuge, by the concealment of a material fact.
This definition means you could be convicted of Health & Safety Code 11173 if you commit any of the following acts:
- Obtain, or make an attempt to obtain, a controlled substance using fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or concealing a material fact
- Making a false statement for a prescription
- Changing quantity of a legitimate prescription
- Forging a prescription on doctor's pad
It's worth noting that you can still commit HS 11173 prescription fraud even if you never physically obtained the controlled substance or the prescription itself.
In other words, it's only required that you made the attempt in order to be convicted of this drug crime.
It's also worth noting that you violate HS 11173 prescription fraud laws in a situation where you give a false name or address in the context of obtaining a prescription for a controlled substance.
What are Some Common Examples of Prescription Fraud?
In a simple scenario, a drug-addicted person sets up a doctor's appointment under the false pretense they were recently injured.
However, in truth, the patient is attempting to acquire a prescription for a painkiller due to the fact they have an addiction to that controlled substance.
The patient's act of making a false statement to the doctor for needing pain medication is a crime under HS 11173 in itself, even if the doctor realizes the fraudulent attempt and never writes them a prescription.
Another common scenario is “doctor shopping” where a defendant might be a legitimate patient who actually needs pain medication.
While the patient did legitimately receive an initial prescription from one doctor for a painkiller, they became addicted and started setting up multiple appointments with a variety of doctors in order to get additional prescriptions for the same or related drugs.
Crucially, in this scenario, the defendant intentionally failed to inform the other doctors they are already under the care of their primary doctor who already provided a prescription for the painkiller.
What are the Penalties for an Health & Safety Code 11173 Conviction?
California Health and Safety Code 11173, doctor shopping or prescription fraud, is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.
The decision on how to exactly file the criminal case is at the discretion of the filing prosecutor, who is normally a Deputy District Attorney, and based on:
- Facts and circumstances of the case;
- Defendant's prior criminal record.
If convicted of a HS 11173 misdemeanor prescription fraud case, the penalties include:
- Up to one year in a county jail;
- A maximum fine of $1,000.
If convicted of a HS 11173 felony case, the penalties include:
- 16 months, 2 or 3 years in the California state prison;
- A maximum fine of $20,000.
What are the Related California Offenses for HS 11173?
- Health & Safety Code 11153 HS – prescription fraud by doctors
- Health & Safety Code 11350 HS – possession of controlled substance
- Health & Safety Code 11356 HS - prescribe drugs to an addict
- Health & Safety Code 11162.5 HS – counterfeit a prescription blank
- Health & Safety Code 11368 HS – forging or altering a prescription
- Business and Professions Code 4324 BPC - forging or altering a prescription
How Can I Fight HS 11173 Prescription Fraud Charges?
If you were accused of violating Health & Safety Code 11173, prescription fraud or doctor shopping, our Los Angeles criminal attorneys can use a variety of common defenses to fight the charges, including:
- Lack of intent
- Police entrapment
- Pre-court intervention
Lack of Fraudulent Intent
One of the most common defense to a HS 11173 charge is to make an argument that you lacked fraudulent intent.
Recall the two examples above and remember that you must have used fraud, deceit, subterfuge, etc. in order to be convicted.
We might be able to make an argument that while you receive the controlled substances, you didn't use fraud to receive them.
Entrapment by law enforcement
In some HS 11173 cases, police officers will run an undercover sting operation to lure people into committing a crime they would not have otherwise committed.
This is known as “entrapment” where law enforcement officers will pressure, harass, and threaten someone in an attempt to persuade them to commit a crime.
Prefiling intervention by our law firm in alleged doctor shopping cases is crucial as the presentation of a solid defense position before court can often convince the prosecutor to file a misdemeanor case rather than a felony.
In some cases, we might also be able to persuade the prosecutor to dismiss the charges.
Our experienced criminal defense lawyers can counsel you in the prefiling stage as well as in court to help you obtain the best possible outcome.
Call Our Criminal Lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP For Help
If you or a family member are facing charges of prescription fraud or doctor shopping in violation of California Health and Safety Code 11173, contact our law firm to discuss your options.
We serve clients throughout Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles area, Ventura County, and the San Fernando Valley.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Superior Courthouse at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our office for an initial consultation at (877) 781-1570.