Physicians accused of running Florida’s “pill mills” are usually charged with prescription drug trafficking. That crime is a first-degree felony and carries a potential prison sentence of up to 25 years.
But in the wake of the state’s recent crackdown on pill mills, defense attorneys are increasingly arguing that the doctors should instead be charged with writing prescriptions improperly – a third-degree felony with a sentence of only five years.
A Palm Beach County defense attorney made that argument for his client in 2012 and was successful in getting his charges of trafficking oxycodone dismissed.
State prosecutors are appealing that ruling, and a similar defense maneuver in Orange County Circuit Court recently failed, with the presiding judge denying the motion to dismiss. Nevertheless, it is likely that defense lawyers throughout the state will continue to try the strategy.
In the Ninth Judicial Circuit, encompassing Orange and Osceola counties, prosecutors have not pursued a single charge under the improper prescription law in the past decade.
The argument that a doctor should be charged under the law instead of being charged with trafficking painkillers may be a bit of a stretch. The law says physicians cannot “employ a trick or scheme” and cannot prescribe drugs to a fictitious person.
Patients accused of improperly obtaining painkillers are not victims of trickery at the hands of a doctor and generally use their real names.
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