By: St. Petersburg, Florida Criminal Defense Attorney: Sean K. McQuaid
With the rise in crackdowns by law enforcement on prescription medication abuse, there also has been less tolerance for those found in possession of prescription medication without a matching prescription bottle or other documentation. Many people routinely carry medication in pill boxes, their pocket or even their vehicle console to take at preset times or as needed. However, the possession of the medication becomes an issue when law enforcement is involved.
As a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney, I have handled countless cases where people have been arrested for possession of lawfully prescribed medication, but the exculpatory information was simply not available at the scene. Law enforcement regularly will arrest a person in that scenario based on probable cause, send the case over to the State Attorney’s Office and let the person and their defense lawyer sort it out. As long as the prescription bottle, the medical records or even the pharmacy documentation is provided, the charges are usually abandoned. However, the time and embarrassment of the arrest and the money spent to defend oneself can never be recovered.
I also have seen a second scenario that can ultimately be even more inconvenient. After finding medication on a person without a prescription, law enforcement does not arrest at the scene. Instead, they send the medication off to the lab for testing and send the case directly to the Office of the State Attorney. The person goes about his or her life not suspecting that anything will come of the investigation, often because they know that the medication was lawful. However, once the prosecutor gets the file, he or she does not have access to whether the medication was lawfully prescribed. All the prosecutor knows is that the medication was found without a prescription. In this situation, the prosecutor will file what is called a Direct Information, with a capias(warrant) for the person’s arrest. This capias contains a predetermined bond amount from a judge that has already reviewed the charge. Imagine the surprise to those people who think that no charges were forthcoming only to be arrested weeks or months later for felony charges. In this situation, it can be more difficult for the defense lawyer to obtain the dismissal of the charges, but the strategy is still the same, to present proof of the prescription or other exculpatory documentation. As a final note, the only way that a person will know whether an investigation is pending is to hire a criminal defense lawyer to regularly check with the Office of the State Attorney to see when a prosecutor is assigned to the case.
Regardless of the scenario, if you retain a competent St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney and have them provide the information to the prosecutor, you should ultimately get the charges dismissed.