Criminal Charges for Forging a Prescription in New Jersey
Charged with N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1?
New Jersey law prohibits individuals from forging or falsifying a prescription blank or using a forged prescription to obtain medications or controlled dangerous substances. Forging a prescription, also known as prescription forgery, is an indictable crime equivalent to a felony in other states. Those accused of prescription forgery are charged with a third degree crime for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1. Penalties for these charges include up to five years in prison.
Prescription drug forgery in New Jersey has become increasingly commonplace as the opioid crisis in the state has escalated. People looking to unlawfully obtain prescription drugs sometimes fill out a prescription pad or alter a prescription blank to trick others into thinking that they have been lawfully prescribed a prescription drug by a physician. Often, prescription forgery charges are brought against individuals who have become dependent on medications like Oxycodone, Adderall, Percocet, Ritalin, Valium, and other highly addictive prescription drugs. The problem arises when the prescription runs out and you no longer have access to the medicine you were legally prescribed for an injury or medical condition. Unfortunately, this conduct violates New Jersey law.
New Jersey Law on Forgery of Prescriptions: N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1
Criminal charges for obtaining a prescription legend drug by forgery or alteration of a prescription are governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1. According to this statute, anyone who alters or changes any “writing,” or document, belonging to another person—without that person’s authorization and for the purpose of committing fraud—is guilty of forgery. It also criminalizes filling out, making, completing, authenticating, issuing, transferring, or otherwise executing a writing so that the writing appears to have been issued or filled out by another person. The statute further prohibits creating a writing that was supposedly filled out by a fake person—usually a medical doctor who does not actually exist. Finally, the statute prohibits creating a document that falsely indicates that it was made on a certain date, numbered in a certain way, or copied from an original that never existed.
The above prohibitions are broad; they apply to a broad range of conduct. Most commonly, people are charged with forgery when they change the dose or number of pills prescribed by a particular document, when they change the date on which a prescription was issued or through which it was valid, when they create a prescription issued by a fictitious doctor, or when they write a fake prescription and sign a real doctor’s name on that prescription without the doctor’s consent. N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1 prohibits all of these actions.
Penalties for Forging a Prescription in NJ
Forging a prescription is a third degree indictable offense in New Jersey. Indictable offenses in New Jersey are similar to felonies in other states, meaning they are serious crimes. If you are convicted of a charge for N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1, you face 3 to 5 years in prison. You may also be fined up to $15,000 for forging or altering a prescription.
There are a few things to know when facing penalties for prescription forgery. First, your case will be handled in the Superior Court in the county where you were charged. In order for your case to proceed to trial, the prosecutor will need to present the evidence to a grand jury, who must decide to indict you. If an indictment is issued in your case, you are entitled to a trial before a jury of your peers who must decide that you committed the offense of forging a prescription beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prior to all of this occurring, you may be able to apply for a diversionary program called Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI). This program is available to first-time offenders in New Jersey charged with third and fourth degree crimes. If you are eligible for PTI and you successfully complete the program, the charges against you will be dismissed. This is obviously a desirable outcome, as it allows you to maintain a clean criminal record.
Crimes Related to Prescription Forgery in New Jersey
New Jersey law also criminalizes several additional actions closely related to forging a prescription. For example, possessing over five doses of a prescription drug for which you do not have a valid prescription is a fourth degree indictable offense punishable by 18 months in prison and by a fine of up to $10,000. Obtaining prescription drugs by fraud is a separate crime from forging a prescription. Although similar to forgery, obtaining drugs through fraud is a third degree indictable offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-13. Finally, theft of prescription pads, blanks, or forms is also a third-degree indictable offense punishable with years in jail and fines in the tens of thousands of dollars. Individuals who forge prescriptions may also be charged with one or more of these related crimes, and the combined penalties can be severe.
Arrested for Prescription Forgery in NJ?
If you have been arrested for forging information on a prescription in New Jersey, you need an aggressive advocate who can handle your defense. The attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm have extensive experience defending clients charged with forging a signature on script, changing the quantity on a valid prescription, copying a prescription, using someone else’s prescription to get pills, and other grounds for 2C:21-1 charges. Regardless of the way in which your charges came about, we can help provide your best defense. Our criminal defense practice is statewide, defending clients in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, Paterson, Somerville, New Brunswick, Jersey City, and other areas throughout New Jersey. To discuss your case with a lawyer on our team, please contact us at (201)-556-1570. Consultations are provided free of charge and we are available immediately to assist you.