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What Happens If I'm Caught with a Prescription Drug?


Prescription drugs are those prescribed by a doctor to treat an illness or health condition. Having such a substance itself isn't necessarily a crime, as long as you have a valid prescription for it. However, if you don't, you are committing an offense.

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Penalties for Unlawful Possession of a Prescription Drug

Under Iowa law, it's illegal for you to have a prescription medication that a doctor did not prescribe. This offense is charged as a serious misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,875.

But if you're in possession of a prescription drug, this isn't the only charge you can face. How you obtained the substance may come into question, and you can be penalized for that act as well.

Charge for How the Substance Was Obtained

To possess a prescription medication, you must have had some type of means to obtain it. That is, you must have gotten it from somewhere, whether by your own actions or by those of another person.

Because possessing a prescription drug is illegal, so too is any act that allowed the person to get the substance.

In Iowa, obtaining or attempting to obtain a prescription drug by any of the following is unlawful:

  • Fraud, deceit, misrepresentation
  • Forging a prescription
  • Concealing information that would influence the substance being dispensed to the person
  • Using false personal identifying information, including name and address
  • Using a forged prescription
  • Buying the drug from someone who has a lawful prescription for it

The above are just a few ways you can be charged for obtaining or attempting to obtain a prescription drug. There are others, and any offense comes with steep penalties. Various factors determine the level of charge and punishments imposed.

For prescription drugs that are not controlled substances, the charges and penalties include:

  • First offense: A serious misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,875.
  • Second offense: An aggravated misdemeanor that carries a jail term of up to 2 years and/or a fine of up to $6,250.
  • Third offense: A class "D" felony, which is penalized by a maximum prison sentence of 5 years and a maximum fine of $7,500.

If the prescription medication is a controlled substance, the offense is penalized in the same manner as an offense involving the manufacture, delivery, and possession of the drug. The level of charge and penalties assessed depend on the amount and type of substance. Some offenses are class "C" felonies, which carry a prison term of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Others are class "D" felonies that are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $7,500.

If you're facing drug crime charges in Des Moines, our attorneys can vigorously defend you. Call Branstad & Olson at (515) 329-3100 or contact us online today.

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