Prescription Drug Laws
1. Prescription Drugs Overview
Prescription drugs are controlled substances. Possession or use of a prescription drug is illegal unless it is done with a legitimate prescription from a medical practitioner. Likewise, it is illegal to sell or possess with the intent to sell a prescription drug without being a medical practitioner who is authorized to do so.
The following sections give an overview of several offenses dealing with prescription drugs. Offenses include: Illegal Sale or Possession of Prescription Drugs; obtaining or supplying of drugs through fraud or forged labels; the requirement of prescriptions being properly labeled and that prescribed narcotics be kept in the original containers.
The application of and penalties imposed by these sections will differ depending on whether the accused is an individual or licensed medical practitioner. Medical practitioners found in violation of these sections may be subject to professional sanctions and/or professional license suspension or revocation in addition to the terms of imprisonment and fines imposed on non-practitioners.
The penalties imposed for possession, sale, or possession with intent to sell will be dependant on how the particular prescription drug at issue is classified under Connecticut law. For example, many prescription pain relievers (ie. Codeine, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin) are classified as narcotics, and the penalties will be based on possession or sale of narcotics. The commonly prescribed drugs Ritalin, Cylert, and Adderall are classified as amphetamines and will be penalized as such. Other common drugs like antibiotics and anti-depressants, which do not fit the classifications of common “street drugs” will be classified and penalized as “other controlled substances”
2. Classification of Steroids
The rise of steroid use in steroid usage amongst professional and amateur athletes has raised concern amongst the public and government alike. Steroids are prescription drugs currently classified and penalized as “other controlled substances”.
- Anabolic steroids are Class III controlled substances and require a prescription for medical use. The Controlled Substance Act defines anabolic steroids as any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogen, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth.
- Because of concerns about steroid use in teenagers and high school athletes, it is worth mentioning the offenses concerning drugs and children under the age of 18 provided under Connecticut law. CGSA § 21a-278a defines three separate criminal offenses, for involving children with drugs: (1) A person 18 years of age or older selling a controlled substance to another person who is under 18 years of age; (2) Manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to sell a controlled substance within 1500 feet of a school; and (3) employing a person under 18 years of age to sell or possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Each of these offenses carries its own term of imprisonment that will be served in addition to any penalties imposed for the underlying offense. (See section on Kids and Drugs)
3. The Illegal Sale or Possession of Prescription Drugs (Possessing, Selling, or Using Someone Else’s Prescription)
a. Overview: The Illegal Sale or Possession of Prescription Drugs (Possessing, Selling, or Using Someone Else’s Prescription)
It is illegal to possess a prescription drug without a legitimate prescription from a medical practitioner. Additionally, it is a crime to sell or possess with the intent to sell a prescription drug without the proper authority to do so. In order to be convicted of this offense, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant (sold / possessed) a prescription drug 2) the specific drug involved can only legally be obtained through a legitimate prescription, and 3) the defendant's (sale / possession) of the drug was not authorized by law.
The first element is that the defendant sold or possessed a specific prescription drug. "Sale" is any form of delivery, which includes barter, exchange or gift, or offer therefor, and each such transaction made by any person whether as principal, proprietor, agent, servant or employee.
"Possession" means either actual possession or constructive possession. Actual possession means actual physical possession, such as having the object on one's person. Constructive possession means having the object in a place under one's dominion and control. Possession also requires that the defendant knew that (he/she) was in possession of the prescription drug. That is, that (he/she) was aware that (he/she) was in possession of it and was aware of its nature. The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew that (he/she) was in possession of the prescription drug.
The second element is that the drug is required by state and federal law to be dispensed pursuant only to a prescription or is restricted to use by prescribing practitioners only. "Prescription" means a written or oral order for any controlled substance or preparation from a licensed practitioner to a pharmacist for a patient.
The third element is that such conduct of the defendant was not legally authorized. "Legally authorized" means that the drugs were not dispensed pursuant to a lawful prescription or by a prescribing practitioner.
b. Penalties for the Illegal Sale or Possession of Prescription Drugs (Possessing, Selling, or Using Someone Else’s Prescription)
Penalties for illegal sale or prescription of controlled drugs will depend on the type of prescription drug at issue and its classification under Connecticut law. Typical prescription drugs will be classified as “Amphetamine-type substances”, “Narcotic substance”, or “other controlled substances” and penalized as such. Please refer to our pages on Possession, Narcotics, and Amphetamine-type substances to view the acts that constitute this crime, as well as the penalties.
c. The Illegal Sale or Possession of Prescription Drugs (Possessing, Selling, or Using Someone Else’s Prescription): Relevant Statutes
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-108. Illegal obtaining or supplying of drugs.
(2) No person shall manufacture, possess, have under his control, sell, prescribe, administer, dispense or compound any drug covered by said subsection, except as authorized in this chapter.
4. Possession Near a Prohibited Place
Please see our pages on possession near a prohibited for a detailed discussion on what act or acts constitute this crime.
5. Penalties for Possession Near a Prohibited Place
You are facing up to 3 years in prison, to be served consecutively in addition to any prison time for the underlying offense.
6. Possession Near a Prohibited Place: Relevant Statutes
§ 21a-278a. Penalty for illegal manufacture, distribution, sale, prescription or administration
(b) Any person who violates section 21a-277 or 21a-278 by manufacturing, distributing, selling, prescribing, dispensing, compounding, transporting with the intent to sell or dispense, possessing with the intent to sell or dispense, offering, giving or administering to another person any controlled substance in or on, or within one thousand five hundred feet of, the real property comprising a public or private elementary or secondary school, a public housing project or a licensed child day care center, as defined in section 19a-77, that is identified as a child day care center by a sign posted in a conspicuous place shall be imprisoned for a term of three years, which shall not be suspended and shall be in addition and consecutive to any term of imprisonment imposed for violation of section 21a-277 or 21a-278. To constitute a violation of this subsection, an act of transporting or possessing a controlled substance shall be with intent to sell or dispense in or on, or within one thousand five hundred feet of, the real property comprising a public or private elementary or secondary school, a public housing project or a licensed child day care center, as defined in section 19a-77, that is identified as a child day care center by a sign posted in a conspicuous place. For the purposes of this subsection, “public housing project” means dwelling accommodations operated as a state or federally subsidized multifamily housing project by a housing authority, nonprofit corporation or municipal developer, as defined in section 8-39, pursuant to chapter 128 or by the Connecticut Housing Authority pursuant to chapter 129.
Please see our pages on the drug dependant person for a detailed discussion.
8. Forged Prescriptions
a. Overview: Forged Prescriptions
Obtaining a prescription through forgery or fraud is a serious offense. The statute defining this offense contains several different acts that constitute forging a prescription. The State will specify, in its charge, which of the specific subsections outlined below are applicable. In order to be found guilty of this offense, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant (obtained or attempted to obtain / procured or attempted to procure the administration of) a drug that is required by any applicable federal or state law to be dispensed pursuant only to a prescription or is restricted to use by prescribing practitioners only, and 2) did so through one of the following acts: (1) fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or subterfuge; or (2) the forgery or alteration of a prescription or of any written order; or (3) the concealment of a material fact; or (4) the use of a false statement in any prescription, order or report required by law.
The first element is that the defendant, obtained or attempted to obtain / procured or attempted to procure the administration of, a prescription drug. “Attempt, “obtain” and “procure” have their ordinary meanings under this statute. "Administer" means the direct application of a controlled substance, whether by injection, inhalation, ingestion or any other means, to the body of a patient or research subject by: (A) a practitioner, or, in (his/her) presence, by (his/her) authorized agent, or (B) the patient or research subject at the direction and in the presence of the practitioner, or (C) a nurse or intern under the direction and supervision of a practitioner.
The second element is that the defendant obtained or attempted to obtain / procured or attempted to procure the administration of that prescription drug in one of the following ways: (1) fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or subterfuge; or (2) the forgery or alteration of a prescription or of any written order; or (3) the concealment of a material fact; or (4) the use of a false statement in any prescription, order or report required by law. "Fraud" means a deliberately planned purpose and intent to cheat or deceive or unlawfully deprive someone of some advantage, benefit or property. Deceit, misrepresentation and subterfuge have their ordinary meaning. Forgery means falsely making, completing, or altering a written instrument with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another. As applicable here, a material fact means a fact that if known would have affected the defendant's ability to lawfully receive a controlled substance or its administration.
b. Penalties for Forged Prescriptions
Obtaining a prescription by altering or misrepresenting a written instrument is Forgery a class D felony. A conviction of this offense carries a mandatory minimum 1 year in jail and up to 5 years in jail, along with a fine up to $5,000.
c. Forged Prescriptions: Relevant Statutes
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-108. Illegal obtaining or supplying of drugs. Forged labels.
(1) No person shall obtain or attempt to obtain a drug covered by subsection (k) of section 21a-106 or procure or attempt to procure the administration of such drug: (a) By fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or subterfuge; or (b) by the forgery or alteration of a prescription or of any written order; or (c) by the concealment of a material fact; or (d) by the use of a false statement in any prescription, order or report required by this chapter.
(2) No person shall manufacture, possess, have under his control, sell, prescribe, administer, dispense or compound any drug covered by said subsection, except as authorized in this chapter.
(3) No person shall, for the purpose of obtaining a drug covered by said subsection, falsely assume the title of, or represent himself to be, a manufacturer, wholesaler, apothecary, physician, dentist, veterinarian or other authorized person.
(4) No person shall make or utter any false or forged prescription or false or forged written order.
(5) No person shall affix any false or forged label to a package or receptacle containing any drug covered by said subsection.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-139. Forgery in the second degree: Class D felony
(a) A person is guilty of forgery in the second degree when, with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he falsely makes, completes or alters a written instrument or issues or possesses any written instrument which he knows to be forged, which is or purports to be, or which is calculated to become or represent if completed: (1) A deed, will, codicil, contract, assignment, commercial instrument or other instrument which does or may evidence, create, transfer, terminate or otherwise affect a legal right, interest, obligation or status; or (2) a public record or an instrument filed or required or authorized by law to be filed in or with a public office or public servant; or (3) a written instrument officially issued or created by a public office, public servant or governmental instrumentality; or (4) a prescription of a duly licensed physician or other person authorized to issue the same for any drug or any instrument or device used in the taking or administering of drugs for which a prescription is required by law.
(b) “Drugs” as used in this section includes all drugs except controlled drugs as defined in section 21a-240.
(c) Forgery in the second degree is a class D felony.
9. Improper Container
- a. Improper Container Overview
Because under state and federal law it is an offense for a person to possess or have under his control any narcotic drug except as authorized by some applicable exception, a person possessing a narcotic prescribed by a physician must comply with the exception provision of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-257.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-257 relates to the authorized possession of narcotic drugs by individuals and provides that a person to whom or for whose use any narcotic drug has been prescribed by a physician may ‘lawfully possess it only in the container in which it was delivered to him’ by the person selling or dispensing it. This section imposes a burden on the defendant charged with illegal possession of a narcotic substance to prove that he possessed the drug in the container in which a pharmacist delivered it to him. In the absence of proof that the drug in the defendants possession was in the container in which it was delivered to him possession is unlawful.
Defendants who are unable to prove that they possessed the prescribed narcotic lawfully and in its original container are subject to the penalty for illegal possession of a narcotic substance provided in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-279(a). Please see our page concerning possession of narcotics for the relevant penalties.
There are, however, exceptions to the requirement that narcotics be in their original container. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-258 provides an exception in which certain individuals under special circumstances do not have to carry narcotics in their original containers. Those individuals and the relevant circumstances are: (1) common carriers, warehousemen, any employee of the same acting within the scope of their employment; (2) public officers or employees in the performance of their official duties that require possession of controlled substances; (3) temporary incidental possession by employees or agents of a person that is lawfully entitled to have the narcotics; and (4) people “whose possession is for the purpose of aiding public officers in performing their official duties.”
b. Requirements for Licensed Practitioners
If you are licensed under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-246 to “manufacture, wholesale, repackage, supply, compound, mix, cultivate or grow, or by other process produce or prepare” controlled substances and are found to violate any provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 21a-243 through 21a-282, your license could be revoked or suspended pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-275. Furthermore, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-256 also specifics particular labeling requirements for containers of controlled substances.
c. Improper Containers: Relevant Statutes
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-257. Person receiving narcotic drug to keep it in original container
A person to whom or for whose use any narcotic drug has been prescribed, sold or dispensed by a physician, dentist, pharmacist or other person authorized under the provisions of section 21a-248, and the owner of any animal for which any such drug has been prescribed, sold or dispensed may lawfully possess it only in the container in which it was delivered to the recipient by the person selling or dispensing the same except as may be authorized by regulations adopted hereunder.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-258. Exceptions concerning possession and control
The provisions of this part restricting the possession and control of controlled substances shall not apply to common carriers or to warehousemen, while engaged in lawfully transporting or storing such substances, or to any employee of the same acting within the scope of his employment; or to public officers or employees in the performance of their official duties requiring possession or control of controlled substances; or to temporary incidental possession by employees or agents of persons lawfully entitled to possession or by persons whose possession is for the purpose of aiding public officers in performing their official duties.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-246. License to manufacture, wholesale, supply, compound, etc. Exception. License fees. License to possess and supply marijuana
(a) No person within this state shall manufacture, wholesale, repackage, supply, compound, mix, cultivate or grow, or by other process produce or prepare, controlled substances without first obtaining a license to do so from the Commissioner of Consumer Protection and no person within this state shall operate a laboratory for the purpose of research or analysis using controlled substances without first obtaining a license to do so from the Commissioner of Consumer Protection, except that such activities by pharmacists or pharmacies in the filling and dispensing of prescriptions or activities incident thereto, or the dispensing or administering of controlled substances by dentists, podiatrists, physicians or veterinarians, or other persons acting under their supervision, in the treatment of patients shall not be subject to the provisions of this section, and provided laboratories for instruction in dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, pharmacology and pharmacognosy in institutions duly licensed for such purposes in this state shall not be subject to the provisions of this section except with respect to narcotic drugs and schedule I and II controlled substances. Upon application of any physician licensed pursuant to chapter 370, the Commissioner of Consumer Protection shall without unnecessary delay, license such physician to possess and supply marijuana for the treatment of glaucoma or the side effects of chemotherapy. No person outside this state shall sell or supply controlled substances within this state without first obtaining a license to do so from the Commissioner of Consumer Protection, provided no such license shall be required of a manufacturer whose principal place of business is located outside this state and who is registered with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration or other federal agency, and who files a copy of such registration with the appropriate licensing authority under this chapter.
(b) Such licenses shall expire annually, and may be renewed by application to the licensing authority. The Commissioner of Consumer Protection following a hearing as prescribed in section 21a-275, may revoke or suspend any license granted by him pursuant to this section for violation of the provisions of any statute relative to controlled substances or of any regulation made hereunder. The licensing authority, upon application of any person whose license has been suspended or revoked, may reinstate such license upon a showing of good cause.
(c) The fee for licenses provided pursuant to this section shall be according to the following schedule: For any wholesaler, one hundred ninety dollars per annum; for manufacturers employing not more than five licensed pharmacists or qualified chemists or both, two hundred eighty-five dollars per annum; for manufacturers employing six to ten licensed pharmacists or qualified chemists or both, three hundred seventy-five dollars per annum; for manufacturers employing more than ten licensed pharmacists or qualified chemists or both, nine hundred forty dollars per annum; for laboratories, eighty dollars per annum. A separate fee is required for each place of business or professional practice where the licensee uses, manufactures, stores, distributes, analyzes or dispenses controlled drugs.
(d) Controlled substances which are possessed, kept or stored at an address or location other than the address or location indicated on the registration required by chapter 420c or by federal laws and regulations shall be deemed to be possessed, kept or stored illegally and shall be subject to seizure and forfeited to the state. The following are subject to forfeitures: (1) All controlled substances which have been manufactured, distributed, dispensed or acquired in violation of this chapter; (2) all raw materials, products and equipment of any kind which are used, or intended for use, in manufacturing, compounding, processing, delivering, importing, or exporting any controlled substance in violation of this chapter; (3) all property which is used, or intended for use, as a container for property described in paragraph (1) or (2); (4) all conveyances, including aircraft, vehicles or vessels, which are used, or intended for use, to transport or in any manner to facilitate the transportation, for the purpose of sale or receipt of property described in paragraph (1) or (2), but (i) no conveyance used by any person as a common carrier is subject to forfeiture under this chapter unless it appears that the owner or other person in charge of the conveyance is a consenting party or privy to a violation of this chapter; (ii) no conveyance is subject to forfeiture under this chapter by reason of any act or omission established by the owner thereof to have been committed or omitted without his knowledge or consent.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-275. Revocation or suspension of licenses by commissioner
(a) If the Commissioner of Consumer Protection has reasonable cause to believe that a person licensed by him under section 21a-246, or any licensed practitioner, is violating or has violated any provision of sections 21a-243 to 21a-282, inclusive, relative to controlled substances, he may hold a hearing as to such violation upon reasonable notice and give opportunity to be heard to such licensee or practitioner.
(b) The commissioner may subpoena witnesses and papers on his own behalf and, if requested by the practitioner or licensee, may subpoena witnesses and papers in his behalf, may administer oaths, may compel the testimony of witnesses, may examine witnesses and may issue commissions to take testimony and testimony so taken and sworn to shall be admissible at such hearing. At such hearing the practitioner or licensee shall be entitled to representation by counsel.
(c) If the commissioner after a hearing finds that a person is violating or has violated any provision of sections 21a-243 to 21a-282, inclusive, he may revoke or suspend any license issued by him and forward his findings and the record upon which they are based to any other authority licensing such person with a recommendation that disciplinary action be taken.