As drug crimes lawyers, we know that when people think of drug crimes, they tend to think of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs, but the truth is, prescription drug charges are just as common. Although recipe drugs such as Vicodin, Xanax, Adderall, OxyContin and Valium are perfectly legal when they are prescribed by a doctor, possession of these drugs can be illegal if the prescription was not issued by a doctor.

What Does the Law Say?

According to New York law, “A person is guilty of criminal diversion of recipe medications and prescriptions… when he or she commits a criminal diversion act.” A “criminal diversion act” is when an individual:

  • transfers or delivers either a plain prescription or the actual recipe medication for payment, while knowing the recipient does not need the medication or recipe for medical purposes
  • receives a plain prescription or the actual recipe medication, while knowing that the seller has no legal authority to sell the medication or recipe

If you are charged with possession of prescription drugs, you could face serious charges that will affect you for the rest of your life. The consequences range in harshness depending on the degree of the crime you are charged with. Prescription drug crimes can range from first degree (the most serious of charges) to fourth degree (the least serious of the charges).

You may be charged with criminal diversion of recipe medications and prescriptions in the fourth degree if you commit anything considered to be a criminal diversion act. This charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

To be charged with a third degree crime, the value of the drugs in possession must exceed $1,000 or the individual must be a repeat offender. This crime is a class E felony and is punishable by up to four years in prison.

To be charged with a second degree recipe drug possession crime, the value of the drugs in possession must exceed $3,000. This crime is a class D felony and is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

To be charged with a first degree recipe drug possession crime, the value of the drugs must exceed $50,000. This crime is a class C felony and is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.

Even the least severe of these charges may lead to jail time, so being charged with possession of recipe drugs is no laughing matter. Always consult with a Long Island drug crimes lawyer if you are being investigated or charged with this crime. Our team of criminal defense attorneys will begin working on your case immediately to defend your rights and achieve the best possible outcome.

Prescription Forgeries

If you illegally possess these drugs, you could face serious criminal charges. But, even if you just possess a fraudulent recipe for these drugs, you will face charges. In fact, recipe forgery is on the rise in New York. With the abuse of pharmaceutical prescription drug still on the rise, more criminal profits are made every year through the forgery of narcotics prescriptions, a crime that’s also statistically on the rise. Local law enforcement agencies in New York have cracked down on the illegal purchase and sale of prescription narcotics. A defendant in New York who allegedly has forged prescriptions may face several serious criminal charges.

One reason forged prescriptions succeed: they use genuine recipe paper obtained by theft or bribery from legal healthcare operations. When law enforcement officers discover a large quantity of prescription paper (or the tools for processing thermal prescription paper), it’s deemed as possible evidence of a suspect obtaining and distributing prescription narcotics. Some defendants are also accused of creating prescriptions in the names of actual Medicaid recipients. When these allegations can be demonstrated, defendants already charged with prescription forgery can be additionally charged with Medicaid fraud.

Instead of using genuine recipe paper illegally obtained from a doctor, some individuals just alter an existing recipe that they have legally received from a medical professional. For example, if someone is legally prescribed Xanax, but at a low dose, they could alter the dosage or number of pills that they receive so that they are given more than the doctor intended them to receive. Even though the initial prescription was legal, it is still illegal to tamper with a prescription, and this is considered a forgery.

If you use a forged recipe to obtain medication and are no longer in possession of the forged prescription, you are not safe from prosecution. If it can be proven that you used a fraudulent prescription to obtain the recipe medication, you may still be charged with this crime–even if the actual piece of paper is not in your possession at the time of arrest.

Convictions for recipe forgery can result immediately in fines, prison terms, and restitution payments. Prescription forgery convictions also have long-term consequences that will affect a defendant’s finances and employment for many years. Many employers will be hesitant to hire someone who has been charged with a forged prescription or prescription drug possession, so it may be difficult for you to find a job. But, this is not the only long-term consequence of this crime. If you are not a citizen of the United States, a conviction for prescription forgery may lead to deportation.


If you are being investigated or accused of forging prescriptions, or if you’ve been formally charged, speak immediately to an experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney. A good criminal defense lawyer will advise you regarding your legal options, help you obtain evidence and witnesses, and work to have your recipe forgery charge or possession of recipe drugs charge reduced or dismissed. In some cases the court may offer alternative sentences that may include rehabilitation programs, classes, or community service. Speak to a lawyer about whether these options may be available in your case. Don’t let a prescription forgery charge threaten your future or your freedom; if you’re facing the charge, get the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.