Prescription drugs are classified as medication that can only be sold legally in New Mexico with a prescription from a doctor. The Department of Health and Human Services has discovered that more than 11 million people abuse prescription drugs, such as opioid painkillers. Illegally buying or selling prescription drugs may lead to criminal charges all across the United States. However, the charges could vary based on the drug classification, state laws, amount of drug in possession, and amount of drug in the person’s body.

The Drug Enforcement Administration groups prescription medication into classes called Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule V, according to addiction risks. Penalties for illegal prescriptions usually get charged under state law with misdemeanors or disorderly offense being common charges for small amounts of the drug. A misdemeanor, such as simple possession, could result in court fines, license suspension, probation, short prison sentences up to 10 years and drug treatment ordered by the court. A federal-level felony, such as drug trafficking, could result in longer prison sentences up to 20 years and $5 million in court fines. A person with previous felony charges commonly faces stiffer penalties than those who never had a drug charge.

Even if the prescription is valid, a person can be charged for having a medication not consistent with their regular quantity, form, or concentration. For example, if a person with a legal prescription for Xanax capsules gets caught selling pills or their bottle has no label, they could face criminal charges.

Storing medication in a container other than their original packaging or not following proper disposal may result in charges depending on state laws. In the cases discussed, a criminal defense attorney can analyze the situation and possibly get charges reduced for first-time offenders.