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Relationship Between Heroin Abuse And Prescription Opioids

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Apr 02, 2016

The use of heroin has gained popularity recently because many people have become addicted to opioids involving prescription drugs. According to statistics, nearly 50% of young people addicted to heroin started out using prescription opioids and then progressed to heroin because of the simple fact that heroin typically costs less and is easier to obtain than prescription opioids. The rise in heroin use has consequently led to a rise in charges for possession of heroin. If someone is caught possessing an amount of heroin that exceeds personal use, they can be charged with HS 11351.

In order to prove guilt on this charge the DA has to prove the following in court:

  • The defendant unlawfully possessed heroin;
  • The defendant knew of its presence;
  • The defendant knew of the substances nature or character as a heroin;
  • When the defendant possessed the heroin, he or she intended to sell it;
  • The controlled substance was in fact heroin;
  • The heroin was in a usable amount.

Possession with Intent to Sell

Being in possession of heroin with intent to sell means that the person in possession of heroin intends to exchange the heroin for money, services or something else of value. A quantity that is sufficient to be used by someone is a usable amount, trace amounts or debris is not considered a usable amount. If you are accompanying someone when they are found to be in possession of heroin then you may also be charged because law enforcement has the right to charge anyone they believe can control the heroin.

In 2015, heroin surpassed methamphetamine and cocaine to become the most popular drug abused by Americans. Prescription opioids such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Morphine and Codeine have been the cause of this epidemic because heroin becomes the default drug of choice when people can no longer obtain prescription opioids legally. However, not everyone opts to try an alternative street drug such as heroin to satiate their opioid addiction. Some people resort to forging or altering prescriptions in order to obtain the opioids they crave. In California, Prop 47 has classified unlawful possession of prescription drugs as a misdemeanor, Health and Safety Code 11350; however, if someone obtains drugs in violation of HS 11368, then HS 11368 is classified as a wobbler which means it can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or felony resulting in up to one year in county jail or three years in prison.

In order to prove guilt in a forged prescription case, the prosecutor must prove the following elements in court:

  • The defendant obtained or had possession of a narcotic drug;
  • They were aware of the substance's presence and its nature;
  • The narcotic drug was in a usable amount;
  • The substance was obtained using a forged or altered prescription;
  • The defendant knew that the drug was acquired using the forged or altered prescription.

There are a multitude of defenses that can be employed to defend someone accused of either possession or forgery of prescription in California, depending on the specific facts and circumstances of a case. If you or someone you love has been accused of a drug offense it is advisable that you retain the services of an experienced drug crime lawyer to protect your rights and reputation.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.