As criminal defense lawyers in the Jacksonville, Florida area, we have seen many more possession, sale and trafficking cases that involve pills such as Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin and other controlled substances that are legal with a valid prescription. The laws in Florida can be very harsh for such crimes with potentially long prison sentences for relatively few of these pills.
While it may seem obvious, when a person is charged with possession of pills, or trafficking pills based on possession of a large number of pills, having a valid prescription for the pills is a defense to the crime. In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, a woman was charged with trafficking in Hydrocodone for illegal possession of more than 14 grams but less than 28 grams of Lortab, a controlled substance. The state alleged that an undercover officer went to the defendant’s house and obtained 30 pills of Lortab from the defendant. Based on that, the defendant was charged with trafficking in Hydrocodone. The defendant argued that she had a prescription for the Lortab and only let the undercover officer borrow the pills. The defendant expected the undercover officer to return the pills once the undercover officer got her own prescription.
The defendant was convicted of trafficking in Hydrocodone but appealed the conviction because the jury was not informed that the defendant’s prescription for the Lortab was a defense to the crime. The Court reversed the conviction. The state argued that proof that the defendant possessed the pills was sufficient to convict her of trafficking in Hydrocodone. However, a valid prescription for the pills is a defense to the charge, and if there is evidence that the defendant had such a prescription, the jury must be informed that they can find the defendant not guilty if they believe the evidence of the valid prescription.