In the Jacksonville, Florida area, we see a lot of drug cases involving defendants who are arrested for having prescription drugs without the prescription. The drug laws in Florida are very harsh, and prescription drug cases can come with serious penalties, sometimes with lengthy minimum mandatory prison sentences.
When a person is investigated, arrested or charged with a possession of a drug, it is a defense to the charge if the person has a valid prescription for the drug. In many cases, the police find a person in possession of some drug, the person will tell the police officer he/she has a prescription for it but not in his/her possession and the police officer will make the arrest anyway. At that point, it is up to the criminal defense lawyer and the defendant to obtain the prescription information, provide it to the prosecutor and get the drug charges dropped.
In a recent case involving possession of Methadone and Xanax in Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was stopped in his vehicle and the police officer found Methadone and Xanax in a small pill bottle. When the drug is found in a bottle other than the one provided by the pharmacy for that particular drug, the police are almost always going to make the arrest if the prescription is not present at the scene. That is what happened in this case. The defendant said there were prescriptions for the Methadone and Xanax, but he did not have them at the time. At the trial, a prescription was produced for the Xanax but not the Methadone. He said the pharmacy that issued the Methadone had closed. The defendant relied on testimony only to indicate there was a valid prescription for the Methadone.
The state rebutted the testimony by having a detective testify that she checked the Florida database and there was no record of the Methadone prescription. In Florida, when certain drugs are prescribed, that information is supposed to be sent to, and stored in, a statewide database. The criminal defense lawyer objected to this evidence coming from a detective since it was hearsay offered by a person unfamiliar with the database and that industry. An obvious problem with this kind of testimony is that a criminal defense lawyer has no way to effectively cross examine this database evidence since no one familiar with the database was placed on the stand to answer questions about it. As a result, the appellate court reversed the defendant’s conviction for possession of methadone.