In a recent trafficking in Hydrocodone case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police executed a search warrant at the defendant’s home and found a pill bottle with pain pills beside his bed. The pill bottle indicated they were prescribed to the defendant’s mother who was not present at the time. They also found cocaine in a different room. The defendant was charged with trafficking on hydrocodone and possession with intent to sell cocaine.
At the trial, the defendant’s mother testified that she injured her back and obtained the prescription for Hydrocodone from her doctor. She left the pills at her son’s house when she recently visited him. The state’s position was that they only had to prove that the defendant possessed the Hydrocodone knowing that the pills were in fact Hydrocodone. However, there is a defense to possessing prescription drugs. If the defendant can establish that he had a valid prescription for the pills, he would not be guilty of trafficking in Hydrocodone. This defense would also apply to someone else who had a valid prescription for the pain pills who gave the defendant authority to possess them. For instance, if a wife had a valid prescription for pain pills and kept them in her purse and asked her husband to hold her purse while she helped the kids, the husband would be in possession of hydrocodone, possibly a trafficking amount, without a valid prescription. Obviously, in that situation, the husband would not be guilty of trafficking in hydrocodone because he had the wife’s authority to possess the pills, although we have seen the state try for a conviction in similar circumstances.
Additionally, what if someone’s mother went out, forgot her pain pills, had a flare up and called her son to pick up her pills from home and take them to her? If the son was stopped by police for speeding and the police officer found the pain pills in a bottle with someone else’s name on it, you can be sure there is a good chance that police officer would be looking to make an arrest for illegal possession of the pain pills or trafficking. At that point, it would be a credibility contest where a lot would be riding on whether a jury believed the son and the mother. But that is the nature of things during the never-ending war on drugs.