Doctor shopping involves visiting more than one doctor to obtain many prescriptions for a controlled substance. While California doctors have a duty to check a state database before prescribing potentially dangerous drugs, doctor shopping remains common in the state.
In the Golden State, prosecutors regularly use the prescription fraud statute to bring charges against doctor shoppers. Prescription fraud is a wobbler in California. This means prosecutors may either pursue misdemeanor or felony charges for doctor shopping.
Misdemeanor doctor shopping
While misdemeanor convictions typically have less severe penalties than their felony counterparts, a conviction for misdemeanor doctor shopping often involves more than simply a slap on the wrist.
Upon conviction, an individual faces up to a year in county jail. He or she may also have to pay a fine of up to $1,000 and serve some time on probation.
Felony doctor shopping
If a judge or jury convicts a defendant of felony doctor shopping, incarceration is possible. In fact, California’s felony prescription fraud statute allows for a sentence of up to three years in county jail. The individual may also serve probation and pay a fine of up to $20,000.
The drug diversion program
In California, many individuals who are facing drug-related charges are eligible for a diversion program. This program takes the place of a jail sentence. Unfortunately, though, individuals with misdemeanor or felony doctor shopping convictions are not usually eligible to participate in the drug diversion program.
Because a prescription fraud defendant is likely ineligible for the drug diversion program, it is often essential to mount an aggressive defense. A person who does not use fraud to obtain a prescription, for example, may be able to avoid the serious penalties that often accompany a doctor shopping conviction.