While Fort Lauderdale, Florida still remains the pain pill capital of the country, Oxycodone deaths statewide have risen by 26%. According to a medical examiner’s report released this morning, there were 1,185 Oxycodone related deaths in Florida during 2009.
However, of all pain pill related deaths in Florida last year, Oxycodone only accounted for 16% of the total. As a criminal defense attorney, I can tell you that these statistics seem to be on the skinny side. Especially since many many many more overdoses are caused by generic versions of Oxycontin, as well as other pills like Xanax, Vicodin, and others.
If deaths have risen by 26%, arrests for pain pill crimes must have risen by the thousands of percent. The amount of criminal prosecutions in this State for possession, trafficking, doctor shopping, and fraudulent prescription writing is unprecedented.
The amount of criminal prosecutions for these offenses makes the cocaine trade of the 1980’s seem minuscule. To understand why this is so, one must realize that unlike cocaine, pain pills are not illegal to manufacture, to transport, to distribute, to sell, and in most situations, to possess.
That means their availability to addicts and addicts to be is exponentially greater.
The problems for offenders begin when their addiction surpasses their supply or their financial resources. Thats when people turn to buying pills off the street, stealing, and committing prescription fraud.
For those addicts with some savvy, selling extra pills to out of state buyers helps pay for their habit. Of course, this in turn has the effect of expanding the trade and growing the customer base for pain clinics.
To defend someone accused of a pain pill crime, the first step is to determine if the police made an illegal stop or an illegal search. If so, all evidence found by the police may be thrown out.
Next, we must determine if the defendant’s rights were violated in any way when the police took his or her statement, if any. Unlike what is seen on television, police only have to advise you of your rights before “custodial interrogation.” This means, if they question you over the phone or pursuant to a traffic stop, odds are your statements may be admissible in court.
Probably the most misunderstood part of pain pill defense comes from prescriptions. People seem to think that they are in the clear so long as they had a prescription.
While prescriptions certainly act as a “get out of jail free” card for many people, they have to be very exact. In other words, the prescription must not only match in terms of quantity and pill type, but it must also coincide with pharmacy records for pills dispensed pursuant to that particular prescription.
The people who have the biggest problem with this are doctor shoppers. Unless they are really good about keeping their stash in order, odds are they will mix up their pills and confuse prescriptions.
For criminal defense lawyers, sorting out the mess is sometimes the most challenging part of any case.
In any event, until our government decides to go after the doctors prescribing these pills and the pharmacies dispensing them, the pain pill epidemic will only continue to grow. Prosecuting addicts will only assuage the symptoms of a greater problem.