Prescription drug abuse has emerged as a major public health issue in recent years, notably with respect to opioid painkillers like Oxycontin. But legally speaking, all drugs requiring a doctor’s prescription are tightly regulated. If you are found in with any such drug on your person without a valid prescription, you can be arrested and charged with illegal possession of a controlled substance.
What Constitutes a Valid Prescription in Texas?
Under Texas law, only a licensed physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian, and certain optometrists may issue a prescription. In some cases, an advanced practice nurse or physician’s assistant may also issue a prescription if he or she is under the supervision of a physician. The prescription itself must comply with certain labeling and packaging requirements.
For instance, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy requires prescriptions be dispensed in a childproof container (unless the patient requests otherwise) that bears a label with the name, address, and phone number of the dispensing pharmacy. The label must also list the date the prescription was filled, the name of the prescribing doctor, the quantity dispensed, and any instructions for use that is “easily readable” by the patient.
A prescription can only be refilled with a physician’s authorization. The doctor may authorize one or more refills as part of the original prescription. But you cannot ask the pharmacist to give you any refills “in advance.” Prescriptions also come with a legal time limit, either six months or one year, after the expiration of which no remaining refills are valid.
In addition, there are certain controlled substances, known as Schedule II drugs–including morphine, Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Percodan–that carry such a high risk of abuse that refills are legally forbidden. Instead, you need to obtain a new prescription in writing each time your doctor determines additional medication is necessary.
Can You Travel With Your Pills Without the Original Bottle?
It is a good idea to always carry your prescription drugs in the original container from the pharmacy. But some people decide to use a separate container–such as a 7-day pill organizer–to help keep track of their drug usage. While this is perfectly fine at home, it may carry certain legal risks while traveling.
Some states specifically forbid carrying prescription drugs in a “generic” or unlabeled container. Texas has no express law on this subject. The problem is that if you are stopped by the police and found in possession of your prescription medication outside of its original container, you can still be arrested for possession of a dangerous drug. This is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas, which carries a potential jail sentence of one year, in addition to a maximum fine of $4,000.
Of course, you are unlikely to actually be convicted if you can prove you have a valid, current prescription. If for some reason you do find it necessary to travel with your medications outside of their original container–for example, if you need to take multiple drugs and it would be unwieldy to carry a group of bottles–make sure you keep copies of your written prescriptions in your wallet or car. This way, if you are detained by the police, you can avoid a potential misunderstanding.
Keep in mind, however, that law enforcement does not have an automatic right to stop and search you for pills. Even in the context of a routine traffic stop, police must normally have probable cause before searching your vehicle without your consent. In other words, just because you have a broken taillight, that does not give an officer the right to demand you produce prescriptions for any drugs on your person.
Do You Need Help From a Collin County Drug Offense Attorney?
When traveling with medication outside of Texas, you should also be aware of any applicable local laws regarding prescription bottles. The Transportation Security Administration does not require you to keep medication in their original containers. Nor do you have to declare or present any non-liquid medications to security agents. But once again, the laws of the state you may be traveling to may prohibit keeping prescription medication in generic or unlabeled containers.
And if you do find yourself in any legal trouble arising from the use or possession of prescription medications–including your own–it is important not to panic. The first thing you need to do is seek qualified legal advice from an experienced Collin County drug lawyer. Contact the Collin County criminal defense lawyers at Rosenthal & Wadas today if you need to speak with someone right away.