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NY Penal Law 178 Criminal Conversion of Prescription Medication

In this ongoing series of posts, we’ve been taking apart some of the complicated legalese that you’ll contend with when going through the New York penal law in order to get at the meaning behind some of the complicated language. We’ve covered topics such as larceny, robbery, and the like in the past, but today we’re going to move over into the realm of healthcare. These crimes are especially important to study, as improper use of medication can lead to a variety of problems and complications, and it’s best that we get a handle on what these crimes constitute so you can be better informed when it comes to potential legal defense or anything of that nature.

In this post, we’re specifically going to look into what the New York penal law has to say in regards to the crime of criminal diversion of prescription medications. As usual, we’re going to first lay out some definitions so that we know what we’re working with, then we’re going to follow it up with a description of the charges.

Criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions; definitions.
By prescription medication or device, we mean any article that requires a prescription in order to be lawfully sold or distributed by anyone who’s authorized by law to engage in the practice of pharmacy.
Prescription basically means a direction or else authorization from a written prescription to obtain a lawful prescription medication.
Criminal diversion act is an act or acts where someone transfers or delivers a prescription medication even though they know the recipient doesn’t need it, or if they receive a prescription medication knowing that the seller isn’t authorized to sell it, or they transfer or deliver a prescription in exchange for something, or they receive a prescription in exchange for anything of value.
Criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions; limitation.

Now there are some limitations to this charge, of course. As far as that’s concerned, a licensed physician or someone else who’s authorized to issue a prescription is allowed to do this, or a licensed pharmacist who’s allowed to practice pharmacy, or someone who’s seeking treatment for a medical condition or helping someone else in their treatment. No provision that relates to the sale of a prescription medication is deemed to authorize certain acts.

Criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the fourth degree.

Now we get into the fourth degree charge of this crime. This involves committing a criminal diversion act, and is considered a class A misdemeanor.

Criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the third degree.

This crime is charged when you commit a criminal diversion act and the value of the benefit is greater than $1,000, or you commit the crime of criminal diversion of prescription meds in the fourth degree, and you’ve previously been convicted of the same crime. Criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the third degree is a class E felony.

Criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the second degree.

This charge is the same as the third degree charge, with the addition that the value of the benefit is greater than $3,000. This is a class D felony.

Criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the first degree.

Finally, for the first degree charge, the value of the benefit exchanged has to be in excess of $50,000. This crime is considered a class C felony.

As you can see, while the study of these kinds of charges is very important, that doesn’t mean that the language involved in each of them need be difficult at all. Prescription medications are especially important to look at, as their effects can be quite strong, especially when used improperly. But as with any legal offense, you first need to understand the charges as well as the letter of the law before you can begin to address the problem and mount some sort of coherent defense on the issue. We hope this explanation has helped to tease out some of the meaning behind these often complicated terms and descriptions, and that it’s helped you understand a little better what charges of criminal diversion of prescription medications are.


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"Spodek Law Group have offered me excellent support and advice thru a very difficult time. I feel I've dealt with someone who truly cares and wants the best outcome for you and yours. I'm extremely grateful for all the help Spodek Law Group has offered me. I can't recommend them..."

David Bruce

"Spodek Law Group was incredibly professional and has given me the best advice I could wish for. They had been helpful and empathetic to my stressful situation. Would highly recommend Spodek Law Group to anyone I meet."

Rowlin Garcia

"Best service I ever had. Todd is absolutely class personified. You are in the safest hands with spodek. They have their clients interest in mind."

Francis Anim
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