Here, I will spill a few words of caution about possession of the prescription pain pills oxycodone and hydrocodone; you know, the stuff they give you when you have minor surgery or a painful injury. Here in Maine, we take a particularly schizophrenic approach to the stuff. On the one hand, it is prescribed so often that a patient might mistake it for little more than a prescription form of aspirin. On the other hand, a person without a prescription for the drug might find out the hard way that the mere possession of a single pill without a valid prescription is a Class C crime. That’s right, possession of a single oxycodone or hydrocodone pill is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000.00 fine. So while the drug is practically handed out like candy, non-prescribed possession is treated on a par with heroin possession.
Oxycodone and hydrocodone have found their way into a lot of medicine cabinets. Suppose a guy has a backache and takes a pill from his wife’s prescription bottle. That’s a felony. Suppose Jane and Jim work together and each has a prescription for the stuff, but Jim forgets to bring his to work, so Jane lends Jim one of hers. In that exchange, Jim commits Class C felony possession, and Jane commits Class C felony unlawful furnishing of scheduled drugs. See how easy it is to commit a felony? But who would ever find out or catch you in these circumstances, right? See how easy it is to start thinking like a criminal? Now imagine that when Jim left his prescription at home, his son, little Johnny, clipped a couple of pills and took them to school with him. Little Johnny tells his friend, Bill, and Bill offers little Johnny $40.00 for the pair. If Little Johnny accepts that offer, he’ll commit unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs, Class B. In fact, because the crime happens on school property, little Johnny actually commits the Class A crime of aggravated trafficking, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, with a minimum mandatory sentence of 4 years in prison. Little Johnny had better hope he’s not 18 years old yet, huh? To go one better, let’s suppose that Johnny’s dad, Jim, and his co-worker, Jane, work at the school. On these facts, when Jane gave Jim the pill to replace the one he forgot to bring to work, Jim still only committed Class C possession, but because the exchange took place on school property, Jane committed Class B aggravated unlawful furnishing of scheduled drugs. That’s punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a minimum mandatory 2 years in prison.
If we were going to max out these criminals, we could conceivably put Johnny away for 30 years; his friend and customer Bill away for 5 years; his dad, Jim, away for 5 years; and Jim’s co-worker, Jane, away for 10 years. That’s a total of 50 years in prison. Even with just the mandatory minimums we should be stuffing 2 jail cells for a total of 6 years between little Johnny and Jane. Who could have known? And all this over two exchanges of a total of 3 prescription oxycodone or hydrocodone pills that were prescribed to two of the participants. Actually, the same results could have been reached with the exchange of 2 pills. Isn’t that about the number of pills a person is prescribed to cover an 8-12 hour period after having a wisdom tooth removed? Maybe the next time you have a tooth pulled you should just see if Ibuprofen will do the trick. And if you’ve got a prescription for this stuff, just keep in mind that as soon as the drug leaves your hands and crosses into someone else’s, you and the person you gave it to commit a felony, maybe even one that carries a mandatory minimum prison term. Just saying…
Ed Folsom, Biddeford, Saco, Portland, Maine Criminal Defense, OUI, DUI Attorney. York County, Cumberland County.