MCL Section 333.7407
Michigan Public Health Code Section 7407 (MCL 333.7407): Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud
1. Definition and Elements of the Crime
MCL 333.7407(1)(c) makes it illegal to obtain a controlled substance by “misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge.” In most cases under MCL 333.7407(1)(c), a person obtains—or tries to obtain—prescription narcotics in one of two ways. First, a person lies to a doctor to get a prescription for a certain drug. Second, a person alters an otherwise valid prescription to get a certain drug.
Obtaining a controlled substance by fraud has three elements, all of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
- First, the defendant obtained a controlled substance.
- Second, the defendant obtained the controlled substance knowingly or intentionally.
- Third, the defendant obtained the controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge.
In many cases, defendants are apprehended before they’ve actually obtained the controlled substance. So they’re charged with attempted obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, a lesser offense.
A woman goes to her doctor complaining of an ear infection. Her doctor writes a prescription for an antibiotic. When the woman goes to the pharmacy, though, “Vicodin, 90 pills” has also been written on the prescription. The pharmacist becomes suspicious given the discrepancy in handwriting and the unusually large amount of Vicodin purportedly prescribed. The pharmacist calls the doctor, and the doctor tells the pharmacist that he had not prescribed Vicodin. The pharmacist calls the police.
A man comes into the emergency room one-night complaining of chest pain. He has no identification on him. Doctors can't find the source of his pain. They write him a prescription for Norco and tell him to follow up with his primary care physician the next day. The man goes to a pharmacy to have the prescription filled. The pharmacist recognizes that man as a pill seeker, and, based on the prescription, the man gave the emergency room staff a fake name. The pharmacist calls the police.
3. Related Offenses
Other similar or related offenses include:
- Possession of a controlled substance, MCL 333.7403.
- Use of a controlled substance, MCL 333.7404
4. Defenses to Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud
To be frank, defending cases prosecuted under MCL 333.7407(1)(c) can be challenging. Trying to obtain prescription drugs by fraud is often an act of desperation, and, as such, the fraud is often transparent. Still, common defenses include (1) lack of intent or knowledge and (2) failure to prove the elements.
Take the woman who allegedly forged the prescription for Vicodin. The burden is on the prosecution to prove all the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Can the prosecution prove that the woman wrote, “Vicodin, 90 pills” on the prescription? The circumstantial evidence is strong, but there may be room for doubt. Suppose she has a boyfriend with a drug problem. Suppose he accompanied her to the doctor and the pharmacy. Could he have been the one who wrote, “Vicodin, 90 pills?” A juror may not be convinced of the woman’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now consider the man who went to the emergency room. What was the fake name that he supposedly gave? Was it close to his real name? Could the intake person at the emergency room have written it down incorrectly? And suppose his pain was genuine, or at least the doctors testify that his pain appeared genuine to them. Again, a juror may not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the man intentionally defrauded the doctors.
In neither case does the person have a slam dunk defense. More often, an attorney defending a person charged under MCL 333.7407(1)(c) will be angling for a favorable plea bargain, potentially one that leaves the client without a conviction on their record and without having to serve any jail time. Many prosecutors have become increasingly receptive to such resolutions. People charged under MCL 333.7407 are often victims themselves of the opioid epidemic—they were once prescribed highly addictive painkillers, got hooked, and became desperate to satisfy their addiction. Framing the case in this way is often a more effective strategy than pursuing a longshot acquittal at trial.
Obtaining a controlled substance by fraud is a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000. Attempted obtaining a controlled substance by fraud is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
6. Criminal Defense for Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud
If you’re under investigation or have been charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, you need to call a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Grabel & Associates has been in business for more than 20 years and has handled hundreds of drug cases. Our highly respected attorneys know what it takes to obtain the best result in your case.
For more information about obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and to talk about your case, contact Grabel & Associates at (800) 342-7896.