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Theft of Prescription Medication Now a More Serious Offense

Posted by Ryan Russman | Oct 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

The consequences for the theft of prescription meds in New Hampshire have become more serious. In October 2012, Congress passed the Strengthening and Focusing Enforcement to Deter Organized Stealing and Enhance Safety Act of 2012 (SAFE DOSES Act).

The SAFE DOSES Act aims to fight the theft of prescription painkillers by increasing federal law enforcement's ability to crack down on interstate drug rings at all points of the supply chain, from the drug warehouse to the delivery truck to the pharmacy. The Act also includes obtaining prescription drugs through fraud and transporting, trafficking or storing stolen medical products.

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The heavy demand for prescription drugs is often fed by pharmaceutical theft, which is a growing concern for law enforcement officials nationwide. The Act is an effort to prevent medical product theft, including drugs, by enforcing stricter punishment upon those who steal pre-retail products.

Before the SAFE DOSES Act, there was no differentiation in punishment between stealing medical drugs and less dangerous products, like candy or paper towels. The increase in pharmaceutical theft has overwhelmed local law enforcement and drawn the attention of the federal government, but until the SAFE DOSES Act passed, federal penalties for pharmacy theft were lenient. Some medical products are more sensitive and must be transported under the correct conditions or else the medication can become contaminated, which creates a health risk when sold to consumers.

The SAFE DOSES Act features extensive penalties, based upon the consequences of the theft and the amount of prescription drugs and other medical products. Those receiving a criminal conviction under the Act can receive a maximum of thirty years in prison as well as a $1 million fine for thefts that result in injury or death, which becomes more likely when the stolen drugs are not properly cared for.

For prescription drug thefts with aggravating factors convicted defendants can receive up to twenty years in prison. For a criminal conviction involving theft of prescription drugs in excess of $5,000, the convicted defendant may be sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison. Finally, for all other prescription drug thefts, the convicted defendant faces up to three years in prison.

The SAFE DOSES Act's increased punishments indicate Congress' intent to divert thieves from stealing medical products, including prescription drugs. According to the U.S. Division of Freightwatch International, $184 million worth of prescription drugs were stolen in the United States in 2009, a 350% increase from 2007.

The same company reports there were a total of 129 pharmaceutical cargo thefts between 2006 to 2011. In addition, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81% between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686. During the same period, the number of pills stolen went from 706,000 to 1.3 million.

With the SAFE DOSES Act, it is more important than ever to retain a NH criminal attorney if you have been accused of pharmaceutical theft. An experienced criminal defense attorney can make a big difference in a New Hampshire criminal trial, particularly when the consequences of a conviction are as high as those in the SAFE DOSES Act.

About the Author

Ryan Russman

Attorney Ryan Russman has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights of New Hampshire citizens. His practice, based in Exeter (Rockingham County) New Hampshire, is limited to cases involving DWI and DUI, other motor vehicle and criminal cases, and many cases involving personal injury. He is, however, best known as one of New Hampshire's leading legal authorities on DWI.

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