Using Proof of Valid Prescriptions to Construct a Defense Against Drug Charges in Maryland

pillsIn your criminal case, there are several things that are of vital importance. One of these, obviously, is getting all of your items of proof admitted into evidence. You may face many hurdles in this process, including arguments from the prosecution that your proof is not admissible under the Rules of Evidence. Effectively representing you and protecting your rights in situations like these is one of many ways in which a skilled Maryland drug crime lawyer can provide essential benefits to you.

One example of a case focused upon the defendant’s evidence and the Rules of Evidence was that of Steven, who faced multiple drug charges. The case began with police surveillance of a house in Baltimore. After several weeks, the police obtained a search warrant and, during the search, found evidence of various drugs, including oxycodone, methadone, and alprazolam (a/k/a Xanax). Steven had told the police that he had some drugs in his bedroom, and the officers found Xanax, methadone, and heroin. They found the oxycodone in the kitchen.

The police claimed that Steven gave them no valid prescriptions for any of the drugs. Steven argued in court that this was false. He contended that he and his wife had valid prescriptions for Xanax, methadone, and oxycodone and that he attempted to provide them at the time of the search. The prosecution, to try to defeat Steven’s arguments that he legally possessed those drugs, asked the trial judge to exclude any document evidence regarding the prescriptions. The documents, according to the state, were not admissible because they were hearsay under evidence rules.

The trial court agreed and excluded the prescriptions. Steven was convicted and sentenced.

On appeal, however, Steven won. Steven was convicted of several drug crimes. One of them, Section 5-601, prohibits possessing certain drugs unless it is a result of a “prescription or order from an authorized provider acting in the course of professional practice.” There are several key things worth noting about this statute and the crime created by it. As the appeals court noted, the statute doesn’t require the defense to show that the drug was medically appropriate given the defendant’s health or that the defendant had any health problem at all. If the prescription was written by a duly authorized medical provider as part of that person’s medical practice, the possessor of those drugs has not committed the crime established by Section 5-601.

Another of the charges, Section 5-602, makes it a crime (possession with intent to distribute) to possess certain drugs in a sufficient quantity reasonably to indicate under all circumstances an intent to distribute. As the court noted with regard to this crime, while the statute doesn’t explicitly mention prescriptions, the existence of a valid prescription could affect the analysis when it comes to deciding whether the number of pills Steven possessed was “in a sufficient quantity” to give a clear indication of an intent to distribute.

To be hearsay, a piece of proposed evidence must be offered to “prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Steven argued that he did not seek to admit the prescriptions to prove the truth of anything asserted in them, but simply to prove that he had a valid legal defense against the crimes of possession and possession with intent to distribute. The appeals court agreed, ruling that the prescriptions Steven had were not hearsay and could, if produced, form the centerpiece of a valid defense against both the possession crime and the possession with intent to distribute crime.

Winning your criminal case will likely involve achieving many successes along the way, including the admission of proof and the exclusion of harmful proof when allowable. Skilled Maryland drug crime attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been defending the accused in Maryland for many years, providing a strong defense at every step in the process. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Maryland Woman’s Battered Spouse Defense Entitled Her to Use Boyfriend’s Abusive Words as Evidence at Her Murder Trial, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, Nov. 30, 2017

Maryland Court Rules Call Records Inadmissible as Hearsay, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, July 23, 2015

Photo Credit: Val-gb, [CC0 License], via Pixabay

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