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Can mitigating factors reduce the penalties for drug crimes?

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It seems that prescription drug crimes are becoming more frequent, at least based on media coverage. In a recent example, a 35-year-old pharmacy employee in the Greater Toronto Area was arrested on suspicion of prescription drug theft. Over a five-month-period, roughly $40,000 of prescription drugs went missing.

Notably, police estimate that the drugs could sell for as much as $1.1 million on the street. Accordingly, the employee has also been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Drug crimes carry stiff penalties, and prescription drugs are no exception. Without medical authorization, the possession of prescription drugs is illegal. Possession of such pharmaceuticals in large quantities might also result in trafficking charges, as in today’s example, or related charges, such as prescription fraud.

The media has also focused on the growing dependency issues surrounding certain opioid pain medications, such as OxyContin and oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin, and others. Could prescription drug addiction be a mitigating factor if arrested for the illegal possession of such substances?

Our criminal defense law firm has represented many clients in Toronto and surrounding communities who have been arrested on drug charges. Where possible, we pursue all available options. We start with preparing a strong defense, reviewing the arrest record for any indications of unlawful police behavior or other improprieties. At the same time, we evaluate the risks of a case. A first-time offender with a substance abuse or addiction issue might be able to present a plea for jail alternatives, such as treatment and community service. We are well versed in such negotiations.

Source: CBC News Toronto, “Oshawa pharmacy employee charged after prescription drugs worth $1.1M stolen,” Kate McGillivray, Dec. 19, 2016

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