Did you know that you could get in trouble for writing a prescription for a family member? When you’re just trying to help a loved one, the authorities may accuse you of breaking the law. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Bureau of Drug Control (BDC) may charge you with a crime and act against your medical license.
If you’re charged with writing a family member’s prescription, you need to know exactly what to do. Our attorneys explain.
What should you do if charged with writing a prescription for a family member?
If you’re charged with writing a prescription for a family member, carefully read the documents you’re given. Determine if you are facing criminal charges, a licensing action, or both types of proceedings. Learn about the laws and the allegations that you need to defend against. Identify and meet deadlines. Do not ignore the allegations. Contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Is it illegal to write a prescription for a family member in South Carolina?
In some circumstances, it is legal to write a prescription for a family member in South Carolina. State law § 44-53-360 requires a bona fide physician-patient relationship and a medical purpose to dispense any prescription. Ethics guidelines say that this relationship is difficult to achieve with a family member because of a lack of objectivity. In an emergency, the physician may prescribe a limited amount of a prescription until an objective practitioner can take over.
It’s important to understand that writing a prescription for a family member is not illegal in all circumstances. In fact, there are many circumstances where maybe okay – in emergency situations, if the prescription is insignificant and the illness is minor or if the prescription is only temporary. If you’re faced with a criminal charge, having a lawful reason to write the prescription can be a valid defense.
What are South Carolina laws for writing a prescription for a family member?
South Carolina laws for writing prescriptions for family members come from three sources:
- South Carolina Code of Laws Title 44, Health, Chapter 53 – Poisons, Drugs and Other Controlled Substances
- South Carolina Code of Laws Title 40 – Professions, Chapter 47 – Physicians and Miscellaneous Health Care Professionals
- DHEC Code of Regulations 61-4 – Regulation of Controlled Substances.
The specific laws and regulations that apply are:
- South Carolina Law 44-53-370(a) – It is unlawful to manufacture or possess a schedule IV drug with the intent to distribute. Penalties may include up to three years imprisonment and a $3,000 fine. Fines increase for repeat offenders.
- South Carolina Law 40-47-110 – Misconduct may result in disciplinary action against an offender’s medical license. The law lists conduct that may result in licensing actions, including drug crimes and poor record keeping.
- South Carolina Law 44-53-360(c) – No practitioner may dispense a controlled substance outside of a bona fide practitioner-patient relationship.
- South Carolina Law 44-53-360(h) – Prescriptions may only be written for legitimate medical purposes. The physician has the responsibility for proper prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances.
- Code of Regulations 61-4 1204 – A doctor usually cannot have a valid physician-patient relationship with a close family member because of the loss of objectivity between the parties.
- Code of Regulations 41-4 1002(a) – Even when a valid relationship can exist, the physician may only write prescriptions in the usual course of their professional practice.
What’s the punishment for writing a prescription for a family member in South Carolina?
Law enforcement authorities are using South Carolina Law § 44-53-370(a) and § 44-47-110 to charge doctors with writing prescriptions for family members. A violation of § 44-53-370(a) may result in misdemeanor penalties of up to three years in jail and a $3,000 fine. Penalties increase for repeat offenders. Writing a prescription for a family member is not illegal in all circumstances in South Carolina, and a person facing charges has a right to a hearing to fight the charges against them.
Is writing a family member’s prescription a criminal offense or a licensing action?
Writing a family member’s prescription may result in criminal charges, licensing action or both. It’s important not to ignore either proceeding because one may impact the other. It may seem unfair that government authorities essentially have two opportunities to prove their case – however, ignoring any notices or proceedings may make it impossible to fight against the allegations in any forum.
What are the possible penalties for writing a prescription for a family member in South Carolina?
Under South Carolina law § 40-47-110(A) and § 44-53-370, the possible penalties for writing a prescription for a family member in South Carolina include:
- Revocation or cancellation of a medical license
- Jail or prison time
- Public or private reprimand
- Restrictions and limitations on practice
The burden of proof for disciplinary action is a preponderance of the evidence. The imposition of any penalty requires a finding of wrongdoing. You have a right to have a hearing and present evidence. Fighting back against charges is critical to protect your practice, your livelihood, and your reputation.
How can an attorney help me as a doctor charged with writing prescriptions for a family member?
An attorney can help you determine what charges you’re facing, investigate the allegations and build the defenses. In cases that involve criminal charges or professional licensing action, it’s important to understand the procedure and your rights. You may wonder:
- What are my hearing rights?
- What does the state have to prove against me?
- How does a hearing work?
- Am I charged with a crime, a South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners Complaint, or both?
- How many days do I have to respond to the allegations?
- Do I need to appear in court?
- How do I explain my side of the story effectively?
It is also important to note that you can exercise your write to have an attorney present before you answer any questions at all. An experienced attorney can answer all these questions and create a tailored plan to fight the charges against you. Your rights are important. An attorney can help you investigate, understand matters of legal procedure and advocate for you throughout the process.
Attorneys to Fight Charges of Writing a Prescription to a Family Member
If you’re charged with wrongdoing when it comes to writing a prescription, how you handle this matter may impact your professional – and personal – future for years to come. Our attorneys have experience handling charges of improper prescription writing. Contact the Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC, Attorneys at Law team today to talk about your case.