It’s illegal in California to make or possess counterfeit prescription pads used to obtain controlled substances.

Prescription pads, otherwise known as “prescription forms” or “prescription blanks,” must be produced by Department of Justice approved printers for use by licensed medical practitioners.

Making an exact imitation of a prescription pad with the intent to obtain a controlled substance is a “wobbler” under California law, meaning that it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony, with a maximum sentence of three years.

If you or someone you love has been accused of creating or possessing counterfeit drug blanks, a skilled California drug crimes attorney can help. Your attorney will review the facts of the case with you and advise you the best route forward.

Is it illegal to counterfeit prescription drug pads in California?

Under California Health & Safety Code 11162.5 HS, it’s a crime to either:

  • Counterfeit a prescription drug blank used to obtain a controlled substance, or
  • Knowingly possess a counterfeited blank.

“Controlled substances” are prescription drugs that are regulated by the government. They include prescription painkillers, sedatives and stimulants, among other drugs.

Let’s examine how this works in practice with three examples.

Example 1: A nurse takes a prescription pad from works and produces copies, which he sells to individuals he meets online.

This is an example of counterfeiting prescription drug blanks. The nurse would be guilty of violating HS 11162.5 even if he had no intention of using the blanks to obtain controlled substances himself.

Example 2: A college student finds a prescription pad at a party and decides to hold onto it “just in case.”

This is an example of knowingly possessing counterfeit prescription drug blanks. The student wouldn’t be guilty of a crime if she had no idea the prescription pad was fake. But if, for example, she looked up the phone number on the prescription pad and saw that it belonged to a local doctor, she could be charged with a crime.

Example 3: A man hands his spouse a prescription form for a controlled substance and asks her to fill it and pick it up for him. Unbeknownst to her, the form is a forgery.

While the man could be found guilty of a HS 11162.5 infraction, his spouse likely wouldn’t be, because she did not knowingly possess a counterfeit form.

What are the penalties for counterfeiting prescription drug pads in California?

The penalties for counterfeiting prescription drug pads in California can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the defendant’s criminal history and how many prescription blanks the defendant had in their possession.

If the defendant had three or fewer counterfeited prescription drug blanks in their possession, the case will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor punishable by:

  • Up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • Fines up to $1,000

If the defendant had four or more blanks in their possession, the case is treated as a “wobbler.” If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties are the same as those above. If charged as a felony, jail sentences can increase to:

  • 16 months
  • Two years
  • Three years

Defenses against prescription blank counterfeiting charges

There are a number of defenses that can be raised against prescription blank counterfeiting charges in California. These include:

  • The defendant didn’t know the prescription blanks were fake
  • The defendant didn’t have the prescription blanks in their possession
  • The defendant was entrapped by police

If you’ve been accused of violating HS 11162.5, an experienced California drug crimes attorney can help you build the strongest defense possible based on your particular circumstances.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Robert M. Helfend is a skilled criminal defense lawyer who has been practicing in California for over 30 years. He is well-versed in all areas of criminal law, and has a proven track record of success in court.

If you or someone you love has been accused of creating or possessing counterfeit prescription drug blanks, he can help. He will review the facts of your case with you and advise you on the best route forward. Contact him today for a free consultation – 800-834-6434.

Published April 15, 2022. Updated May 15, 2024.