With the national opioid crisis receiving high-profile coverage, you probably know that these painkillers are controlled substances and so are illegal unless you have a prescription. But can you be arrested for possessing a drug that was lawfully prescribed to you? The answer, remarkably, is yes. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription opioids are the third-most abused substance in Washington State after alcohol and marijuana. So it should not surprise that the state has strict laws regulating how these painkillers may be distributed and possessed. Under Revised Code of Washington 69.50.309, a patient who has been prescribed a controlled substance like opioids "may lawfully possess it only in the container in which it was delivered." That means trouble can arise if you carry the drugs in a pill dispenser or other unlabeled container, as people often do when they go to work or take extended trips.
A traffic stop or airport baggage check could result in your being detained or even arrested. While such misunderstandings are usually cleared up eventually, the legal and practical complications will certainly cost you time and money. If you have been prescribed a controlled substance such as an opioid painkiller, you should keep the drug in its original container, especially when you're away from home. If that proves impractical, it's wise to keep a copy of your original prescription with you, ready to display to a law enforcement official on request. Another pitfall to avoid is driving while taking a painkiller or other controlled substance. Even if you have a prescription and are using the medication exactly as prescribed, you could be charged with a DUI if you are pulled over and found to be under the influence of a controlled substance. As with DUI charges involving alcohol, you could be fined and have your license suspended if convicted.
If you are arrested or otherwise charged with a controlled-substance violation, you should consult a skilled attorney with experience successfully defending clients in drug possession cases. Your lawyer may challenge the legality of the police search during a traffic stop, help prove you had a prescription or provide evidence to show that a drug in your possession belonged to someone else or that your possession was inadvertent.
At Peale Law Firm in Seattle, we have 20 years of experience successfully defending clients in drug cases throughout Washington State. If you are seeking representation, call us at (206) 429-4777 or contact us online for a consultation.