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Drug dealer in your house?

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


Several weeks ago I wrote an article explaining just how easy it is for a drinker to commit the crime of public intoxication. Drink too much basically anywhere but inside your home or hotel room and you have broken the law. Easy. You might be surprised to know that it might take even less effort to commit a drug crime.

Have you ever handed a spouse or family member her prescription pain medication? Did you ever pick up and read the label of someone else’s pill bottle? Depending on the contents of the bottle, you might have committed a felony drug possession offense. Even worse, you might have actually dealt a narcotic drug.

If you give your spouse an old pain killer to help with an injury, you are dealing a narcotic drug or controlled substance. Do so within 1000 feet of a school, park, family housing complex or youth program center and you just committed one of the most serious drug offenses on the books — a Class A felony punishable up to 50 years in prison.

Recently, I learned a few things about prescription drugs. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), five of six Americans age 65 or older take at least one prescription medication daily and over half take at least three different medications. Another study found that 20% of all U.S. teenagers have taken prescription medication without a valid prescription. In 2008, Americans spent over $234 billion on prescription medications, doubling the amount spent 10 years earlier. Finally, almost 1/3 of people age 12 or older who use drugs recreationally admitted that their drug use started by using someone else’s prescription drugs. Kids are growing up with consistent exposure to prescription drugs. They are either prescribed one, have a friend or family member who is on medication or both. Further, kids are inundated with pharmaceutical marketing and propaganda that make some drugs appear more mainstream or acceptable. Within most medicine cabinets exists a plethora of pharmaceutical products.

Now on to my point. A guy in possession of cocaine knows he’s breaking the law. But the guy with the aching back who reaches into his wife’s purse (with her permission) and borrows one of her prescription pain pills so he can stay and watch the last few minutes of their son’s soccer game has no clue he just committed a Class C felony punishable up to eight years in prison.

Let’s say that same man had his wife hand him her pill bottle while they sat in the bleachers by the soccer field behind the high school watching their son play — she would meet the legal criteria for “dealing” a narcotic drug within 1000 feet of a school. Our lawmakers intended tough penalties for people who come near a school to solicit youngsters to buy their drugs. Sounds reasonable, right? No one wants bad guys coming near kids. But the “bad guys” in the example above are well-intended parents who have no idea that they each committed a felony while watching their son play soccer.

In Indiana, the drug statutes do not require that a “dealer” profit or receive any financial benefits. A person is a “dealer” if that person knowingly or intentionally manufactures, finances the manufacture of, DELIVERS (emphasis added), or finances the delivery of the narcotic or controlled substance. A person with a valid prescription can legally possess the drug. The law, however, is not so forgiving when another person without a prescription comes into possession of that same drug.

Let’s go back to the same example of the husband and wife sitting in the bleachers watching their son play soccer. Even if both the husband and the wife each have had prescriptions for the same pain killer, the husband cannot legally take his wife’s pain pills. The wife “dealt” a narcotic when she “delivered” the pill bottle to her husband. Doing it on school property would mean that the penalty becomes even more severe. Chances are those parents wouldn’t be charged or even investigated in the examples above. But it would be interesting to know exactly how those two hypothetical people would feel about the drug laws. Would they support lengthy prison sentences for drug offenses? What about drug crimes that take place near a school?

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