NRS 453.391 - "Unlawfully obtaining prescription drugs" and "doctor shopping" in Nevada
(Explained by Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys)


NRS 453.391 is the Nevada doctor shopping law that prohibits the unlawful taking or obtaining of controlled substances or prescriptions. This statute states, "A person shall not:

1.  Unlawfully take, obtain or attempt to take or obtain a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance from a manufacturer, wholesaler, pharmacist, physician, physician assistant, dentist, advanced practice registered nurse, veterinarian or any other person authorized to administer, dispense or possess controlled substances.

2.  While undergoing treatment and being supplied with any controlled substance or a prescription for any controlled substance from one practitioner, knowingly obtain any controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance from another practitioner without disclosing this fact to the second practitioner."

An NRS 453.391 allegation is prosecuted as a category C felony in Nevada. The punishment is:

But the D.A. may be open to a Nevada plea bargain where the charge gets significantly reduced or dismissed. Common defenses are:

  1. the defendant had a lawful prescription;
  2. the medicine was over-the-counter;
  3. the defendant did not knowingly doctor shop (the "oversight defense"); or
  4. the defendant was the victim of police entrapment in Nevada

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crimes of illegally taking a prescription drug and doctor shopping. Click on a topic to jump directly to that section:

man sneaking pills under desk
Illegally obtaining prescription pills is a category C felony in Nevada.

1. Legal definition of unlawful taking a controlled substance or prescription in Nevada

NRS 453.391 makes it a Nevada felony crime to unlawfully obtain a controlled substance (or a prescription for a controlled substance) from either a:

  • manufacturer,
  • wholesaler,
  • pharmacist,
  • physician,
  • physician assistant,
  • dentist,
  • advanced practice registered nurse,
  • veterinarian, or
  • any other person authorized to administer, dispense or possess controlled substances

And if a person currently has a lawful prescription, NRS 453.391 also makes it a felony to knowingly get another prescription from a second provider without telling that provider about the current prescription.

In short, Nevada law prohibits people from:

  1. getting drugs or prescriptions without first having a lawful prescription, or
  2. getting a new drug from a second doctor without telling him/her about any current prescriptions (a.k.a. "doctor shopping")1

2. Penalties for illegally obtaining drugs or prescriptions in Nevada

Violating NRS 453.391 is a category C felony, carrying:

  • one to five (1 - 5) years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)2

People charged with this offense are encouraged to hire an attorney right away in attempt to negotiate the charges down to a lesser offense or a full dismissal if possible.

3. Fighting charges for illegally obtaining drugs or prescriptions in Nevada

Possible defenses to NRS 453.391 charges may include any of the following arguments:

hand taking medicine bottles
The best defense for fighting NRS 453.391 allegations depends on the specific facts of the case and the available evidence.
  1. The defendant had a lawful prescription, and prosecutors were mistaken to believe he/she received the drugs illegally.
  2. The drugs the defendant obtained were over-the-counter and therefore not subject to NRS 453.391.
  3. The defendant innocently forgot about having any current prescriptions. Therefore, the defendant did not act "knowingly" when he/she asked a second provider for more drugs without telling the provider about any current prescriptions. This is called the "oversight defense."3
  4. The defendant was entrapped, meaning that the defendant would not have obtained the drugs but for the police's unlawful inducement.

In every criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. These cases typically involve such evidence as:

  • surveillance video,
  • doctor's notes, and
  • eyewitness testimony

If the defense attorney can prove that the D.A.s case is too weak to support a conviction, the case should be dropped.

4. Deportation for unlawfully obtaining a drug or prescription in Nevada

Unlawfully obtaining drugs might be considered an aggravated felony in Nevada or a crime involving moral turpitude in Nevada (CIMT) by a Las Vegas immigration judge. Since aggravated felonies and CIMTs are deportable, aliens accused of violating NRS 453.391 should hire an attorney to try to negotiate a charge reduction to a non-deportable offense (if not a dismissal).

Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

5. Sealing Nevada criminal records for illegally taking a drug or prescription

An NRS 453.391 conviction can potentially be sealed from the defendant's criminal record five (5) years after the case closes. But if the charge gets dismissed so that there is no conviction, then the defendant can petition the court for a record seal right away. Learn more about Nevada record seal procedures.

6. Related offenses

6.1. Health care fraud

The Nevada crime of health care fraud occurs when medical providers attempt to swindle insurance companies out of funds they are not legally entitled to. It is a category D penalty in Nevada, carrying:

gavel
Health care fraud is typically a category D felony in Nevada.
  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison, and
  • up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion), and
  • Nevada restitution to the insurance company, and
  • reimbursement to the government for investigating the case

6.2. Unlawful prescribing by medical providers

Violating the Nevada law limiting prescribing, possessing, administering, transporting and dispensing controlled substances under NRS 453.381 is a category C felony. The penalty is:

  • one to five (1 - 5) years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)

The Nevada Board of Medical Examiners can penalize the doctor as well. Learn more about license suspensions for Nevada doctors convicted of crimes.

6.3. Drug possession

Penalties for the Nevada crime of drug possession (NRS 453.336) depend on the types of drugs and whether the defendant has any prior possession offenses. Most first-time convictions of possessing drugs are category E felonies in Nevada, which are usually probationable.

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Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

Accused of doctor shopping or obtaining a prescription illegally in Nevada under NRS 453.391? Contact our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a consultation free of charge.

Through intensive investigation, effective negotiation, and aggressive litigation, we may be able to achieve a substantial charge reduction or dismissal without having to go through a trial. But if necessary, we are ready to put your case before a jury in pursuit of a full acquittal.


Legal References

  1. NRS 453.391.
  2. NRS 453.421  Penalty for violation of NRS 453.371 to 453.391, inclusive.  A person who violates any provision of NRS 453.371 to 453.391, inclusive, is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
  3. NRS 453.391(2).
  4. NRS 179.245.
  5. NRS 179.255.

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