Criminal defense in Austin Texas.

Silly Laws

Posted By on October 16, 2008

There was a discussion on a list serve for Austin bar that got me curious about the exact language of the Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 483.041, “Possession of a Dangerous Drug.”

The argument was over whether carrying a prescription drug, without the prescription, (or at least without the original bottle), was a crime under Texas law.

My position is that it’s not, although I know that some prosecutors, and some police officers, don’t agree with me.

Here’s the actual language, from 483.041:

A person commits an offense if the person possesses a dangerous drug unless the person obtains the drug from a pharmacist acting in the manner described by Section 483.042(a)(1)…

483.042(a)(1), meanwhile, requires the pharmacist to dispense drugs only according to a prescription, with “a label attached to the immediate container.”

What’s important to note about 483.042(a)(1) is that it’s a requirement pertaining to how the pharmacist dispenses the medicine to the patient.  Nothing in the language of the statutes says or implies that the patient has to keep the medicine in the original container, or keep the label or the prescription with him.

I was talking to a friend about this statute, when he told me he’s always nervous when he picks up his wife’s medicine at the pharmacy.  I told him it’s better to get arrested, than to tell your sick wife you’re not going to pick up her medicine.

Thinking about it, though, I realized that’s not quite what it says either.  It does not say that it’s illegal to have prescription drugs unless they’re prescribed to you.

It says it’s illegal to have prescription drugs unless you got the drugs from a pharmacist.

What that means is that it’s not my friend who was committing the (theoretical) crime by picking up his wife’s prescription medicine.  It was his wife who committed the crime, by failing to drive to the pharmacy.


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