Answer: Yes, in general, probation officers verify prescriptions.
But it is not as simple as handing him a copy.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Do Probation Officers Verify Prescriptions? (Yes, But…)
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Authority of the Probation Officer
The authority of the probation officer comes from the terms of the probation and the statutes of the jurisdiction.
In most cases, the defendant is ordered not to use or possess any controlled substances (legal substances like pain medication) without a prescription.
The defendant is often ordered to submit to a UA (urinalysis) upon the request of the probation officer or a substance abuse treatment provider.
Getting information from doctors or pharmacies as well as the defendant’s urine for testing brings into play many of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
The terms of the probation control the defendant, and not the third party doctors or pharmacists.
To overcome these legal issues, the terms of the probation often require that the defendant sign authorization forms allowing the probation officer to request the medical information necessary to confirm the defendant is compliant.
As for the defendant, he is ordered to voluntarily consent. (Interesting, right? Ordered voluntary consent?)
Purpose of Verifying Prescriptions
First, using controlled substances without a prescription is breaking the law, which the defendant is ordered not to do during probation.
Second, defendants are known to use lawful substances to get a high, contrary to the work of the treatment providers to combat the substance abuse addiction.
While a defendant is under the influence of a substance, it is much easier for them to avoid addressing the underlying reasons they are addicted to them and want to use them.
Third, the use of controlled substances with a prescription is often a way defendant attempt to mask the use of other illegal substances.
For example, some legal and illegal substances metabolize the same way, and show up the same on a urinalysis.
Probationers will often go to great lengths to try and cover up the use of illegal substances, including providing out of date or even forged prescriptions.
Verifying the existence of validity of the prescription directly with the doctor’s office, as well as the underlying diagnosis, is the preferred way to keep the defendant on track.
In certain instances of addiction or repeat offenses involving substances, the probation officer will go additional lengths to try and convince the doctor to prescribe other medications that are either less addictive or would not cover up the use of other illegal substances.
Many physicians prescribe controlled substances without realizing that their patients struggle with addiction, have a criminal history involving addiction, or are on probation.
Fourth, reliance on medications (even legally) can impact long-term sobriety and abstinence.
Fifth, the community is better off when substance abuse is prevented.
Use of substances is very closely connected to property crime and violence, so all of law enforcement (including probation officers) will jump at any lawful opportunity to prevent substance abuse.
What Happens If The Probation Officer Finds Out The Prescription is Not Valid?
If the defendant is using a controlled substances without a prescription, and the probation officer finds out about it, the probation officer has a couple of options.
First, he can talk to the defendant about it, and ask the defendant to surrender all of the medication to the probation officer. They can discuss the reasons why the defendant was taking the medication and see if that need can be addressed. (Or get the defendant into a doctor to get a valid prescription).
Second, he can file a report with the prosecutor’s office and/or the court about the defendant’s failure to comply with the terms of probation. This may result in a probation violation hearing (PV), where the court will have the right to sanction the defendant, modify the terms of the probation, or revoke the probation and send the defendant to jail.
Third, the probation officer can do both–talk to the defendant and offer him help, as well as report him for a PV hearing.
In the end, the probation officer has a lot of leeway in violating the defendant.
The defendant’s willingness to meet, talk, admit mistakes, participate in changing, and actual progress could influence the probation officer to wait to pursue a PV.
Questions About What To Do and What To Admit To?
If the defendant is concerned about whether his statements could get him into more legal trouble (or result in more criminal charges), he should consider conferring with criminal defense counsel first.
This is also true if the defendant is concerned about statements that he made to his doctor or that there might be other information in his medical records that he does not want the probation officer to view for any number of reasons.
This way he can get some guidance as to how to approach the situation and not make it worse for himself.
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- Can a Probation Officer Come To Your Job?
- Can a Probation Officer Extend Your Probation?
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- Can a Probation Officer Serve Papers?
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- Can a Probation Officer Access Your Medical Records?