Possession of Analogues in Michigan – The Pill Problem

In this article, I’ll be taking a short break from my ongoing series about License Restorations and will instead address an issue that is coming up more and more frequently in my Criminal Practice. It seems there is an ever-increasing number of cases involving the Possession of, or attempt to acquire, Analogues. Analogues are drugs which are chemically similar to other drugs. Perhaps the most common example is Vicodin, which is chemically similar to codeine, and can produce similar effects in the user. It is an opiate, meaning it’s narcotic-like effects are similar to the whole family of drugs that are produced from opium, including morphine and heroin. Another frequently-abused Analogue is Oxycontin, which has been described as “heroin-in a pill.”

I limit my Practice (and therefore my experience is likewise limited) to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. In this Tri-County area, there has been a virtual explosion of cases involving Analogues Charges. I assume that it’s not much different all around the state, but I can only talk about the Detroit area. Many people have never even heard the term “Analogues” until they a charged with a crime involving them. Typically, a person is found in possession of some pills for which they did not have a valid prescription. Very often, the explanation they give has something to do with some kind of pain (back pain is a common complaint) and the generosity of someone who gave them a few pills to help. Even in cases where that story is true, it does not change the legality of possessing these medicines without a valid prescription for them.

vicodin-pills1.jpgRelated cases include things like obtaining, or attempting to obtain the medication by fraud. Charges related to stolen prescription pads, fake prescriptions, phony “call-ins” where someone pretends to call a prescription in on behalf of a Doctor, and even the stealing of these medications from legitimate patients have likewise been on the rise.

Possession of Analogues is what’s technically called a “High Court Misdemeanor,” meaning it carries up to 2 years in Jail. This is sort of a “hybrid” Crime, but the easiest way to understand Analogue Possession Cases is that they are low-level Felonies.

It is, unfortunately, not uncommon to see the same people charged over and over again with crimes involving Analogues because of their highly addictive properties. Sometimes the compulsion to use these drugs far outlasts both the need and valid prescription for them, causing the once-legitimate user to become a long-term addict. In the worst cases, some people realize that the cost and difficulty of obtaining these drugs is actually more than using one the drugs they are chemically similar to, heroin. A significant portion of heroin users will inform a Court that their drug problem started with the use of Analogues.

In my Criminal Practice, when I am, for example, contacted by someone who has been charged with Possession of Analogues, I first investigate the case to find out if there is a way to beat the case. Is there a search and seizure issue? Did they have a valid prescription? I have handled cases where the pills were in an unlabeled bottle, but the person was thereafter able to produce a valid prescription covering the time period within which the pills were found, and have thus been able to get the charges dismissed.

In cases where there is no clear way to “beat” the case, I will next see if the person is eligible for a negotiated arrangement which will allow them to keep the whole thing off of their Record. In Michigan, there is a provision of the law (officially MCL 333.7411) knows as a “7411” which, when properly arranged, allows a person with no prior Drug Record to plead “guilty” to the Possession of Analogues (or any Drug, for that matter) charge, with an understanding that they will be placed on Probation, and, if that is successfully completed, the whole case will be dismissed without ever going on their Record.

For a complete explanation of how 7411 works, read my full-version post “Drug Possession in Michigan – Keeping it off your Record with 7411.” A short-version of that article is entitled ” Keeping Drug Charges off your Record in Michigan – 7411 – The Short Version.” The bottom line to 7411 is that a person can avoid ever having the offense go on their record. It’s as if the whole thing never happened.

Analogues cases, like DUI cases, cut across every social and socio-economic rank. There is no typical profile of the people of who find themselves facing this charge, just typical scenarios of how they got there. Whatever the circumstances leading to an Analogue-related charge, it is important for the Lawyer to help the Client understand the need to remain drug-free to avoid any further complications in the existing case, and, of course, to avoid creating or picking up a new case of the same kind.