15 Mar 21

New York Penal Code 178.25: Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medication and Prescriptions in the First Degree

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Last Updated on: 17th August 2023, 07:30 pm

Abuse of Controlled Prescription Medication and Penal Code 178.25

Abuse of controlled prescription medication has been on the rise in recent years. Law enforcement and the court system have been battling the unauthorized sale of controlled substances, and they take this issue very seriously in New York and all across the country. If you are charged with a violation of Penal Code 178.25, you need to understand what the code says and know what your legal rights entail for a defense. Following is a breakdown of penal code 178.25, an example illustrating an infraction of the law, and possible defenses that a good attorney could use to either reduce the charges or get them dropped altogether.

Penal Code 178.25 Broken Down

New York Penal Code 178.25 states that a person is guilty of criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the first degree when they transfer a prescription medication or device to someone for money when they know the recipient has no medical need for it. Another aspect of the law is when a person receives a medical prescription or device from someone they know does not have the legal authority to sell it to them. When the monetary amount exceeds $50,000, this constitutes criminal diversion in the first degree. Penal Code 178.25 applies to both a seller and a buyer when they know that legal authorization is not present.

Violation of Penal Code 178.25 is considered a class C felony, which is extremely serious. If convicted, sentencing could include state prison time of up to 15 years, probation of up to 5 years, and a substantial fine.


If Pharmacist A regularly sold prescription medicine to a customer who he knew did not have a valid medical prescription for and the value of the sales exceeded $50,000, then he could be convicted of criminal diversion in the first degree.

Another example would be if Person A obtained his prescription medication legally but then sold it to Person B. Both Person A (the seller) and Person B (the buyer) would be guilty of violating Penal Code 178.25. They both knew the seller didn’t have the authority to sell the prescription medication and the buyer did not have a valid legal prescription to buy the medication.


Possible defenses against this charge would include the amount involved. The amount of money or other benefit exchanging hands must exceed $50,000 for the charge of first degree criminal diversion to be an appropriate charge. If the amount did not exceed $50,000, the charges could be reduced to second, third, or fourth degree criminal diversion which would mean a much lighter sentence if convicted.

Another defense would be if you are a licensed physician or pharmacist and you dispense the controlled medication in good faith believing that the patient has a valid medical need for it or a valid legal prescription.


Charges of criminal diversion of prescription medication are extremely serious, and charges under Penal Code 178.25 involve first degree diversion. This could mean prison time in excess of a decade in addition to a substantial fine. If you are charged with a violation of Penal Code 178.25, the most important thing you can do is contact a good New York defense attorney who is experienced in litigation with these types of charges. A good attorney will be able to look at all the factors of the case and launch the best defense possible. The goal here is to get the charges dropped if possible, or at least get them reduced to a less serious charge.