Loopholes foil pill mill prosecution in Florida, Georgia
Side note: Prosecuting a “Pill Mill”, individuals who seek out multiple prescriptions of commonly abused prescription drugs for the sole purpose of illegal resale, often requires the same expense and level of expert testimony as a medical malpractice lawsuit. Since prescription drugs are legal the possession of the drugs is not a crime. Criminal intent often requires weeks, and months, of surveillance and expensive testimony to prove that a crime is a being committed. Take for example the case of Gayla Durham and Davis Howell who were caught shoplifting in a Jacksonville Florida Old Navy store last December. Police discovered several bottles of OxyContin on Davis Howell and multiple empty pill bottles scattered about their car. Even though the criminal attempt seemed obvious prosecutors ended up dropping the charges citing a lack of evidence.
By Paul Pinkham
When Gayla Durham and Davis Howell set off a security alarm at a Jacksonville Old Navy store in December, it appeared to be a simple shoplifting case.
But it quickly turned into a drug bust when police found three bottles of oxycodone and a bottle of Xanax on Howell that were prescribed to Durham at a Tampa pain clinic. Empty pill bottles littered their car.
The case was bolstered by two acquaintances who told officers the pills were intended for resale in North Carolina. Durham, 47, and Howell, 29, were charged with oxycodone trafficking.
Weeks later, prosecutors dropped the charges, citing insufficient evidence. They acknowledged the quantities of drugs were trafficking amounts but noted that they were in prescription bottles.
“The problem we face is … that you can legally possess prescription drugs,” said Assistant State Attorney Matthew O’Keefe, a division chief who signed off on the dismissals.
Police and prosecutors in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia say routine traffic stops that yield large quantities of pills are tough to take to court, but it’s even harder to bring down a pill mill.
Those investigations usually require weeks or months of planning and undercover work, said Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Tom Racer, who works with the prescription drug squad at the multi-agency North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.