Under Washington law, RCW 9A.60.020 establishes that a “person is guilty of forgery if, with intent to injure or defraud: he or she falsely makes, completes, or alters a written instrument or; he or she possesses, utters, offers, disposes of, or puts off as true a written instrument which he or she knows to be forged.”

Written instruments under definition of statute must have legal significance to be punishable by law for forgery.  The document itself need not be legal or government issued, but must somehow bear on the legal rights or obligations of persons involved in the document. Under the statutory definition, falsified prescriptions for medical drugs qualify as forged documents.

Mere possession of a forged prescription, by itself, will not carry criminal liability for forgery. The possession must be accompanied not only by knowledge that the document is fraudulent, but also by an intent to injure or defraud. In the case of a false prescription, a person who intentionally uses it for the purchase of a drug for which he has no medically approved need commits a forgery. The one who commits forgery with respect to a falsified prescription need not be the one who made, completed, or altered it, but simply the one who converts it into the gain of unauthorized drugs. A document made in error creates no liability for forgery, since the creator lacked intent to defraud or injure.

To illustrate, consider a scenario in which a doctor makes a prescription for oxycodone intended for John Public, but mistakenly writes it in the name of another patient, William Citizen. Public finds the mistake and throws the paper into a waste basket. William Citizen had nothing to do with the creation, altering, or completion of the document, but the moment Citizen takes the paper out of the waste basket and possesses it with intent to purchase oxycodone, a drug for which he has no medically assigned need, he commits forgery. The doctor who wrote the prescription committed no forgery since his actions were devoid of intent to injure or defraud, but were merely the result of a clerical error.

Other Methods of Illegal Gain

Medical drugs can be obtained by other methods constituting fraud, but not qualifying as forgery. For example, seeing multiple doctors and thereby obtaining multiple prescriptions for the same drug constitutes an illegal act under Washington statutes, but is not an example of forgery.


RCW 69.50.403 provides that persons fraudulently obtaining medical drugs are guilty of a Class C felony and upon conviction, may be fined up to $2,000, imprisoned for up to two years, or both.

If you or a loved one has been accused of forgery or other illegal methods of gaining possession of medical drugs, it is imperative that you reach out to a dedicated attorney in your area. Contact or call the Nahajski Firm at 206-621-0500 for a free and confidential initial consultation.