It's estimated that about 6 million people illegally use anabolic steroids or human growth hormone (HGH) every year. In recent years, professional athletes have been under a lot of scrutiny for the use of illegal steroids, even though convictions of high profile athletes have been few and far between.
Though prosecutions for steroid use are not as common as prosecutions for narcotics, anyone charged with a steroid crime faces significant penalties. State and federal laws differ in how they categorize and punish steroid crimes, though these crimes exist at the federal level as well as in all states.
Steroids and Human Growth Hormone
Anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and other similar substances are treated as controlled substances, meaning it's illegal to possess or use them unless you are legally allowed to do so. Like other controlled substances, criminal charges can arise when you use steroids for non-medical needs, as well as when you sell or distribute them to others. Penalties for steroids crimes tend to be more significant for situations involving the sale, distribution, or the intent to sell or distribute steroids, while possession and use crimes are typically charged as less significant crimes.
Legal Use and Pill Mills
State and federal law recognizes that human growth hormone and anabolic steroids are medically useful, meaning a doctor can prescribe them to a patient in some situations. However, physicians, pharmacists, and others who provide prescription medications can also be charged with steroid crimes, especially when they operate, or are connected with, so-called “pill mills.”
A pill mill is a facility that specializes in providing pain medication to patients who have a doctor's prescription. While providing these drugs is legal as long as a facility is properly licensed, a pill mill specializes in providing prescriptions for steroids, human growth hormone, or other drugs to almost anyone who wants them. These facilities often operate in conjunction with doctors willing to freely provide prescriptions, essentially operating as legal drug dealers. Anyone involved with these types of facilities can be charged with a range of crimes, from illegally prescribing a controlled substance to racketeering, and money laundering.
Legal Use, Illegal Possession
Steroid charges can also arise when a person possesses or uses a controlled substance even though it has been legally prescribed. For example, if a doctor prescribes human growth hormone to your friend, but you decide to take some for your own use, you're guilty of illegally possessing or using a controlled substance. Even though the HGH was legally prescribed, only the person who was given the prescription is legally allowed to use or possess it.
Investigations and Related Charges
Many high profile steroids cases, such as the prosecutions of baseball players Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and track athlete Marion Jones, have involved allegations that the athletes used illegal substances. However, these people were not charged with steroids crimes, but instead were charged with perjury, the crime of lying when under oath or affirmation. Criminal investigations for any steroid crime can result in charges of perjury or making false statements to investigators even if the suspect is never charged with a steroids crime.
Human growth hormone and illegal steroids are punished by both federal and state law, and these laws can differ significantly in the penalties they impose. Most crimes are prosecuted at the state level, but both state and federal crimes are typically charged as felony offenses.
- Incarceration. Jail or prison sentences for steroid crimes differ widely. A conviction for a misdemeanor possession crime, for example, could result in a prison sentence of up to a year in jail, while a felony possession charge could last for a year or more, and possibly much longer. Convictions for distribution, sale, or possession with intent to sell could result in prison sentences of five years or more.
- Fines. Fines for steroid and HGH crimes can be significant. A simple possession conviction can result in fines of several thousand dollars, while fines for being involved in a pill mill or for sale or distribution can exceed $10,000 or more.
- Probation. A person convicted of a steroids crime may also face a probation sentence in addition to, or apart from, jail and fines. Probation sentences last at least 12 months, but can exceed 3 years or more. While on probation a person must comply with the court's probation orders or risk facing additional penalties, such as serving prison time, paying additional fines, and having the probation period extended. Probation orders impose requirements such as regularly meeting with a probation officer, taking random drug tests, maintaining employment, not associating with known criminals, and not committing more crimes.
Talk to a Lawyer
Anytime you're involved with an illegal steroids or human growth hormone criminal investigation, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney before you speak to the police or investigators. Even if you have no reason to believe you've done anything wrong, you can expose yourself to prosecution as soon as you speak to the police without the advice of an experienced attorney.
If you're charged with a steroids or human growth hormone crime, you absolutely need to seek out a local attorney as soon as possible. Experienced lawyers in your area will have direct experience with prosecutors and judges, and can give you advice in light of their experience and the law. A conviction for a steroid or human growth hormone crime can permanently alter your life, and you need the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney whenever you're facing criminal charges.