If you are caught illegally possessing morphine, you could face a series of legal consequences including arrest, jail time and financial penalties.

It is unlawful to possess morphine in any form without a prescription, or in excess of your prescribed amount. This ruling includes any of morphine’s pharmaceutical forms, such as tablets, capsules, injections, suppositories or oral solutions. Among the penalties for morphine possession, offenses are imprisonment, court-appointed drug rehabilitation programs, driver’s license suspension, and a life-long criminal record.

Morphine is a naturally occurring, opiate-derived prescription painkiller, and is considered to be one of the most powerful prescription painkillers available in the United States. As a result of its strength and extreme, addictive qualities, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies pure morphine, and morphine products with more than 50mg per 100g of medication, as a schedule II narcotic with high potential for misuse along with psychological and physical dependence. Criminal penalties associated with the possession and distribution of schedule II controlled substances without a prescription, or in excess of prescribed amounts, depends on the amount of substance in a person’s possession. Penalties vary by state. However, regardless of state, morphine possession without a prescription is illegal throughout the United States.

Crimes Associated with Morphine

Morphine can be obtained lawfully in a variety of forms and brands with a prescription from a licensed physician. It is illegal to possess, use or sell morphine without a prescription. It’s also illegal to hold onto a lawfully obtained prescription following its expiration date or possess it in a quantity greater than it was prescribed. People who want morphine but lack a prescription commonly buy it on the black market or from people who have or previously had a prescription.

There is a wide range of state-level, morphine-related drug offenses. These offenses range from misdemeanors to felonies, with varying degrees of penalties, implications, and legal repercussions.

Misdemeanor charges are typically reserved for simple possession cases with small amounts of controlled substances. Felony charges are reserved for having larger amounts with an intent to distribute. These state-level criminal penalties are primarily determined by the quantity of the substance in an individual’s possession, the way the substance came into that person’s possession (e.g., black market, prescription fraud, etc.) and the intent of possession. Misdemeanors convictions are typically punished with probation, fines and short periods of incarceration. Felony offenses may result in penalties of up to 10 years in prison, depending upon the severity of the offense.

More extreme offenses, such as trafficking of controlled substances like morphine, are subject to prosecution and penalties at the federal level. For example, trafficking in morphine represents a violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act and is punished by financial penalties of between $1 million and $5 million, and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Those who repeatedly traffic in Schedule II controlled substances face additional financial penalties of between $2 to $10 million, alongside the potential for an additional 30-year prison sentence.

Caught Without My Morphine Prescription

Due to its status as a controlled substance, morphine may only be legally possessed if a prescription from a licensed physician is active and if the amount in possession is equal to or less than the maximum allotment of the prescription. People caught with morphine without a prescription, in possession of an amount greater than the prescribed quantity, with an expired prescription or attempting to sell their morphine prescription, face state misdemeanor or federal felony charges.

Morphine Prescription in a Bottle

All morphine prescriptions are contained within a medicine bottle with a medication label on it. This label features the patient’s name and address, the prescribing physician’s name, the pharmacy’s information, the prescription’s name, dosage instructions and the amount of the prescription in the bottle. Additionally, the label has the prescription and expiration dates listed.

While in possession of your prescription, you will not face any legal consequences so long as it remains contained in its original bottle, the information on the medication label matches your information, the total amount in the container is equal to or less than the prescribed amount and the prescription has not expired.

Prescription Outside the Bottle

People caught with a prescribed, controlled substance, such as morphine, outside of its original container are subject to criminal penalties in many states. This criminal offense is common and committed often, many times without the knowledge of its unlawfulness.

The only exception to this rule is the specific instance in which the drug is removed from its original bottle to be taken by the person prescribed the drug. Individuals prescribed morphine by their physician may not store their medication in pockets, bags or any other container or bottle.

In the states with these types of laws, individuals caught with a controlled substance in their possession that’s outside of its original container, even if that prescription was lawfully prescribed to that individual by a physician, is a criminal offense with serious legal consequences.

These laws do not apply to all states and range widely in the states where they do exist. Consult with a doctor or an attorney regarding state laws regarding the possession and storage of prescription drugs.

Caught and Not My Morphine Prescription

Throughout the United States, possession of a controlled substance is illegal without a prescription. Being caught with morphine that was prescribed to someone else, is a criminal offense with legal consequences.

In the state of Colorado, for example, being caught possessing morphine prescribed to someone else is a Level 4 drug felony, including penalties of between 6 and 12 months in prison, a mandatory year-long parole period and a financial penalty of up to $100,000.

Getting Caught High on Morphine

Individuals caught high on morphine, without a prescription from a licensed medical professional, face a series of criminal offenses outside of those related to possession, distribution, and sale. Typically, criminal penalties related to controlled substance use are misdemeanor offenses. Additionally, for individuals enrolled in treatment programs, on probation or under court-mandated drug conditions, morphine use detected in random drug test programs can result in violations of those programs (such as violations of probation) and additional legal penalties, likely to be far in excess of the penalties of the original offense.

Morphine is detectable in a variety of drug test forms, including urine, blood, and hair follicle tests. Despite its relatively short half-life of between 1.5 and 4 hours, Morphine can still be detected in urine tests for up to 72 hours, in blood tests for up to 12 hours, and in hair follicle tests for up to 90 days. A failed drug test while on probation, enrolled in pretrial intervention programs or other drug conditions, can result in excess legal and financial penalties.

Key Points: Getting Caught with Morphine

There are a few key facts to keep in mind regarding getting caught with morphine:

  • Because morphine is a controlled substance, possessing it without a prescription is illegal
  • The DEA classifies morphine as a schedule II substances, so people face millions in fines and decades in prison if they’re caught with the substance repeatedly
  • State laws vary, but even possessing your own, prescribed morphine outside of its original prescription bottle can result in legal consequences
  • Being caught with a lot of morphine can imply intent to distribute, which results in harsher criminal penalties
  • To avoid any unnecessary legal trouble, only use morphine that is prescribed to you, keep it in its original container and safely dispose of it if any medication remains when the prescription expires

If you or someone you know struggles with morphine misuse or another substance use disorder, take the first step towards a better life. Contact The Recovery Village to speak to a representative who can talk to you about how personalized treatment plans help people address their addictions and co-occurring mental health disorders. Start on the path to a healthier future, call today.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more

Department of Justice. “Controlled Substance Schedules.” Accessed April 10, 2019.

Schneider Freiberger Law. “Morphine Possession and Distribution.” Accessed April 10, 2019.

Yeh, Brian T. “Drug Offenses: Maximum Fines and Term[…]and Related Laws.” Congressional Research Service, January 20, 2015. Accessed April 10, 2019.

RxOutreach. “Understanding Prescription Medication Labels.” Accessed April 10, 2019.

Colorado Legal Defense Group. “Colorado Morphine Laws.” Accessed April 10, 2019

US Drug Test Centers. “Probation Drug Testing.” Accessed April 10, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.