Vicodin is a Schedule II substance. If you’re caught with the drug and don’t have a prescription for it, you could face serious legal consequences.

If you are caught possessing Vicodin illegally, you may be arrested and sentenced to prison — especially if you are caught with a high quantity or have a prior record. You could also face other serious legal and financial consequences.

Vicodin, which is the brand name for hydrocodone, is classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II controlled substance. This classification indicates the drug has a high potential for misuse, addiction, and physical dependence.  As a controlled substance, it is illegal to possess Vicodin without a valid prescription. If death results from the trafficking of a Schedule II substance, 20 years to life in prison is a possible penalty.

Crimes Associated with Vicodin

Vicodin is highly addictive and commonly misused. Because it is a controlled substance under federal and state law, the only legal way to obtain Vicodin is through a valid prescription from a doctor. However, people struggling with Vicodin addiction commonly buy Vicodin illegally if they are unable to obtain legitimate prescriptions.

Selling and distributing any controlled substance is classified as a felony. The federal penalties for first-time offenders caught trafficking a Schedule II drug like Vicodin are a maximum of 20 years and a $1 million fine. The penalty varies based on the amount of drug and the individual’s criminal history.

Caught Without a Vicodin Prescription

Because Vicodin is a controlled substance, there are strict laws that dictate what type of use is legal and illegal. Illegally possessing any Schedule II drug may be considered a felony depending on your location and local laws. If you are caught with Vicodin for which you do not have a valid prescription, you may face serious legal consequences.

Vicodin Prescription in a Prescription Bottle

If you have a prescription from a doctor for Vicodin, you will receive a prescription bottle with your doctor’s name on it. The prescription pill bottle will specify the number of pills that you have been prescribed and include an expiration date for the prescription.

As long as you have your prescribed medication in the bottle, it is in your possession and the number of pills is equal or less than the quantity prescribed, you are within the legal restrictions of state and federal laws.

Prescription Outside the Bottle

Getting caught by law enforcement with your Vicodin outside of a valid prescription bottle could lead to serious legal consequences. Even if you have a valid prescription for Vicodin, since the medication is a controlled substance, it should remain in your prescription bottle until you are about to consume it.

There are some exceptions to the requirement that your prescription stays in the bottle, such as if the medication is repackaged to be more convenient than the original packaging; however, there are limits to these exceptions as well. Additionally, the laws that apply to possession of controlled substances vary from state to state, so consult with your doctor about your state’s laws, requirements and any questions related to your prescriptions specifically.

Caught with Someone Else’s Vicodin Prescription

Throughout the United States, it is illegal to possess Vicodin without a valid prescription. If law enforcement finds you with Vicodin in a prescription bottle that does not have your name on it, you can face serious legal consequences, even if the Vicodin is prescribed to a relative.

For example, in California, possessing Vicodin without a valid prescription is a misdemeanor, which may result in up to one year in county jail and up to five years of probation. While it is illegal in every state to possess Vicodin without a valid prescription, state laws vary.

Getting Caught High on Vicodin

Vicodin may be detected through urine, blood, saliva and hair tests. A blood test will typically only show Vicodin in the system for up to a day, while saliva and urine can detect use for up to four days. A hair test can detect Vicodin for up to 90 days after the last use. If you are caught with Vicodin in your system, you may be subject to a separate criminal offense for being under the influence of a controlled substance, or you may be subject to the same law as illegally possessing Vicodin.

Summing it up: Getting Caught With Vicodin

Illegally possessing Vicodin may lead to prison time. Possessing Vicodin without a valid prescription or using it outside of how a physician prescribed it are signs of Vicodin addiction.

If you or a loved one struggle with a Vicodin addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Call a representative today to find out how personalized treatment plans can work for you. Address your addiction as soon as possible and avoid legal trouble altogether.

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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

Yeh, B. “Drug Offenses: Maximum Fines and Term[…]and Related Laws.” Congressional Research Service, January 20, 2015. Accessed April 2, 2019.

Leonhart, Michelle. “Rescheduling of Hydrocodone Combination Products From Schedule III to Schedule II.” U.S. Department of Justice, August 15, 2014. Accessed April 2, 2019.

California Legislative Information. “Control of Users of Controlled Substances.” Accessed April 2, 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.