Possession of the drug Suboxone without a prescription is punishable by up to five years jail time in Minnesota, a criminal defense attorney tells PEOPLE
Andrew Kornfeld, the son of the California addiction specialist who was hired to treat Prince, could face legal charges for possessing a prescription drug used to help kick opiate addiction, a top Minnesota criminal defense attorney tells PEOPLE.
Kornfeld was at Prince’s Paisley Park estate when the singer was found dead in an elevator. The pre-med student – who was sent to Minnesota by his father, Dr. Howard Kornfeld, to speak with Prince about addiction to prescription painkillers – made the 911 call to authorities, according to the Kornfeld family’s attorney.
Kornfeld was on the scene in his capacity as a consultant for his father’s California outpatient addiction clinic Recovery Without Walls. Recovery Without Walls had been hired to Prince’s representative to begin emergency treatment on the star of prescription drug addiction, lawyer William Mauzy said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Kornfeld was carrying a starter dose of Suboxone, a drug with buprenorphine, which is used to treat opiate addiction, Mauzy said. The drug is considered a controlled substance in Minnesota – similar to narcotics like Percocet.
The drugs were taken into possession by the Carver County Sheriff’s office after Kornfeld found Prince dead and called 911, Mauzy said. Kornfeld should be granted “statutory immunity” for possessing the Suboxone without a prescription under Minnesota’s Good Samaritan law, the attorney said.
Eric Nelson, a partner at Halberg Criminal Defense, tells PEOPLE, however that the Good Samaritan law doesn’t protect Kornfeld from drug charges.
What is the Good Samaritan law?
In Minnesota, the Good Samaritan law says that a person who gives aid at the scene of an emergency is not liable for civil damages in any resulting case.
“What the statute says is, that if you’re at an emergency and you know that another person is seriously injured to the extent that you’re able to help without injuring yourself or another person, you have to give reasonable assistance to the person,” Nelson explains.
Nelson says that by calling 911, Kornfeld did right by the Good Samaritan law. However, while “the Good Samaritan Law can be a defense in certain cases, Nelson believes it would not protect Kornfeld from criminal charges in this case because he had the drugs prior to Prince’s death.
What charges could he face?
Possessing Schedule III controlled substances, like Suboxone, without a prescription is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Kornfeld never intended to administer the drugs to Prince, his lawyer, Mauzy, said during Wednesday’s press conference, and was merely transporting it to a Minnesota doctor who Prince was scheduled to meet with on April 21 – the day he was found dead.
Moving the drugs across state lines – from California to Minnesota – however, invokes federal jurisdiction, Nelson says, and could lead to further legal drama.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have already confirmed that they are involved the case and helping local authorities.
Will Minnesota pursue charges?
Nelson tells PEOPLE that while he believes Kornfeld violated the law, his lifesaving intentions could “give him a pass.” He thinks, however, that “it would be as likely… that they will charge him because of the circumstances. At least in the state court level.”
“You have one of this state’s most beloved, iconic citizens. You have intense media scrutiny on a global level. You’ve got all of the makings sort of of a Lifetime movie here,” Nelson explains. “I think, knowing the people in the Carver County Attorney’s Office, that they are going to tread lightly. They are going to be extremely cautious and very thorough in their investigation because they know that the world is watching.”
The attorney explains that he thinks if Kornfeld is charged, he should argue that carrying the drugs was “necessary,” because it was an attempt to save Prince’s life.
“This is an exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, standard to meet,” he notes. “In order to successfully claim the necessity defense, there has to be no other reasonable alternative. Being in an urban area, where the police can be easily summonsed, and were in fact called, would instantly negate any such claim. In addition, his possession of the drug was not ‘necessary’ to the life saving efforts administered,” Nelson says.
He adds, “I have represented many ‘normal’ people who have been accused of possessing [Suboxone] when their intent is merely to attempt to quit their use of opiates. Thus, despite their ‘good intentions’ they run afoul of the law.”