California considers it illegal to possess certain painkillers if you do not have a valid prescription for them. This means that if you are caught with these painkillers you can be arrested and may potentially face jail time and severe fines.
Both codeine and hydrocodone (commonly called Vicodin) are painkillers that are regulated by the state. They may only be used with a prescription. The exact charges that can be brought against you for possession of painkillers will vary based on what type of painkiller you have and what you intended to do with it.
What Charges Do You Face For Possessing Painkillers For Personal Use In California?
California uses roughly the same charges for the possession of both Vicodin (hydrocodone) and codeine. If you possess these drugs for personal use the state considers your actions to be a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction for painkiller possession may lead to no more than a year spent in a county jail and fines of no more than $20,000.
However, you may be sentenced to 2-4 years in jail for possession for personal use if you have prior convictions for serious felonies such as:
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
- Sex crimes involving a child younger than 14
This extra jail time may also be applied to your sentence if you were convicted of any crime that required you to register as a sex offender in California.
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Are There Different Charges For Possessing To Sell?
The state classifies possession of drugs with the intent to sell as a felony, not a misdemeanor. This includes painkillers like Vicodin and codeine. Felony convictions can result in 2-4 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.
You may also be subject to other charges related to the possession of Vicodin or codeine in California, including:
- Up to 1 year of jail time for being under the influence
- 3-5 years of DUI probation for driving while under the influence
- 3-9 years of prison time for selling Vicodin or codeine or moving them in order to sell them
What About California’s Drug Diversion Program?
California offers a drug diversion program to some eligible defendants. You may be able to take advantage of this program if you:
- Possessed the painkillers for personal use.
- Were not involved in more serious drug crimes.
- Have no felony convictions in the last five years.
- Did not commit a violent crime.
Defendants who possessed painkillers with the intent to sell them are not allowed to make use of this program.
The drug diversion program itself allows you to go through drug rehabilitation instead of being put in jail. The rehabilitation program you attend must be appropriately certified or deemed to be effective and credible before it can be used. These programs generally last between 12 and 18 months. You generally have to pay a fee of $100 – $1,000 to use this type of program.
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What If You Have A Valid Prescription?
A valid prescription can be obtained from a medical professional and may allow you to possess painkillers legally. However, prescriptions that are written due to patient deceit, misrepresentation, and fraud are not classified as valid. This is considered prescription fraud and is a criminal act in California. Depending on your circumstances, California may treat this action as a misdemeanor or a felony.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor for prescription fraud you can face up to a year in jail. A charge of felony prescription fraud may result in 16 months to 3 years in jail.
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Are There Legal Defenses For Painkiller Possession?
Defending against a charge of possession for codeine or Vicodin can be difficult with California’s complex drug laws, but there are strategies that can work. You may be able to argue that the painkillers did not belong to you or even that you weren’t aware that you had them in your possession.
Experienced criminal defense lawyers in LA can also help you make the case that you did not intend to sell or transport any painkillers in your possession. These professionals might be able to support your case by blocking evidence used by the prosecution or arguing that you were the victim of an illegal search.
Getting help with your case as quickly as possible can improve your odds in court. Contacting our highly-trained legal team could help to mitigate some of the consequences you’d face for the possession of painkillers. Let us set you up with a FREE consultation today by calling 310-896-2723 or filling out our online form.