The state of California classifies drug offenses as either misdemeanors or felonies. How does the court system make the decision on the treatment of these charges? Generally, the amount of illicit substances in an individual’s possession will decide if they face misdemeanor or felony allegations.
The court system usually uses misdemeanor charges for “personal” drug possession charges. Possession for sale is typically treated as a felony.
Drug Possession and Misdemeanor Charges in California
“Simple” drug possession charges are generally treated as a misdemeanor in California, according to Health and Safety Code §11350. Simple possession charges apply if someone has an illegal substance for their own personal use.
Generally, the court will charge an individual with simple possession if they have a very small amount of a restricted substance. Even a few grams of drugs like meth or heroin can lead to more serious charges for possession for sale.
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Possession for Sale and Felony Charges in Los Angeles
Not all drug crime charges in Los Angeles are treated as misdemeanors. Some charges, like possession for sale, are often prosecuted as felonies. Possession for sale charges are generally used if someone has a larger amount of an illicit substance in their possession.
Individuals do not have to actually sell a drug to face possession for sale charges. Sometimes, police officers make arrests for possession for sale just because someone has:
- The tools used to divide up drugs for sale
- Small amounts of drugs in individual packets
- A few grams for a controlled substance
Drug trafficking charges are also used in California in some cases. Drug trafficking is generally a federal offense and it leads to felony charges. A drug crime lawyer in Los Angeles can help you learn more about all of these charges.
Difference Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges
Misdemeanor charges are generally penalized less severely than felony charges. For example, misdemeanor convictions usually lead to jail time in California. A felony conviction, on the other hand, will result in time in prison. Felony convictions also lead to higher fines.
Some felony convictions for drug crimes in our area lead to millions of dollars in fines. However, these penalties are usually used for federal drug crimes, such as drug trafficking. Additionally, a felony conviction means you are considered a “felon” in the state of California.
Felons face a number of restrictions, even after they pay all their fines and complete their prison term. For example, California does not permit felons to legally own or buy firearms. This restriction can lead to additional criminal charges if someone ignores the regulation and buys a firearm.
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California’s Drug Diversion Program and Misdemeanor or Felony Charges
California offers a drug diversion program to some individuals charged with a drug crime. This program is only available to certain individuals who are facing misdemeanor charges. Individuals cannot enter the program if they are facing a felony charge for an act such as possession for sale.
The drug diversion program is a pre-trial diversion. This means that individuals can avoid a conviction if they enter and complete the program. Individuals will need to submit to treatment for drug addiction while in the program and will have to submit to drug testing and other court-ordered requirements while in the program.
Completion of the program will resolve the criminal charges an individual faces. Note that this program is usually only available for first-time drug offenders. A lawyer can help you understand the best way to handle either misdemeanor or felony charges.
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Find Out How Drug Offenses Are Charged with a Lawyer
Generally, the court looks at specific factors of a case to determine if a drug offense is a misdemeanor or a felony. The Simmrin Law Group can help you with either misdemeanor or felony charges. Our drug crime lawyers in Los Angeles are prepared to help you right now.
Just call (310) 896-2723 or fill out our online contact form. We’ll start working on a defense for you today. Find out how we could help with a free consultation.