There are a lot of variables involved to determine how long you go to jail for possession of drugs in California. In general, first time misdemeanor drug possession charges are punishable by one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
The time you actually spend in jail for possession of drugs in California depends on a number of things, including:
- If you are charged with “simple possession”
- If you are charged with “possession for sale”
- The type of drug involved
- The amount of the drug in your possession
- Why you had possession of the drug
- Whether this is a first offense
- If you have a good drug possession defense lawyer
What Counts as Drug Possession in California?
You can be charged with drug possession in California if you have a controlled substance:
- On your person (in a pocket, in your purse)
- Under your control (in your car, in your house, gym locker or elsewhere in your possession)
If you have a medical prescription for the drug, you will not be charged with possession. You also cannot be charged for possession of marijuana in California, so long as you are following the rules laid out in the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. For example, growing more than six marijuana plants for personal use is illegal and can result in a charge of marijuana cultivation.
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How a Criminal Defense Attorney in California Can Defend You
There are several avenues of defense your lawyer can take if you are charged with drug possession. They include, but are not limited to, claiming:
- You didn’t know the drugs were there (as in, a passenger in your car or a guest in your home left them there)
- You didn’t know what the drugs were (for example, a friend asked you to hold something for them without telling you what it was)
- You didn’t “possess” the drugs. Simply being found near them doesn’t count.
- You have a valid prescription for the drug or drugs
- There was a problem with lab analysis
- You were the victim of an unlawful search resulting in the seizure of drugs
Depending upon the specifics of your case, there could be more your legal team can do to defend you and give you the utmost opportunity to walk away from the incident with little to no punishment.
Drug Possession Jail Time in California
After Proposition 47, drug possession crimes are punished as misdemeanors only, with penalties including up to one year in the county jail, and a $1000 fine. This includes possession of:
- Depressants, including Xanax, Valium, phenobarbital, Librium
- Stimulants, such as amphetamines, methamphetamine, MDMA, Ritalin, Adderall
- Hallucinogens, including mescaline, peyote, psilocybin (mushrooms), LSD, cocaine
- Opiates, including heroin, codeine, oxycodone, Vicodin
- Steroids, including testosterone and ketamine
Jail time can be increased if you are charged with felony drug possession because of a prior conviction, or if you possessed a loaded firearm at the same time you had the drug. Possession with intent to sell or federal drug trafficking are much more serious crimes, however, and a conviction can result in serious jail time in state or federal prison.
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California’s Drug Diversion Program
If you’re charged with drug possession, in some cases, you could also qualify for a “drug diversion” program where you go into treatment rather than go to jail. In a drug diversion program, your charges will be dismissed upon completion of your treatment.
You may be eligible for the drug diversion program if:
- This is your first offense
- You are a non-violent offender
- You are not charged with any serious drug crime such as possession for sale
Your criminal defense attorney can help you determine if you would be a good candidate for drug diversion. Ultimately, the prosecutor in your case is the one who would recommend you for the drug diversion program.
If you qualify for the drug diversion program, here are a few things to be aware of:
- The court must approve where you get treatment
- The drug diversion program may last 12 months or more
- You will be required to submit to drug testing while you are in the program
- You will also be responsible for paying for a portion of the costs of the drug treatment program, as determined by the court.
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Charges for Different Drug Classifications Affect Jail Time
California and the federal government have adopted a classification method for controlled substances, known as drug scheduling, that is based on how potentially dangerous they can be. All these substances cannot be possessed by any individual unless they have a valid medical prescription for it.
- Schedule I drugs are considered to be the most dangerous. This is based mainly on their high risk of addiction with no practical medical use. While marijuana is on this schedule, so is heroin, LSD, and mescaline.
- Schedule II substances may cause dependency but can serve some legitimate medical uses. Cocaine, methadone, opium, and methamphetamines are listed in this category.
- Schedule III narcotics carry a moderate risk for addiction. Examples include testosterone, ketamine, and anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV drugs include sedatives, clonazepam, and tranquilizers. They are known to carry only a slight risk for dependency and serve important medical needs.
- Schedule V drugs serve obvious medical needs with little or no risk of dependency. An example would be codeine-laced Tylenol.
Different Drug Offenses and Their Jail Consequences in California
In California, a judge always has three options when deciding on a sentence. The standard option is outlined by the law. The other two options are an increase or decrease in sentencing which is typically used in situations where there were extenuating circumstances.
In cases of possession of a Schedule I depressant, a one-year jail sentence may be imposed.
However, in some circumstances, the possession of marijuana is legal in California. Unlawful possession of the drug can result in any of the following penalties:
- Any amount of concentrated cannabis in your possession could result in a year in jail and a fine.
- 28.5 grams or less of marijuana in your possession is considered an infraction with a punishment of a $100 fine.
- More than 28.5 grams of marijuana can result in a fine plus a 6 month jail sentence.
Intent to Sell
An intent to sell a controlled substance charge carries higher penalties than a possession charge. For example, all incarceration penalties for marijuana possession are less than 12 months. However, if you are found guilty of intent to sell marijuana, regardless of the amount, you could serve anywhere from 16 months to three years.
Depending upon the number of drugs you were trying to sell, as well as other factors, the amount of jail time you would receive for drug dealing can fluctuate. A drug sale charge can result in a penalty of up to five years in a California state prison.
Contact the Criminal Defense Lawyers at Simmrin Law Group
If you’ve been arrested for drug possession, hiring an experienced lawyer is your best chance at avoiding a criminal conviction. Whether you have been accused of possession, trafficking, or another illegal controlled substance offense, you can be confident that the Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Simmrin Law Group will vigorously defend you every step of the way.
We’re available to take your call 24/7 for a free consultation. Because of our years of experience with the California criminal justice system, we are able to focus on the important points of your case and properly defend you.