There’s no easy answer to the question of how long you go to jail for possession of drugs in California. There are a lot of variables involved. In general, first time misdemeanor drug possession charges are punishable by one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. How long 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) or
- Have it under your control (in your car, in your house, school locker or elsewhere in your possession)
If you have a legitimate medical prescription for the drug, you will not be charged with possession. You also cannot be charged for possession of marijuana in California, as 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.
You have several avenues of defense if you are charged with drug possession. They include, but are not limited to:
- 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
- A problem with lab analysis
- Unlawful search resulting in the seizure of drugs
- And more – ask your criminal defense attorney
So that gets us to the jail time involved for drug possession in California. We’ll focus here on simple possession. 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 possessed the drug. If you have been arrested and charged with possession with intent to sell or federal drug trafficking, these are much more serious crimes, and a conviction can result in serious jail time in state or federal prison.
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 for your drug use rather than go to jail. In a drug diversion program, your charges will be dismissed if you complete 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 more 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.
Contact the Criminal Defense Lawyers at Simmrin Law Group
If you’ve been detained for questioning or arrested for drug possession, hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is your best chance at avoiding a criminal conviction.
If you need a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, call the Simmrin Law Group at 310-997-4688 for a free consultation. We’re available to take your call 24/7. Don’t talk to the police until you talk to us.