Many variables are involved in determining 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 spend in jail for possession of drugs in California depends on several factors, 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
- Previous criminal history
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)
You will not be charged with possession if you have a medical prescription for the drug. 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.
For the courts to charge you with possession, they have to prove two key elements:
- First, you were aware that you had the drug.
- You knew, or it is reasonable that you should have known the drug was illegal.
Typically, simply possessing drugs is much less serious than other drug-related crimes such as selling drugs. Your drug possession attorney could work to prove either of these points to help prove your innocence in your case.
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How a Drug Possession Defense Attorney in California Can Defend You
There are several avenues of defense your Los Angeles drug crimes lawyer can take if you are charged with drug possession. They include, but are not limited to, claiming:
- You did not know the drugs were there (as in, a passenger in your car or a guest in your home left them there)
- You did not know what the drugs were (for example, a friend asked you to hold something for them without telling you what it was)
- You did not “possess” the drugs. Being found near them does not count.
- You have a valid prescription for the drug
- 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 drug possession jail time. Other times, a drug crimes lawyer may be able to get your overall sentence reduced.
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:
- Benzodiazepines: Examples include Xanax, Valium, and Librium. A doctor can prescribe these medications to help patients with disorders like anxiety.
- Stimulants: Examples include amphetamines, methamphetamine, MDMA, Ritalin, Adderall, and cocaine. Some of these are available via prescription to treat disorders such as ADHD.
- Hallucinogens including mescaline, peyote, psilocybin (mushrooms), LSD, MDMA, and ketamine.
- Opiates: Examples include heroin, codeine, oxycodone, and Vicodin. Some of these are available via prescription, such as oxycodone, as options for pain relief.
- Steroids: An example would be testosterone which is available via a doctor’s prescription.
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 while you had the drug.
Possession with intent to sell or federal drug trafficking are much more serious crimes, and a conviction can result in serious jail time in state or federal prison.
The Impact of Drug Use
Despite the relaxation of some laws regarding drug possession, the use of drugs can be detrimental to individuals. For example, the long-term use of cocaine can lead to a loss of touch with reality and panic attacks. And the method of cocaine ingestion can also cause damage. For example, smoking it can cause damage to the lungs. Long-term use can also cause heart problems and an increased risk for stroke.
Heroine is highly addictive, and seekers may go to great lengths to achieve the drug, having uncontrollable drug-seeking behaviors. This can damage a person in many ways, economically, socially, mentally, and emotionally.
California has taken an approach that seeks to end drug use through things like drug diversion programs, which may be an alternative to serving jail time for some drug possession offenders.
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California’s Drug Diversion Program
If you are facing drug charges in California, in some cases, you could qualify for a “drug diversion” program where you go into treatment rather than 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 drug crimes attorney can help you determine if you would be a good candidate for drug diversion. But, 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 could 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, based on how potentially dangerous they can be. All these substances cannot be possessed by any individual unless they have a valid medical prescription.
- 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 are 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 critical medical needs.
- Schedule V drugs serve obvious medical needs with little or no risk of dependency. An example would be codeine-laced Tylenol.
Common Drugs in the State of California
Many drugs and substances are made available to people through illegal means. While many substances can be abused, some commonly abused drugs in the State of California include the following:
- Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant.
- Heroine, which is an opioid providing elements like pain relief and drowsiness.
- Methamphetamine is also a stimulant that provides users with a “high.”
People can also abuse and illegally obtain drugs that may be available via a doctor’s prescription.
Different Drug Offenses and Their Jail Consequences in California
In California, a judge always has three options when deciding a sentence. First, the law outlines the standard option. The other two options are an increase or decrease in sentencing, typically used in situations with 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 and a six-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 a longer jail sentence, particularly if you are caught selling to a minor, anywhere from 16 months to three years.
Sometimes, you may still face possession charges, even if your attorney proves you do not intend to sell.
Depending upon the number of drugs you were trying to sell and other factors, the amount of jail time you would receive for drug dealing can fluctuate. For example, past criminal records, the drugs you were dealing with, and the amount can all affect your sentence. A drug sale charge can result in a penalty of five years in a California state prison.
Your Rights if You Are Accused of Drug Possession
Any time you are accused of a crime, including drug possession, you have certain rights that United States law protects. For example, the state needs to inform you of the crimes you are accused of, and you do not have to incriminate yourself. You also have the right to an attorney who will represent you in your case.
A criminal defense lawyer specializing in drug-related crimes can help you with your defense and what you say to the police during questioning. It is best to proceed cautiously and remain silent until you have an attorney present.
Discuss Your Charges with a Drug Possession Attorney Today
If you have 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 are available to take your call 24/7 for a free consultation. Because of our years of experience with the California criminal justice system, we can focus on the critical points of your case and properly defend you.
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