In California, crimes involving illegal drugs or controlled substances can include any of the following:
- Possession for Personal Use
- Possession of Drugs for Sale
- Trafficking (transporting, buying, selling)
- Cultivation or Manufacture
- Conspiracy to do any of the above
In California, there are four main types of drug charges:
- Possession: For most controlled substances, possession for personal use is a felony. Misdemeanor charges include marijuana possession, being under the influence of a drug, and possession of drug-related paraphernalia. To be convicted, the prosecution must prove that you knew about and controlled the drug in question. Even if you did not have drugs on your person when you were arrested, you can be convicted of possession if drugs are found in your car, home, purse, or backpack.
- Possession for Sale: It is a felony to possess or buy illegal drugs that you intend to sell. The prosecution is not required to prove actual sale of the drugs – intent to sell is all that is required. Money need not change hands to be convicted of drug possession for sale. Intent to sell can be proven by evidence such as drug packaging (multiple small bundles of the drug), weighing scales, cutting agents, people coming to and leaving from your home at all hours of the day, fortified windows, conversations with police informants, undercover officers, or wiretapped telephone conversations.
- Drug Trafficking: California drug trafficking laws prohibit the transportation, importation, and distribution of controlled substances. Transporting, importing, or selling drugs is a felony, except in the case of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana being transported for personal use, which qualifies as a misdemeanor offense. You can also be charged and convicted of trafficking if you aid, abet, or conspire with anyone to sell or purchase illegal drugs.
- Manufacturing Drugs: In California it is a felony to:
- Plant, cultivate or harvest marijuana (where medical marijuana laws do not apply)
- Manufacture illegal drugs (such as methamphetamine or crack cocaine)
- Possess the chemicals necessary to manufacture illegal drugs
DRUG CRIME PENALTIES CAN BE HARSH
The penalties attached to drug offenses are very serious. Imprisonment in county jail or state prison could result. Land, homes, automobiles, and personal property (including money) linked to the drug crime may be seized as part of forfeiture proceedings. Loss of driver’s license, fines, and registration as a narcotics offender may also result from a drug-related conviction.
The severity of the charge and nature of the punishment imposed depends on the type and quantity of the drugs involved, whether the drugs were for personal use or sale, and the prior criminal record (if any) of the defendant. For example, a second offense for sale of narcotics includes a minimum 3-year enhancement in addition to any punishment for the actual offense.
HAVE A GOOD DRUG CRIMES DEFENSE LAWYER
The most powerful defense for a drug bust or drug crime is the evidence and how it was obtained. Law enforcement gathers most evidence through “search and seizure.” You have a constitutional right to be free from illegal and unreasonable searches and seizures. What this means is that any illegally obtained evidence cannot be used by the prosecution in its case against you. However, in order to keep illegally obtained evidence out of court, you must object. This is where having a skilled Long Beach drug crimes lawyer comes in. This is a complicated and technical part of California criminal law and is treacherous for the inexperienced criminal defense lawyer. A successful challenge results in the illegally obtained evidence being “suppressed.” Once the evidence against you is suppressed, it becomes far more likely to have the case dismissed or beat the charges at trial.
SENTENCING ALTERNATIVES FOR DRUG CRIMES
In California, drug treatment is considered more appropriate than jail time for non-violent individuals with drug abuse problems. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for one of these alternative sentencing programs:
- Proposition 36: Under California’s “Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act” first and second-time non-violent “simple drug possession” offenders can receive substance abuse treatment instead of jail time. This includes one year of outpatient, halfway house, narcotic replacement therapy, education classes and/or limited inpatient treatment, plus six months of “after care” treatment.
- Deferred Entry of Judgment (also known as DEJ or Diversion): The defendant enters a guilty plea, but is not convicted. Instead, the case is put on hold for 18 months, during which the defendant must take a 6-month drug education course and avoid an arrest or conviction of another crime. The case is dismissed after 18 months. The felony is completely wiped away.
- Drug Court: This involves a “supervision-and-treatment” program typically separated in phases that offer the defendant more freedoms as he or she completes each phase. In rare cases, jail time is required. Once the defendant completes the program, the case is dismissed.
AN EXPERIENCED LONG BEACH DRUG CRIMES LAWYER
As you can see from this short introduction to California drug laws, drug cases and penalties are complex. Because of this, it is important to hire a skilled California drug crime attorney. Jerry Nicholson, a Long Beach drug crimes lawyer with over 30 years of proven courtroom experience, has successfully defended many clients in drug matters, often helping them to avoid a conviction entirely. He has assisted many clients with alternative sentencing programs such as electronic monitoring and house arrest. If you are facing a drug charge, call or contact Jerry Nicholson for a FREE CONSULTATION without delay.