If you or a loved one have recently been arrested on charges of a drug crime in California, it is in your best interests to secure the services of an experienced drug crimes defense attorney without delay. While the punishments for drug crimes vary greatly depending on the specific crime, the details of the case, and the defendant's past criminal record, the consequences are always far too severe to risk going to court unrepresented.
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we have deep experience in successfully defending clients against drug crime charges in Pasadena and throughout Southern California. We know how to build you a solid defense and secure for you the best possible outcome to your case, regardless of the specific charge you face.
To learn more about California drug crimes defense and to avail yourself of a free legal consultation on the details of your case, contact us 24/7 at 626-689-2277.
Below, we will briefly survey a number of the most common types of drug crime cases we handle on a routine basis, defining the crime and looking at possible punishments and defense strategies.
California Health and Safety Code Section 11350 covers the most basic and least serious of California drug crimes — possession of a controlled substance, or "simple possession."
Simple possession is the act of possessing on your person ("immediate possession") or having in your control ("constructive possession") any illegal drug or a prescription drug for which you have no valid prescription.
Illegal narcotics, for the purpose of the statute, are defined based on the United States Controlled Substances Act. Examples would be cocaine, meth, heroin, and LSD. Commonly abused prescription drugs include: Vicodin, codeine, and OxyContin.
Under HSC 11350, you will normally face a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 12 months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. In most cases, however, you can qualify for a drug diversion program under Prop 36 or Penal Code Section 1000. Drug diversion programs help first-time and "low key" offenders stay out of jail in exchange for completion of a drug treatment program and other criteria. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we have well seasoned negotiation skills that often allow us to get our clients approved for a drug diversion program when an outright dismissal or acquittal is not possible.
In some cases, possession of a controlled substance can be charged as a felony. This is often the case where the defendant has a serious felony or sex crime already on his or her record. Felony level violations of HSC 11350 are punishable by from 16 months to 3 years in jail.
We at Pasadena Criminal Attorney utilize a number of effective defense strategies against simple possession charges, including the following:
- Lack of possession. It may be the controlled substance in question was never on your person or under your control. Perhaps, you were falsely accused or were arrested with others at a location where drugs were possessed by others. But unless you yourself possessed a drug illegally, you are not guilty of this crime.
- Lack of knowledge. It may be you were unaware of the drugs' presence. Perhaps, someone else planted them on your person or hid them in your place of residence or in your car. To be guilty of drug possession, you must have knowingly possessed illegal drugs.
- "Temporary possession." If you only possessed the drugs for a very brief period of time, while you were attempting to dispose of them, you are not guilty of HSC 11350. This "exception clause" does not apply, however, if you were disposing of the drugs to avoid being caught by the police.
- Possession of a valid prescription. If you can show that you indeed did have a valid prescription for a legal drug, and that you had that amount only that was prescribed and used the drug for valid purposes only, then you are not guilty of drug possession.
- Illegal search and seizure. If the drugs in question were obtained via an unconstitutional search and seizure, or if the police falsified or planted evidence, did not read you your Miranda rights, or otherwise violated your rights, we can likely get evidence against you declared inadmissible in court. This usually results in the charges being dropped.
Possession for Sale
Under HSC 11351, it is a crime to possess a controlled substance while having an intention to sell it. This is a more serious crime than simple possession (for personal use) and is treated more harshly. In fact, you cannot qualify for a drug diversion program if found guilty of possession for sale. How do police and prosecutors decide if drugs found in possession of an individual are likely destined for sale? There are a number of "clues" they rely on, including:
- Large quantities of drugs.
- Drugs divided into numerous separate containers.
- The presence of scales to measure out the drugs.
- The presence of firearms.
- The presence of large amounts of cash in small bills.
All of these clues, however, are inconclusive, and the defense can present other valid reasons for them. And that is a top defense strategy for reducing a possession for sale charge to that of simple possession.
Police and prosecutors also rely on tips and information from police informants. These, however, are often unreliable, and yet, police may well act on such tips without a valid search warrant. This can lead to the evidence being "suppressed" and the case being dismissed.
Possession for sale is a felony charge in California, punishable by 2 to 4 years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000. A good defense lawyer, however, may be able to get you a plea deal that will reduce the sentence to probation and 12 months in jail. Alternatively, the same defenses used against simple possession and the defenses against the intent to sell can be used to defeat the charge entirely.
Drug Sales or Transport
HSC 11352 criminalizes the sale, giving away, administration, transportation, or importation (into the state of California) of a controlled substance. However, certain controlled substances, like marijuana and meth, are exempted from HSC 11352 and are handled under other statutes.
Also note that, since a change in the law in 2014, it is no longer considered "drug transport" to move drugs from place to place for the purpose of personal use only. Instead, there must be an intent to sell the transported drugs or administer or distribute them.
HSC 11352 is a felony charge, punishable by 3 to 9 years in county jail and a maximum fine of $20,000. But if drugs were sold to minors or if very large quantities of drugs were transported or sold, the punishment will be even more severe.
In most cases, undercover agents in sting operations and controlled buys are behind drug sales and transport charges being filed. But often enough, police entrapment occurs and leads to the charge being dismissed. Other possible defenses include:
- You only possessed the drugs for purposes of personal use.
- You had no intention of selling drugs but are being accused based on circumstantial evidence.
- The drugs were discovered in an illegal search/seizure.
Possession of Meth
Possession of methamphetamine is handled separately under HSC 11377 in California. Due to the passage of Prop 47, meth possession is normally now only a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
If meth was possessed with intent to sell or was actually sold, transported for sale, or manufactured, it is a felony. And if a defendant has a previous sex crime conviction or serious felony, even simple possession of meth can be a felony, punishable by 16 months to 3 years in jail.
Common defense strategies used against HSC 11377 (meth possession) include:
- Possession of a valid prescription for meth and adherence to that prescription as to when, how much, and for what purpose the meth was taken.
- The meth was not yours. Even though it was planted on your person or premises, it belonged to someone else.
- You were unaware of the meth's presence and/or of its nature as a controlled substance.
Despite the legalization of medical marijuana in California in 1996 and the legalization of recreational use of marijuana via Prop 64 in 2016, it is still possible to be convicted of marijuana crimes in California today.
For example, you are only allowed to possess around an ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana or 4 grams of concentrated cannabis — and only if you are 21 years old or older.
Many of the penalties for violating the "rules" of marijuana use in California are light, but some are heavy.
For example, possessing marijuana while under 21 is an infraction, punishable by a $100 fine, community service, and mandatory drug counseling. Possession of over the one-ounce limit is a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Cultivating over 6 marijuana plants is sometimes a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine; but it can also be a felony, for repeat offenders or those with serious criminal records. And possession for sale without a license can also be a felony.
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we understand the complexities of California marijuana law and can defend you effectively against such charges. Some of the defenses are the same as for ordinary simple possession of a controlled substance, while others concern your compliance with the details of marijuana-specific legislation.
Manufacturing Illegal Drugs
Under HSC 11379.6, it is illegal to manufacture or process any controlled substance in California. To be guilty, you must have already actually begun to manufacture the drug, rather than simply gathered the equipment and chemicals needed to do so.
Drug manufacturing is among the most harshly punished of California drug crimes. It is punishable by as much as 7 years in state prison and a $50,000 fine. And when large quantities of drugs were manufactured or the drug lab located in a place where children are present (or nearby), the prison term can be even longer.
Possible defense strategies include:
- You only prepared to manufacture drugs but never actually did so.
- The drug lab was only found due to an illegal search/seizure.
- While present at the drug lab when a raid occurred, you were not involved in operating it.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
HSC 11364 criminalizes the possession of pipes, needles, coke spoons, and other equipment used in the consumption of illegal drugs.
A HSC 11364 conviction is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. And if you are a teacher or have other professional licenses, you can lose your license upon a HSC 11364 conviction.
In most cases, however, you will qualify for a drug diversion program even if convicted on charges of possessing drug paraphernalia. And as much of the evidence is frequently obtained by illegal searches/seizures, it is often possible to get evidence suppressed and the case dismissed.
Other possible defenses include:
- The equipment discovered by police was not, in fact, "drug paraphernalia."
- While the equipment found by police was indeed drug paraphernalia, you had no idea that it had that status.
- The drug paraphernalia was not yours, nor were you aware of its presence.
Being "Under the Influence" of a Controlled Substance
Under HSC Section 11550, it is a misdemeanor to use or be under the influence of any illegal drug or of a prescription drug for which you have no valid prescription.
HSC 11550 is punishable by up to 12 months in county jail, up to 5 years of probation, mandatory drug counseling, and community service.
- You were not under the influence of a drug but were merely exhausted or suffering from a medical condition.
- You had a valid prescription for the drug and follow the doctor's orders.
- Someone else caused you to become intoxicated. You did not do it "willfully."
Contact Us Today for Help
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we stand ready to rush to you aid in your hour of need with top-tier legal defense against drug crimes charges. We have extensive expertise in every drug crimes practice area, ranging from simple possession to high-profile drug trafficking charges.
Over our many years of serving Pasadena, L.A., and surrounding areas in Southern California, we have helped numerous clients win the best possible outcome to their cases, and we can do the same for you.
For a free legal consultation, call us anytime 24/7/365 at 626-689-2277, and we will be happy to assist you.