Hiring A California Attorney For Your Drug Possession ChargeGetting hit with a drug possession charge in California can be a nightmare for you and just as troubling for those affected by it such as your spouse or kids. Despite California’s move in recent years towards reducing penalties for drug offenses, a conviction for drug possession can still severely impact your freedom as well as your ability to land a job, rent an apartment, take out a loan, or even get a professional license. For this reason, it’s important that you not only know the drug possession laws in California, but that you also understand your rights if you have been charged with one or more offenses. Here’s more on drug possession offenses in California and what you should do if you ever have a run-in with the law.
Key Elements Of Drug Possession In California
Care, custody, control or management. This is what it means to be in possession of a drug in California. If a drug is in your care or control, then according to California law, you are possessing the drug. The penalties or consequences depend largely on the specific type of drug involved, the amount of it, and your intentions in possessing it.
Generally, a small quantity of a drug suggests simple possession in California while a larger quantity suggests an intent to sell the drug to others. Think of someone getting caught with a small baggie of cocaine or marijuana versus a Breaking Bad situation in which someone has been operating a meth lab and creating pounds of it to push to dealers.
Critically, in a drug possession case, California prosecutors must also show that you had knowledge that you were possessing an illegal controlled substance. Whether or not you knew that you possessed the illegal drug is something which a jury often decides if your case goes to trial.
Consequences Of Drug Possession
According to the California Health and Safety Code, possession of the following controlled substances are misdemeanors and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in county jail, or both: Schedule I cocaine, opiates, opium derivatives, peyote, mescaline, and synthetic cannabis; Schedule II opiates or narcotics; Schedule III hallucinogens; and Schedule III, IV and V narcotics. The penalties get more severe with subsequent offenses. Also, under California law, possession with intent to sell is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $20,000 or two-to-four years in jail, or both.
However, for first time nonviolent offenders who are not charged with selling, manufacturing or trafficking drugs, California offers a diversion program which could allow you to avoid jail time and to get your charge dismissed or dropped. Not all qualify, including those who have felony convictions within the last five years or those who have gone through a deferred entry of judgement or diversion program in the last five years. A criminal defense attorney can advise you as to whether a diversion program is applicable and suitable for your situation.
There Are Still Marijuana Possession Consequences In California
Marijuana has been decriminalized in California; however, it is not legal under federal law and it is not legal under California law in certain circumstances.
Specifically, if you are 21 or older, you are allowed to buy, possess and consume as much as 28.5 grams of pot in addition to eight grams of concentrated marijuana. You could even grow up to six plants in your home. However, marijuana use is only permitted in a private residence or some government-regulated marijuana business. In other words, you aren’t allowed to smoke in public places including the street, park or beach. You also aren’t allowed to smoke while driving or where smoking cigarettes is disallowed. Finally, there are also certain places like schools and daycares where possession is illegal.
In California, you face a $100 fine for possessing up to 28.5 grams, and possibly a $500 fine and up to six months for possessing more than 28.5 grams. Concentrated cannabis possession carries a possible $500 fine and jail sentence of up to a year.
Possible Defenses Which Can Get You Off The Hook For Drug Possession
One of the most common methods of defending yourself in a drug possession case is to dispute that it was you who possessed the drug. The prosecutor is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you possessed it; however, there might not be direct evidence in this regard. What if the drug belonged to someone else? What if it was found in a room or car in which you did not have access? Should there be a question of identity in the minds of the jury, then you could be found not guilty.
Another thing that the prosecutor has to show is that you knew that you possessed the drug. But what if you did not actually know? For example, it is possible that you did not know about the drug left in your car by someone else the night before you were pulled over, in which case you might have been in possession of the drug but had not knowingly possessed it. If there is a question as to your knowledge of possessing an illegal drug, then you could be found not guilty.
Remember that you also have constitutional rights which could make a world of a difference in your case. Specifically, your constitutional rights protect you from things like illegal searches and seizures. For example, an officer generally must have probable cause to believe that you are breaking the law in order to pull you over. In order to search your car without your consent, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of an illicit drug. Otherwise, the search is likely unconstitutional, and your case could be dismissed.
Moreover, law enforcement does not just get to barge in your home all willy-nilly and start searching everywhere to find drugs. There typically has to be a valid search warrant or some probable cause enabling them to enter your apartment. Without it, the search could be challenged. Critically, even if the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were in possession of an illegal drug, an illegal search and seizure can result in the inadmissibility of the prosecutor’s evidence. If this happens, then your case could get tossed.
Another defense that may be available to you is entrapment. This is where law enforcement basically causes or induces you to commit a crime. It could be that an undercover police officer had pressured or persuaded you into possessing the drug. If an officer told you that possessing something wasn’t illegal when it actually was illegal, and you possessed the drug as a result, then according to California law, you have just been entrapped.
Hiring A California Attorney If You Have Been Arrested For Drug Possession
Fighting a drug charge is not a walk in the park – but far from it. The prosecutor’s sole objective is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense. Without an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner, your situation could go from bad to worse. Don’t let that happen. Getting representation early is critical to building a strong case for your defense. The attorneys at My Rights Law have extensive experience protecting the rights of the accused in criminal cases. If you have been charged with a drug possession offense, then call (888) 702-8882 or contact us for a free consultation regarding your case.