Drug offenses in California can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the type of drug, whether you sold or intended to sell the drug, were manufacturing it, and the circumstances under which you were arrested.
Possession of marijuana is generally a misdemeanor if the quantity is less than 28.5 grams, as is possession of drug-related items such as a scale, bong, or other paraphernalia. You can face up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine if you possess more than 28.5 grams, unless there is an intent to sell. A first-time drug possession offender may be eligible for an alternative disposition or a deferred judgment whereby after completion of a court-ordered drug education and/or treatment program and a certain period where no other charges are filed, the charges can be dismissed.
A misdemeanor in California carries a maximum jail sentence of up to one year and up to $1,000.
Driving under the influence of a drug is a misdemeanor so long as you were not involved in an accident where there was a serious injury or a fatality, in which case you can be charged with a felony.
You are required under the implied consent law to take a blood or urine test to detect the presence of a drug, or risk a one year suspension of your driver’s license, if the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence. Unlike alcohol, however, many drugs remain in the body for days or weeks at a time so there is no way of proving that you took the drug just before you operated your vehicle. An officer can use specialized training to testify as to the presence of a certain class of drug in your body based on his observations.
You can lose your license for 4 months for a first offense and one year or longer for subsequent offenses. A first-time offense will not subject you to jail but subsequent offenses do carry jail sentences, which can be enhanced if injuries are involved or there are other aggravating circumstances.
Possession of a controlled substance other than marijuana is generally a felony offense, although first-time offenders may qualify for diversion whereby their charges can be dismissed upon completion of a treatment or drug education program.
Second-time offenders may also be eligible to take a drug or substance abuse treatment program in lieu of jail under Proposition 36.
These are felony offenses for any controlled substance, including marijuana. The quantity found in your possession can determine if it was just for your personal use or that it is sufficiently large to indicate the intent to sell. If other paraphernalia such as scales, baggies, and a large amount of cash is found with the drug, it can be evidence of your intent to sell.
Depending upon the type of controlled substance, you face certain minimum jail sentences and fines. Selling a certain quantity of heroin can subject you to a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years.
If you have a prior possession with intent to sell drug conviction, you face a sentence enhancement of at least 3 years in jail.
If you were involved in any manner with transporting a controlled substance or with purchasing it, you can be charged with trafficking, which is a felony offense. This crime usually involves smuggling or importing drugs for sale. Your involvement can include conspiring to sell or aiding or abetting someone else to do so.
If convicted, you face imprisonment from 3 to 5 years.
This generally applies to those who maintain labs where methamphetamine is made or where marijuana is grown. Possessing the chemicals and equipment to manufacture methamphetamine or other illegal drugs is a felony offense as well.
Manufacturing methamphetamine carries a prison sentence of up to 7 years and a $50,000 fine. Jail time for cultivating marijuana depends on the amount of plants being grown. Jail and fines can be substantial.
The following are some common defenses to drug charges:• Lack of reasonable suspicion of a criminal offense to stop and detain someone • Lack of probable cause to obtain a search warrant • Improper or overbroad search of a person or property • Lack of proof that you were in possession of a drug • Validity of drug tests