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Just Because You Live in California, Doesn’t Mean You Can’t be Charged For Possessing Drugs

In California, the drug laws have recently changed, leading many to believe that the consequences for traditional drug crimes may no longer be as severe. Do not be fooled, you can still face serious criminal charges if you are found in possession of illegal substances, and even prescription substances for which you do not have a legal prescription. A drug lawyer could advocate on your behalf if you are facing drug possession charges.

What is Important to Know

There are varying categories of a drug offense. Under California Health and Safety Code 11350, anyone found in possession of a controlled substance may be sentenced to up to one year in county jail and be required to pay a fine. This law applies to illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine, as well as prescription narcotics if they have been obtained without a valid prescription. If the person charged has prior drug convictions, they may be subject to more severe penalties for a possession charge.

In What Instances Can I Face Serious Drug Charges?

It is important to remember, that while some drug possession charges can seem minor and “not that big of a deal,” drug charges can affect a variety of opportunities in your life. You could find yourself being denied housing, having a hard time securing employment, or even being unable to volunteer for certain programs if you have a drug conviction on your record. So you should always seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing drug possession charges.

With that being said, some charges come with more severe penalties than others.

Marijuana Offenses

Marijuana offenses in California are treated differently. If a person is caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, they are typically not prosecuted, and possessing up to 28.5g is punishable by a fine. For those under 18, there is a fine and a drug education course and counseling. If someone is caught with more than 28.5g, they can face up to 6 months in jali and a $500 fine. While marijuana offenses are treated differently, it is important to note that marijuana is still a Schedule I drug under federal law and can be punished as a federal offense.

Felony Drug Offenses

While marijuana offenses can come with less severe penalties in California, other drug charges are still prosecuted harshly. The following actions are considered felonies and can include lengthy prison sentences:

  • Possession for sale of narcotics
    • Possessing drugs for sale is treated differently than possessing drugs for personal use. In some cases, possession of even a small amount of narcotics can be prosecuted as a If you are caught with illegal drugs, you could be charged with possession with the intent to sell, a felony. If a large amount of drugs are seized by the police, you may face drug trafficking charges, which is a felony that comes with a long prison sentence.
  • Sale or transport of a control substance
    • Getting caught selling or moving illegal drugs from one place to another with the intent to sell is considered a felony. An example of this could be driving substances from one place to another for a drug dealer in exchange for money.
  • Manufacturing drugs and narcotics
    • Not only does California Law prohibit the making of illegal drugs and narcotics (i.e. mixing substances to crate a drug or operating a “lab”), but it also prohibits participating in any process that leads to the development of such drugs.

No matter how major or minor you think your drug charges may be, it is important to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side. At the Nieves Law Firm, we understand just how much drug possession charges can impact your life in the present and the future. We are well-versed on the possible defenses for various drug charges in California, and our team can develop the best defense strategy possible for your case. Give us a call today (510)-256-9359, or visit our website to learn more.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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