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What is the Drug Policy of California?

California is one of the leaders in shifting from the criminalizing of drug use to treating it as a substance abuse problem in many situations. California has legalized adult use of marijuana and reduced the penalty for cocaine possession to a misdemeanor in some situations.

Penalties for selling cocaine are larger than those for mere cocaine possession in California. Looking at the drug schedule, we see that cocaine in California is a Schedule 2 drug on the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act and the California Health and Safety Code 11350 prohibits cocaine possession in California.

What is Cocaine Possession in California?

The penalty for cocaine possession in California depends on the type of possession you’re convicted of. When you were in control of the cocaine, such as drugs found in your pocket, purse, or body cavity, you are charged with actual possession.

  • If you’re not in direct control of the drugs, such as cocaine found in your vehicle, locker, or home, it is constructive possession.
  • If cocaine is found in a shared space and you were aware of its presence, it is joint possession.
  • If your roommate has cocaine stored in a cabinet and you’re aware of it, that’s joint possession.

possession of cocaine

Is Cocaine Possession a Felony in California?

In 2014, California voters passed a ballot initiative, Proposition 47, that changed simple possession for personal use to a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The goal was to save money prosecuting and housing drug users in prison.

The monies saved are used to prevent future drug abuse by reducing truancy and dropouts and providing drug abuse treatment options, mental health support, and other programs that focus on prevention and recovery instead of punishment.

Possession with intent to sell by certain individuals or in certain locations continues to be a felony.

What is Simple Possession and its Penalties?

Simple cocaine possession in California is possession of a small amount of cocaine for personal use. Individuals charged with simple possession are often given a variety of options as far as the penalties.

An individual with no prior record may be offered drug rehabilitation in a drug diversion program and have the arrest removed from their record if they successfully complete the rehabilitation program.

Depending on the circumstances, individuals who plead guilty may be given probation instead of jail time. Even those who have prior records for drug possession may receive short jail terms as low as a month and not more than six months. If you have your case handled in drug court, it can help you avoid incarceration. Others may be sentenced to up to three years if they have prior convictions.

A drug crime attorney can skillfully navigate the situation in an effort to reduce your risk of a harsh sentence.
Individuals with felony convictions who have prior convictions for serious felonies or those required to register on California’s sex offender registry will face more serious penalties.

Penalties for Possession of Cocaine

Which are the Penalties for Possession of Cocaine for Sale?

Actual possession can be a possession for personal use or possession with the intent to sell. If you’re charged with possession with the intent to sell, the penalties are much harsher. California would rather crackdown on suppliers than users.

The penalty for cocaine powder with the intent to sell can result in prison sentences of 2, 3, or 4 years. Crack cocaine convictions are a year longer. The sentence may be served by combining a year in jail with two or three years in prison.

If the person being convicted has priors, the prison time may increase by three years. Egregious actions such as selling in a school zone, selling cocaine to a minor, and selling large quantities will receive harsher penalties.

If you’re charged with possession with the intent to sell, you’re not entitled to attend drug rehabilitation instead of serving time. Probation might be an option, depending on the specifics of your case and your attorney’s ability to negotiate on your behalf.

Possession with the intent to sell includes possession with the intent to give away the drug. If you buy cocaine for your spouse or friend, you’re exposing yourself to the possibility of being charged with a more serious crime.

A conviction can result in jail or prison time and quite a few professional licensing boards, from insurance to medical, may deny you a license to engage in your occupation as the result of a conviction.

How Can I Defend Against a Cocaine Possession Charge?

Skilled defense attorneys can build a case leading to the best possible outcome based on the specific charges and facts surrounding the case. If a search was involved, challenging the lawfulness of the search is one way to approach the case.

Consult with a drug crime attorney so you’ll know your options.

Shaheen Manshoory
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