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California has some of the harshest sentences for drug-related crimes in the country. Consequently, someone facing a drug charge should not assume the court will let them off with a proverbial slap on the wrist. The advice and services of a criminal defense attorney should be sought in this situation to minimize any potential punishment.

While California has moved away from classifying all drug possession crimes as felonies in recent years, new drug possession laws were passed in 2016, indicating the government is still giving this area of the law a hard look.

Outside of the punishment, a conviction for drug possession can automatically disqualify any potential employee from consideration if an offense of this type is on his or her record. Thus, the long-term implications of charges for drug possession are huge, and a discussion of how the law treats drug possession generally, as well as the provisions of the new laws, follows.

Drug Possession Generally

California has two broad categories for drug possession offenses: simple possession (for personal use) and possession with the intent to sell.

Further, any drug or compound that is regulated by the government on its use, manufacture and possession is considered a controlled substance, and either requires a valid prescription to possess, or is classified as illegal and any possession is banned entirely. Simple possession is charged when a person is found with a substance listed under the Health and Safety Code. These charges are typically treated as either an infraction (punishable by fines) or a misdemeanor (fines and/or jail time). However, the penalties can be much harsher, including prison sentences and hefty fines in the thousands of dollars, depending on the type of substance a person is holding and the amount.

When the charges relate to the sale of controlled substances, the potential consequences are much more serious. A charge of possessing controlled substances for sale is used when the person is suspected of possessing the drugs with intent to sell but no actual transaction took place.

This offense is classified as a felony and results in probation with a year in county jail or up to four years in county jail. Even more serious is if there is evidence of a sale of controlled substances. In this case, the defendant could receive a sentence of up to nine years in jail if the controlled substances were transported across two or more counties.

New Synthetic Drug Ban

Near the end of 2016, the legislature passed a new law banning possession and sale of all synthetic cannabinoids (such as the popular drug “Spice”).

Possession for personal use is;

  • An infraction for the first offense ($250 fine)
  • An infraction or misdemeanor for the second offense ($500 and/or six months in jail)
  • A misdemeanor for subsequent offenses ($1,000 and/or 6 months in jail)

Further, the court has the authority to divert some defendants to a drug treatment program in lieu of criminal charges. The sale or distribution of synthetic cannabinoids is classified as a misdemeanor subject to $1,000 fines and/or six months in jail.

New Classification for Date-Rape Drugs

California also recently added a law that raised the level of the crime for possession of drugs commonly associated with date-rape cases (e.g., ketamine, GHB and Rohypnol) from a misdemeanor to a felony. There must be evidence of an intent to commit sexual assault to elevate the offense, and the new sentencing guidelines impose jail time for 16 months or two to three years.

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

Having a drug conviction on your record is a serious issue, but an experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to effectively argue for diversion to a drug treatment program or dismissal of all charges. The Manshoory Law Group, APC, representing clients in Los Angeles, will fight to get you the best possible results. Attorneys are available 24/7.

Contact the office for a free consultation.

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