Sacramento & Placer County
Drug Possession in California
California's drug laws have drastically changed over the years. It is a mistake to think an arrest and being charged for a drug offense is anything less than serious. While adult-use and medical marijuana have been decriminalized, most other controlled substances — including synthetic versions and derivative products — are illegal to possess or sell.
In California there are two main categories for crimes of drug possession: simple possession and possession with the intent to sell. A prosecutor can charge a defendant with simple possession when they possess one of the substances listed under the Health and Safety Code. However, "possession for sale" or "purchase for the purpose of sale" can also be charged if there is evidence which suggests the defendant intended to engage in drug dealing. Some of the the evidence looked can be quantity of drugs, amount of cash on hand, and communications (most often texts on phone).
Penalties for Possession
Whether a crime is charged, and what crime may be charged, also depends on the drug being possessed. Under California Health & Safety Code section 11350, it is illegal to be in possession of controlled substances listed in section 11054, including narcotics such as heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, crack, fentanyl, and ketamine. It is also illegal to be in possession of prescription drugs such as Vicodin or codeine if the drugs have not been prescribed lawfully by a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in California.
Possession of methamphetamine, as defined in California Health & Safety Code section 11377, is also a crime. However, with the passage of Proposition 47, people found in possession of the above mentioned drugs will now face misdemeanor charges. But, possessing with the intention to sell, transport, or give it away is still a serious felony offense. Those convicted may face years in state prison. Additionally, in certain circumstances, simple possession of narcotics can be prosecuted as a felony. These include if a defendant had a prior conviction for a sex crime or a serious felony. A felony conviction can be punished by up to three years in county jail.
Since the passage of Proposition 36 in 2000, most charged with simple possession are eligible for a diversion program. With the passage of Proposition 47, these charges have been reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. In most cases, the maximum penalty is up to one year in county jail and/or a fine up to $1,000. However, having narcotics with the intent of selling will preclude the opportunity for a diversion program under Proposition 36. Penalties for sales may include up to four years in state prison.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in California since January 2018. But it is only legal for adults over the age of 21, and you can only possess up to one ounce of marijuana at a time. Growing, selling, or transporting marijuana is still a serious crime in California, and considered felony offenses. A person convicted of any of these charges could face several years in state prison.
Transportation of Drugs
It is against the law to sell, furnish, administer, or otherwise transport a controlled substance. (California Health & Safety Code 11352 and 11379.) This is a felony offense that carries penalties from three to nine years in a state prison. Someone can be charged with this offense even if a friend sells or gives someone some leftover prescription pills.
Call Attorney Jeff Wood for Immediate Legal Assistance.
While the penalties for many drug crimes in California can be severe, defense attorney Jeff Wood knows how to fight for the accused. For a free consultation about your own situation, call (916) 945-8877.