Dealing with Drug Possession Criminal Charges in the State of California

Criminal drug possession is a serious matter in California. The severity of the offense depends, in part, on both the nature of the drug at issue and whether possession is accompanied by intent to sell. Individuals charged with either simple possession or possession with intent to sell should discuss the protection of their rights with a skilled California criminal defense attorney.

Drugs are Classified as Controlled Substances in California

Drugs are termed “controlled substances” by California law. Because there is a wide array of controlled substances, they are grouped into a number of classifications. The body of law that defines and groups controlled substances in the California Health and Safety Code. It prohibits the possession of certain controlled substances absent a valid medical prescription. The CHSC defines a controlled substance as any drug or chemical whose manufacture, possession, and use are regulated by the U.S. government in accordance with the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. In this way, California law integrates aspects of federal law.

The most common examples of prohibited controlled substances are opiates, cocaine, and heroin.  These substances, sometimes termed “narcotics,” are not the only ones made illegal to possess. Certain prescription drugs unaccompanied by valid prescription are unlawful to possess, as well, such as codeine and Vicodin. Other controlled substances falling under the purview of both state and federal law are multi-ingredient substances such as methamphetamine and PCP.

Possession is a Factor of Knowledge

If you have been charged with a drug possession crime in the state of California, the state’s prosecutor will have to prove that you, in fact, possessed a drug criminalized by the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.  The classic scenario of possession involves the direct and immediate physical contact with a controlled substance on one’s person. It is important to understand that a purse, briefcase, backpack, or other such personal container is considered an extension of one’s person in the eyes of the law.

There are other types of possession – involving property, for example – but no matter the type, knowledge must be proven. Specifically, the state’s prosecutor must prove that the individual charged with criminal drug possession knew of the presence of the controlled substance and  the nature of the controlled substance.

Drug Possession Consequences Depend on the Severity of the Offense

The consequences of a conviction for criminal drug possession depend on the nature of the controlled substance at issue, the defendant’s criminal history, and whether there are any aggravating circumstances (e.g. intent to sell) present. First-time offenders with no criminal history or aggravating circumstances face up a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in the county jail. Prison time may increase, even doubling or tripling, for conviction of an offender with a prior conviction for a serious felony. Again, there are many types of controlled substances, and other considerations stemming from the circumstances unique to each drug possession case. To understand the charges against you and, most importantly, to protect your rights, speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney.