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Common Drug Offense Penalties in California

Penalties for drug offenses vary considerably under California law. For starters, several different types of actions violate state drug laws, including possessing drugs, selling them, transporting them, or manufacturing or cultivating them. Each of these offenses has different types of penalties, and on top of that there are hundreds or even thousands of different types of controlled substances. When you add the possibility of aggravating factors that could enhance sentences even further, it’s easy to see how this area can get confusing quickly.

While the best way to know what you’re up against is to talk to a qualified Riverside criminal defense lawyer about the specifics of your case, we can give you a general idea of what California’s drug crime laws have to say. Here are some of the most common drug offenses and the penalties associated with them.

Possession of a Controlled Substance

Health & Safety Code 11350 covers “Possession of a Controlled Substance,” which means possessing drugs without authorization. While many people automatically think of “hard” drugs such as methamphetamines, opioids, or cocaine, this category also can include drugs that are readily available such as Vicodin or codeine. Of course, if the drugs have been prescribed by your doctor, then you are authorized to have them and have not committed an offense.

Possession of a foreign substance used to be a felony, but Proposition 47 passed by California voters in 2014 changed possession to a misdemeanor for many offenders, which means you could face up to a year in jail and fine of up to $1,000 for a first, simple offense. For a drug crime that’s still at the felony level, you could face years of prison time.

Furthermore, the offense changes when you possess drugs with the intent of selling them. Possession with intent to sell is covered under Health & Safety Code 11351 and is a felony. The exact nature of the penalties you’ll face will depend on the amount of the substance you’re found to possess, what type of substance it is, and where you’re found in possession of it. However, penalties do depend on police being able to prove that you intended to sell the substance while possessing it.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Drug paraphernalia includes anything used to create or consume drugs, including opium pipes, hypodermic needles, cocaine spoons, and much more. In fact, the law is so broad that nearly anything could be interpreted as “paraphernalia,” which is worrisome to many people. Some experts believe the law is too vague and gives law enforcement the power to question and arrest people without any case or strong evidence against them.

Possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor that can carry up to six months in jail, but usually results in a fine. This offense also qualifies for California’s diversion program under Prop. 36. However, possession of these devices with the intent to sell them to a minor carries far heavier penalties.

Drug Manufacturing

Most controlled substances are not naturally occurring; they need to be created, refined, manufactured, or cultivated. Drug manufacture or cultivation without authorization is against the law and carries some extremely strict penalties—the harshest of any simple drug crime in California. For example, methamphetamines can be manufactured with ingredients found in many common household items. However, using these ingredients to manufacture meth is punishable by up to seven years in prison and the sentence only increases with larger quantities.

In the past it was illegal to possess your own marijuana plants, even if they were purely for personal use and you had no intention of selling or trading the leaves grown. The laws have changed in recent years, but it remains against the law to possess more than six marijuana plants for personal use. Criminal marijuana cultivation is a misdemeanor that can carry up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

If you’ve been accused of a drug offense, talk to a skilled attorney about your case as soon as possible! Contact Blumenthal & Moore at (951) 682-5110 to schedule your case evaluation!

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