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Drug Possession

Have you been arrested and charged with drug possession in Los Angeles? If so, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Barhoma Law, P.C. right away.

Law enforcement and the courts take possession of illicit substances seriously, which is why it is crucial to have an attorney by your side. If you possess a controlled substance without permission, it’s a violation of California drug laws, and you could face a misdemeanor or felony. You could also face charges of possession with the intent to sell or another severe offense if you get arrested with a large number of narcotics.

We will do everything in our power to help get your charges reduced or dropped. The first step you need to take is to call us at (213) 800-7664 or reach out to us online to schedule a confidential consultation with us to discuss your case.

I’ve Been Charged With Drug Possession in L.A. What Does That Mean?

An individual can be charged with drug possession if they are found to have an illicit substance in their possession for personal use, distribution, sale, or another reason. The state of California defines and regulates controlled substances and places them on a schedule:

  • Schedule I includes opiates, cocaine, and mescaline
  • Schedule II includes morphine, raw opium, and other narcotics
  • Schedule III includes anabolic steroids and pentobarbital
  • Schedule IV includes many prescriptions drugs, such as zolpidem and diazepam
  • Schedule V includes lesser-controlled prescription medications, such as codeine prescribed in low doses

For the court to find you guilty of drug possession, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The substance found in your possession is a controlled substance
  • You knew the drug was a controlled substance
  • You possessed the controlled substance illegally and unlawfully
  • You possessed an amount of the controlled substance that you could use
  • You were aware of the presence of the controlled substance

Many people think drug possession means that the substance is on your person. However, you can get charged with drug possession in three different ways.

  • Actual possession: The drug is physically on you, such as in a pocket on your clothing.
  • Constructive possession: The drug is in a place where you can access it readily, such as in your car, home, or gym locker.
  • Joint possession: When the drug is in a space shared by two parties. If you purchase a controlled substance with someone else, that could also be joint possession.
Penalties for Drug Possession

If you get caught with a controlled substance, you could face a misdemeanor charge. The punishment is up to one year in jail, probation, and random drug testing and searches. The penalty for a felony charge is up to three years in state prison.

If you get arrested for the possession of heroin, cocaine, or another similar drug with the intent to sell, you could get a jail sentence of two to five years and up to a $20,000 fine.

Laws Regarding the Legalization of Marijuana

Under Proposition 64, the personal possession and growing of marijuana became legal in California for individuals 21 years of age and over. California became the eighth state in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in private. However, it’s still illegal on a federal level.

Proposition 64 allows up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use and the growth of no more than six plants in a private residence. Adults can also purchase up to an ounce of cannabis or eight grams of marijuana edibles within one day from a state-licensed dispensary.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal. You’re also not allowed to operate a motor vehicle while consuming marijuana or traveling with an “open container” of it.

Anyone under the age of 18 in possession of marijuana could face a misdemeanor offense. It’s also illegal if they have over 28.5 grams on them. It becomes a felony if someone at least 18 years old sells or distributes drugs to a minor.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

According to the California Health and Safety Code section 11364, it’s illegal to possess an instrument, device, or paraphernalia that a person can use to inject or smoke a controlled substance unlawfully. Some common drug paraphernalia includes:

  • Methamphetamine pipes
  • Syringes
  • Miniature cocaine spoons

It’s important to note that marijuana is legal in California due to Proposition 64. What many people don’t know is that California’s Health and Safety Code never actually applied to marijuana-related paraphernalia like bongs or papers for rolling joints, so these items remain legal to possess in the state.

The possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor crime. If you get charged, you could face up to 364 days in county jail and up to a $1,000 fine. You also might get probation or parole after you serve your jail sentence, which could subject you to random drug searches and testing by officers.

Business owners found guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia could lose their business license and face a denied application when attempting to obtain a new one.

Possession of Cocaine

California considers the personal use of cocaine a misdemeanor offense. If you get charged with simple possession, you could face the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • $1,000 fine for the first offense and $2,000 for the second offense
  • Formal probation
  • Community service
  • Court-ordered drug program

If you have cocaine in your possession and specific circumstances exist, such as a previous felony charge, you could face a felony possession charge and three years in state prison.

Possession of Prescription Drugs Without a Prescription

There’s been an increase in the amount of prescription medications people abuse. If you have any type of drug in your possession without a valid prescription, you could face drug possession charges. You’ll most likely get charged with a misdemeanor for this kind of offense. However, if you have a prior felony conviction or you’re a registered sex offender, you could get charged with a felony.

The punishment for possession of a prescription drug without a prescription includes:

  • One year in a county jail for a misdemeanor. Up to three years in state prison for a felony
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Community service
  • Court-ordered drug education program
  • Formal probation
Diversion Programs in California for Drug Possession Offenders

Some people who are arrested and charged with drug possession may be struggling with substance abuse or addiction issues. The drug court system helps those individuals by placing them into a diversion program. An offender can enter a program in place of a jail sentence and get their charges dropped if they complete it.

There are four models of drug courts in California:

  • Pre-plea drug court model: Before pleading guilty to drug possession charges, the offender can enter into a court-ordered drug treatment program.
  • Post-plea drug court model: After pleading guilty, the offender gets court-ordered and monitored treatment. The program can last as little as nine months or up to three years.
  • Post-adjudication drug court model: If someone has multiple drug possession offenses, they can enter a court-sanctioned drug treatment program instead of going to jail.
  • Civil model: Typically for those dealing with child custody issues. They can enter the program to regain or retain custody of their child.
Common Defenses Against Drug Possession Charges

Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, there could be many different defenses against your charges, including (but not limited to):

  • Momentary possession: If you had possession of the controlled substance for just a moment. For example, someone else handed you the drug to prevent getting arrested, or you found drugs in your home after throwing a party.
  • Unreasonable search & seizure: If the officer didn’t have probable cause for searching your vehicle and obtaining any evidence against you.
  • No control or possession: You didn’t have control or possession of the drug at the time of your arrest. As an example, you get pulled over by the police, and your friend hides their drugs under the seat.
  • Valid prescription: You have a written prescription for the drug you’re carrying when you got arrested. However, if you possess more than usual, you could face charges of the intent to sell, even if you have a valid prescription.
  • Lack of knowledge or awareness: Similar to the no control or possession defense, but in this case, you didn’t know that the drug existed. For example, if you’re traveling with a friend and carrying their suitcase for them that has drugs in it, you could argue that you had no knowledge of its existence.
  • Lack of intent to sell: You had no interest in selling the drugs. Instead, you possessed them for your personal use.
Speak with a Los Angeles Drug Possession Attorney

At Barhoma Law, P.C., we firmly believe that no one should have to navigate California’s challenging criminal system without a qualified and aggressive attorney by their side. We have the skills and resources to ensure you get fair treatment throughout the process. If we find any discrepancies in your arresting officer’s statements or problems with the evidence obtained, we will fight to get your charges dropped or reduced.

We know what you’re going through is overwhelming and scary. No one wants to think about the possibility of going to jail. You can depend on us to help you get through your case and protect your rights. To find out how we can help you with your drug possession case, call (213) 800-7664 to speak with one of our Los Angeles drug possession attorneys.

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