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How Are Drug Offenses Charged in California?

Posted on in Drug Crimes

San Jose drug crimes defense attorneyAlthough recreational marijuana use is now legal in several states across the country, many other drugs are still considered illegal. These can include narcotics such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, opioids, and more. A drug offense involving these prohibited substances can encompass many different actions. For example, an offender can possess or distribute a controlled substance. 

Being accused of any drug crime is a serious allegation that carries stiff penalties in California. Depending on the drug and the allegations, charges are categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If a person is convicted of a drug crime, he or she may face costly fines, prison time, and a permanent criminal record. That is why it is important to understand the laws to avoid unintentionally breaking them.

Federal Drug Laws

The United States’ Controlled Substances Act (CSA) established the federal drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use, and distribution of specific controlled substances are regulated. The CSA places those substances that are regulated under existing federal law into one of five “schedules,” based on the substance’s medical use, potential for abuse, and dependence or safety liability. Examples of drugs from each schedule include:

  • Schedule I drugs: opiates, heroin, hallucinogens
  • Schedule II drugs: raw opium, morphine, oxycodone
  • Schedule III drugs: pentobarbital and anabolic steroids
  • Schedule IV drugs: diazepam and zolpidem

California Drug Laws

The types of controlled substance offenses in California include possession, manufacture, and distribution of illegal drugs. These drug crimes cover a broad spectrum of offenses, and penalties vary depending on the type and amount of the drug involved. The California Uniform Controlled Substances Act defines those narcotic drugs whose possession constitute a drug felony. The type, amount, and intent are all taken into consideration when making a charge. The prosecution and the judge will also evaluate whether the suspect has a prior criminal history, and they will review the details of the case, including the arrest.

Below are a few of the different types of drug charges under California law:

  • Possession of a controlled substance: Misdemeanor charge with a punishment of up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia: Misdemeanor offense with up to six months in jail 
  • Possession with intent to sell: Felony charge with a penalty up to four years in state prison
  • Transportation of a controlled substance: Felony offense punishable by three to five years in prison.

Although recreational marijuana has been legal in California since January 2018, only adults over the age of 21 can possess up to one ounce of marijuana at a time. However, it is a misdemeanor to be in possession of more than 28.5 grams of concentrated cannabis. Punishments for this offense include up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

It is also important to note that it is illegal to be in possession of prescription drugs if they are not prescribed lawfully by a doctor, dentist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in the state of California.

Contact a Milpitas Criminal Defense Attorney

Many actions constitute a drug offense in the state of California. If you or your loved one is facing charges for any type of drug crime, it is critical that you seek professional legal counsel. At the Law Offices of Erik Steven Johnson, we understand how a criminal conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. Our diligent Santa Clara County drug crimes defense lawyers will carefully review the circumstances surrounding your case to build a strong defense strategy on your behalf. We will do everything in our power to reduce or dismiss your charges altogether. Call our office today at 408-246-3004 to schedule your free consultation. 



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