Possession of a Controlled Substance: What It Means in California

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Sep 01, 2021 | California Law
Possession of a Controlled Substance: What It Means in California

Being arrested for possession of a controlled substance in Los Angeles, California, can result in significant legal penalties. You should seek help from a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you’ve been arrested for this crime.

While a lawyer can’t promise a certain outcome, they can minimize your chances of facing major consequences.

It’s also important to understand what “possession of a controlled substance” entails in California. Understanding the state’s drug laws can help you avoid criminal behavior.

What is a Controlled Substance in California?

California law prohibits possession of a controlled substance.

In general, controlled substances come in two forms:

  • Drugs that are always illegal: Drugs such as heroin and cocaine fall into this category.
  • Certain prescription drugs: Some prescription drugs are considered to be controlled substances. Possession of such a drug without a prescription is against the law.

Controlled substances also fall into certain “schedules.” A controlled substance may be:

  • Schedule I, such as cocaine and opiates
  • Schedule II, such as morphine
  • Schedule III, such as pentobarbital
  • Schedule IV, which often includes many prescription drugs
  • Schedule V, such as prescription drugs that are less controlled than some others

The penalties for your drug crimes will depend on which schedule drug you’re alleged to have possessed. A conviction for possession of a Schedule I controlled substance will result in more significant penalties than a conviction for possession of a Schedule V controlled substance.

Being Convicted of Possession of a Controlled Substance in California

To secure your conviction, the prosecution must demonstrate that you:

  • Possessed a drug that qualifies as a controlled substance.
  • It was against the law for you to possess said substance
  • You were aware of the substance’s presence (someone didn’t place the drugs in your possession without your knowledge)
  • You knew the drug qualified as a controlled substance.
  • The amount of the drug you possessed was usable (if you only possessed residue of a drug, you might not be convicted)

“Possession” itself also comes in several forms. They are:

  • Actual possession: This is when you have immediate physical access to a drug. For example, having a drug in your pocket is a form of actual possession.
  • Constructive possession: This type of possession is vaguer. It applies when you may not have a drug on you, but you could still access it. Having a drug in a locker or storage unit might qualify as constructive possession.
  • Joint possession: Joint possession involves two or more parties both having constructive possession of a drug.

Penalties for possession of a controlled substance vary on a case-by-case basis. The type and amount of drug you possessed will influence the consequences of your conviction.

In general, Proposition 47 renders most controlled substance possession as misdemeanors. If you’re convicted of such a crime, you may face up to a year in jail time, fines, and more. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney will improve your chances of avoiding the harshest penalties for your charges.

To learn more, call our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm at 213-995-6767 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.