If you have been charged with a drug crime in Los Angeles, you should take those charges extremely seriously.
While a jail sentence and fines are bad, they could be only the tip of the iceberg as far as long-term consequences. A drug crime conviction on your record can lead to difficulty obtaining employment, a professional license, a government student loan and can even prohibit you from renting an apartment or house. Further, a conviction can wreck your personal life and your finances.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime, call Los Angeles drug crimes attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez today. As a former prosecutor for over 13 years, Mr. Rodriguez gained valuable insight into how drug charges are prosecuted. Put his knowledge to work for you.
California’s Classification System of Controlled Substances
- Schedule I Drugs: drugs like opiates, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana
- Schedule II Drugs: drugs like raw opium and morphine
- Schedule III Drugs: drugs like phenobarbital and steroids
- Schedule IV Drugs: drugs like diazepam
- Schedule V Drugs: drugs like low doses of codeine
Possession of a Controlled Substance
Under the California Health and Safety Code 11350(a), it is not legal to possess a controlled substance unless you have a valid prescription. Controlled substances can include illegal drugs as well as legal prescription drugs.
You cannot be convicted of possession of a controlled substance unless the state can definitively show you:
- illegally possessed a controlled substance,
- were aware of the presence of the controlled substance,
- knew the drug was considered a controlled substance, and
- you possessed enough of the substance to equal a useable amount
Violation of HS 11350(a) could result in your being charged with:
- Up to a year in jail
- Random drug searches/testing
- Up to three years in a state prison
Possession of Heroin, Cocaine and Similar Drugs with Intent to Sell
Under the California Health and Safety Code 11351, you may have been charged with possession of heroin or cocaine. Actual possession means you had “direct and immediate” control of the drug, meaning it was likely on your person.
Constructive possession means the drugs were found somewhere you exercised control over, such as your home or your car. Should you be convicted of selling cocaine or heroin, you could face serious penalties and consequences, including:
- Sentenced to prison for two to five years
- Fines as high as $20,000.
In order to prove intent to sell, you must have also had enough of the drug to sell, and had the intent to sell. If the heroin or cocaine was divided into small bags, or if you were in possession of significant amounts of cash in smaller denominations, it will be easier for the prosecutor to show you intended to sell the drugs to others. It will also make the prosecutor’s job easier if you had scales in your possession or if your neighbors can say you have frequent visitors to your home, who only stay for a short period of time.
Possession and Sale of Marijuana
Under California Health and Safety Code 11359, you may be charged with the crime of possession and sale of marijuana, if you unlawfully possessed the drug, were aware of the drug, knew the drug was a controlled substance, and possessed enough marijuana to show intent to sell.
Should you be convicted for selling marijuana, you could face:
- Up to three years in jail
- Maximum of $10,000 in fines
Simple possession of marijuana could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, however the sale of marijuana will always be charged as a felony.
A conviction for possession of concentrated cannabis could subject you to up to a year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $500.
- Possession of 28.5 grams of marijuana or less will be charged as an infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of $100.
- Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana is charged as a misdemeanor and could lead to up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $500 should you be convicted.
Potential Defenses for Your Charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest there are a number of defenses your attorney may be able to use in your defense.
- Unreasonable Search & Seizure: The police may have conducted an unreasonable search and seizure if they lacked probable cause to stop you or search your vehicle. Any evidence in your case which was illegally obtained could be thrown out, making it very difficult for the prosecutor to pursue the case against you.
- Momentary Possession: You may have only had momentary possession of the controlled substance; perhaps another person handed the drug to you in an effort to keep from getting charged with a crime or perhaps you found the drug in your home during or after a party and were about to dispose of it when you were arrested. If you also did not intend to prevent law enforcement from obtaining the controlled substance, then your attorney may be able to show you only had momentary possession of the drug.
- No Control or Possession: You may have had no control or possession of the drug when you were arrested. As an example, you are going to the movies with your friends when stopped by the police. One of your friends stashes his drugs under the seat and the police finds them. Your attorney can argue you were not in possession of the drugs, and had no control over them. Simply being near drugs at the time they are found, in and of itself, is not sufficient to prove possession, even if you were aware your friend had the drugs.
- Lack of knowledge or awareness: lack of knowledge of the drug is similar to no control or possession, however in this instance you had no knowledge of the existence of the drugs. As an example, you are flying out with your girlfriend on vacation. You are carrying her suitcases when you are stopped and searched, and drugs are found in the suitcase. If you truly had no knowledge of the drugs existence, your attorney can argue this to the prosecutor.
- Valid Prescription: If you were arrested for possession of a prescription drug, but it is later found you had a valid prescription for the drug, then you cannot be convicted for possession of a controlled substance. If, however, you possess significantly more of the controlled substance than normal—even with a valid prescription—you could still be charged with intent to sell.
- Lacked Intent to Sell: The final defense that could be applicable in your case is that you simply lacked the intent to sell the controlled substance, rather possessed it only for your own use.
Los Angeles Drug Diversion Programs
If you are deemed a nonviolent drug offender, you could potentially qualify for a California drug diversion program as an alternative to jail time. Under California Penal Code §1000, you could be allowed to enter a drug treatment program instead of going to jail.
You must be a first time offender and have no other controlled substance offenses on your record. The charged offense must involve no violence, your record must have no revocations of parole or probation, and you must have on felony convictions within five years of your latest charged offense.
In order to be eligible for the diversion program, you must plead guilty to your drug charges, however, sentencing will be delayed until you have completed the program which includes a series of classes which focus on drug treatment. The classes will last for 18 months.
Speak with an Experienced Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
Whatever level of drug charges you are facing, having an experienced drug attorney by your side from start to finish can help you obtain a more positive outcome. Choosing a qualified criminal lawyer is an important and difficult decision.
Attorney Ambrosio E. Rodriguez is a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor that understands that every client’s case is unique. Mr. Rodriguez will negotiate with the prosecution, file motions on your behalf, and determine how to effectively argue your case before a judge or jury. Moreover, Mr. Rodriguez will review your case to determine if you eligible for California’s new Proposition 47 law which could reduce your charges from a felony to a misdemeanor or resentencing of past convictions.
Call The Rodriguez Law Group today for a free consultation (213) 995-6767.