Have you been arrested for possession of a controlled substance? It’s important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. The state aggressively prosecutes all drug-related crimes. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense is the best thing you can do to protect your future.
At The Rodriguez Law Group, our attorneys have over two decades of experience handling complex criminal matters on both sides of the law. As former prosecutors, we will have a unique perspective and understanding of your criminal case. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation. We will carefully review your case and help you understand your legal rights.
- 1 Possession of a Controlled Substance – 11350 HSC
- 2 What Does the State Have to Prove?
- 3 Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance
- 4 Defending Charges for Possession of a Controlled Substance
- 5 Speak to a Los Angeles Possession of a Controlled Substance Attorney
Possession of a Controlled Substance – 11350 HSC
In California, it is illegal to be in possession of a controlled substance without a lawful purpose. Examples of lawful purposes include having a valid prescription or using the drug for legitimate scientific research purposes. Any other time you’re in possession of a controlled substance you are breaking the law.
Possession of a controlled substance is one of the most commonly charged drug crimes in California. The crime itself is defined in Health and Safety Code Section 11350 HSC. You can be charged with a violation of 11350 HSC if you, at any time, possess a:
- Controlled substance without a lawful purpose; or
- Narcotic drug without “the written prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in [the] state.”
What Does the State Have to Prove?
The state has the burden of persuading a judge or jury that you were unlawfully in possession of a controlled substance. In order to do this, prosecutors will have to prove:
- You possessed a controlled substance or analog
- You knew you possessed a controlled substance, and
- The controlled substance was in a usable amount.
In other words, the state has to prove that you knowingly possessed a usable amount of a controlled substance.
The first thing the state has to prove is that you were in possession of a controlled substance. Possession can be actual or constructive.
Actual possession means that you have physical control over the drugs. Examples include when the drugs are in your hands, pockets, or backpack.
Constructive possession means that you have the ability to control the drugs, even if they’re not in your immediate custody. Examples include drugs located in your home, car, or personal belongings.
What exactly is a controlled substance? Generally speaking, a controlled substance is a chemical or drug that’s regulated by the government. The Controlled Substances Act creates five different schedules, or categories, of controlled substances.
Schedule I Controlled Substances: Considered to have no medicinal purpose and have a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs include:
- Peyote, and
Schedule II Controlled Substances: Considered to have a very high potential for abuse and/or dependence. Schedule II drugs include:
- Pentobarbital, and
- Narcotics (including opium, codeine, and hydrocodone).
Schedule III Controlled Substances: Considered to be less dangerous than Schedule I and II drugs, but may lead to “moderate or low” physical or psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs include:
- Tylenol with Codeine
- Ketamine, and
- Anabolic steroids.
Schedule IV Controlled Substances: Considered to have a low potential for abuse. Schedule IV drugs include:
- Valium (diazepam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Xanax (alprazolam), and
- Ativan (lorazepam).
Schedule V Controlled Substances: Considered to have the lowest potential for abuse and dependence. Schedule V drugs include:
- Cough medicines containing codeine, and
The penalties for possession of a controlled substance often depend on the type of drug involved in the crime. It’s generally more serious to possess a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical purpose than possess cough medicine with Codeine without a prescription.
It’s not just a crime to unlawfully possess a controlled substance. It’s also against the law to possess an analog of a drug. An analog of a controlled substance either:
- Has a chemical structure that’s substantially similar to that of a controlled substance, or
- Has or is intended to have an effect on the central nervous system similar to that of a controlled substance.
So, an analog is a substance that is very similar to, but slightly different from, a controlled substance.
Knowledge of Possession
You can only be convicted under 11350 HSC if you knew two things. First, you must have known that the drug was in your possession. Second, you must have known that the drug was a controlled substance or analog.
The element of knowledge helps to protect you if drugs are left on your property or planted in your possession.
You have to possess a “usable amount” of a controlled substance to be convicted under 11350 HSC. A usable amount is “a quantity that is enough to be used by someone as a controlled substance.” In other words, there has to be enough of the drug present to cause a physical or physiological reaction upon use. Trace amounts are not generally enough to satisfy this element.
Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance
Possession of a controlled substance can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in California. Unless you have a significant amount of drugs in your possession, the crime is typically charged as a misdemeanor. However, factors that may influence the charge, including:
- The type of drug in your possession
- Prior drug convictions
- Prior sex crime convictions, and/or
- Prior convictions for other serious offenses.
Misdemeanor Possession of a Controlled Substance
When charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties for possession of a controlled substance can include:
- Maximum of 12 months in a Los Angeles County Jail
- $1,000 in criminal fines; and/or
Felony Possession of a Controlled Substance
When charged as a felony, the penalties for possession of a controlled substance can include:
- 16 months, two years, or three years in a California state prison
- $10,000 in criminal fines; and/or
Many first-time offenders may be able to avoid jail time by completing a court-ordered drug diversion program. The program can include mandatory drug treatment, addiction counseling, random drug tests, and work requirements. Charges can be dismissed upon successful completion of the program.
Contact our Los Angeles drug crime attorneys to learn more about how we can help you after your arrest for possession of a controlled substance.
Defending Charges for Possession of a Controlled Substance
It’s important to remember that the state has the burden of proving that you’ve committed a crime. This can be difficult to do. You can make the prosecution’s job even more difficult by asserting a strong defense. Any defense argument should help to explain, excuse, or justify your alleged behavior.
Defenses that may be helpful when you’re accused of possessing a controlled substance include:
- Lack of knowledge
- No actual or constructive possession
- The suspected item was not a controlled substance or analog
- There was not a usable amount of the drug, or
- Violations of your Constitutional rights.
Were you the victim of an unreasonable search or unlawful arrest? The state shouldn’t be allowed to rely on any evidence that was obtained in violation of your rights. Our attorneys will immediately file a motion to suppress any tainted or illegal evidence. Without evidence to support its case, the state may be forced to offer a plea or drop the charges.
Speak to a Los Angeles Possession of a Controlled Substance Attorney
Have you been arrested for possessing a controlled substance in Los Angeles? Contact The Rodriguez Law Group for immediate legal assistance. Drug crimes, including simple possession, can have devastating consequences that affect you for the rest of your life. Our attorneys are prepared to help you fight any criminal charges you face. Call our office to schedule your free consultation and learn more.