What Should I Do If I’m Arrested for Drug Possession?

Drug charges in California carry some pretty harsh penalties. The things you do and the decisions you make after an arrest can have a huge impact on your criminal case. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Don’t Panic. Stay Calm.

An arrest doesn’t mean that your life is over. The state has the burden of proving that you’ve broken the law. Prosecutors don’t just have to prove it – they have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s quite a high standard. So, don’t panic. The more composed you are, the easier it will be to understand what’s going on and make the best possible decisions.

2. Ask For Your Lawyer, Then Remain Silent.

You have the right to remain silent and you should absolutely exercise that right. However, before you cease all communication with the state, inform the police and prosecutor that you want your attorney.

You also have the right to be represented by counsel from here-on out. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side can help to ensure that your rights are respected and that you’re given the very best shot at beating the charges.

3. Give Your Attorney a Detailed Account of What Happened

When you sit down with your attorney, be prepared to tell them everything you remember about your arrest. Try to include as many details as possible about your arrest, any searches that were conducted, and your interactions with anyone employed by the state following your arrest.

Your lawyer will probably ask you to repeat yourself a few times. There are a couple of reasons for this.

  • First, retelling the circumstances can help you recall details that you might have forgotten about early on.
  • Second, your attorney can gauge whether you’re being entirely forthcoming or if you’re hiding information because you think it might be harmful to your case.

Here’s the thing – don’t hide anything from your lawyer. They’re on your side. However, your attorney can only help you as much as you let them. If you fail to disclose certain details – because you think they’re unimportant or you think they’re harmful – your attorney will not be able to build you the very best defense.

Disclose all details – regardless of whether you think they’re big, small, good, bad, irrelevant – so that your defense can be set up for success.

4. Request Bail If You Haven’t Been Released

California is on the verge of ending the cash bail system. For now, however, it remains in place. So, after an arrest for drug possession in Los Angeles, you might be required to post bail before you can be released from custody. For many drug-related charges, including possession, bail can range from anywhere between $35 and $1,000.

When you post bail, you’re essentially giving the court collateral in exchange for your freedom. You’ll have to show up for your court appearance if you want to get your money back.

5. Ask About a Drug Treatment Program In Lieu of Conviction

Most drug possession cases don’t go to trial. Many are thrown out because the defendant completed a drug treatment program. In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 36, which established a drug diversion program. Under Prop 36, qualified non-violent drug offenders can complete a drug counseling program in lieu of spending time behind bars.

You would likely qualify for the drug diversion program if you were arrested for simple possession, and:

  • Are not also facing charges for another crime
  • Do not have a strike on your record
  • Were not in possession of a firearm or deadly weapon at the time of your arrest, and
  • Do not refuse drug treatment as a term of your probation.

If you successfully complete the drug treatment diversion program, your arrest, charges, and/or conviction can be dismissed.

6. Ask Your Lawyer About Sealing or Expunging Your Record

Once you’re arrested for drug charges in Los Angeles, evidence of that will be public knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you’re never charged with a crime, if charges are filed by dropped, or if you’re acquitted. The fact that you were arrested will still be on your criminal record.

That’s not fair to you. So, be sure to ask your attorney about how you can seal your criminal record. Sealing means that traces of your arrest and charges – including fingerprints, mug shots, and reports – will be removed from your record.

If you are convicted of drug possession charges in California, that will also be part of your permanent criminal record. In certain situations, you might qualify to have your conviction expunged.

Expungement means that the status of your drug possession case is converted from “convicted” to “dismissed.” So, while there will still be evidence of your run-in with the law, you can legally say (in most cases) that you weren’t convicted.