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There are many different types of drugs but common drug offenses really depend on what is happening in the drug market at the time. For a long time there were more marijuana cases but now that marijuana has been legalized for personal use in California we’re seeing far less marijuana cases. We’re seeing more fentanyl and heroin cases. Fentanyl is a dangerous narcotic that is being prosecuted more these days. The most common drugs that I see these days are heroin, methamphetamine, Cocaine, and fentanyl. There are some other cases with Xanax, Vicodin, Soma, and some over-the-counter prescription drugs but not in large quantities.

How Is A Drug Charge Determined To Be A Misdemeanor Or A Felony?

The drug charge of felony or misdemeanor depends on whether or not you possess a usable quantity. If the quantity is for personal use, that will be charged as a misdemeanor. If I have a small quantity of heroin that I’m going to be using for myself or I tell the police officers that it’s just for me it will be charged as a misdemeanor; it’s the same with cocaine and methamphetamine. Fentanyl may be handled differently due to the recent surge in use Personal use narcotics violations in California are now charged as misdemeanors. All of these charges were previously charged as felonies. Now, prior felony convictions for these same offenses are now eligible for consideration to be reduced to misdemeanors. Anyone with prior felony drug possession convictions (not sales, or possession for sales) should consider applying for reduction to misdemeanors and getting these cases off of their record via expungement.

If the quantity or the circumstances indicate something other than personal use, such as, possession for sale or transportation for sale, you’re going to be charged with a felony in California; particularly in Orange County. The dividing factor is the circumstances of your possession and the quantity that you have. For example, if you have a small amount and you’re caught selling it, then that’s a sale and you’re going to be charged with a felony. Based on these circumstances, you may be able to get that reduced to a simple possession. We will always try reduce it form a felony sales to a misdemeanor possession if the circumstances warrant.

What Is Considered Possession, Sale, Distribution And Intent To Distribute Unlawful Drugs?

The difference between possession, sale, and distribution depends on the amount of narcotics and the circumstances. Possession, is just on my person, within my custody, or under my control. For example, if I’m driving a car and I’ve got a small amount of cocaine for my personal use in the center console and I get pulled over and the police officer sees it there in plain view, I may say, “That’s for my personal use.” But the officer could say, “That’s actually transportation.” Hopefully, you’re going to have a prosecutor that will have the sense to understand that’s actually possession because of the small amount even though it’s in the vehicle. For example, if it’s in your purse then that’s possession. If you are moving the drug from one person to another in exchange for something, it can be in exchange for money, property, or anything then that’s going to be considered a felony.

Distribution is the same thing. You may be giving it to people at a party, or intend to distribute it through channels, or moving it for somebody and you may not be selling it. In this case, you will be charged with distribution or possession with the intent to sell. For example, you could have a small amount of drugs, but also have a scale, what’s called pay/owe sheets, or messages on your phone that indicate you’re going to a location to sell drugs. All of this is going to indicate that you’re selling, even if it’s a small amount, and they will prosecute this as a sale.

What Are The Penalties For Drug Convictions In California?

In California penalties for drug convictions are going to depend on the nature of the conviction that you have. If it’s a possession conviction, it’s punishable as a misdemeanor. You may only get a citation and not even arrested. And you may not do any jail time upon conviction. Mere possession can get diversion, which means you can be placed into a drug diversion program. Once complete you can come back and have your plea withdrawn, your conviction dismissed, and then you can say you’ve never had a drug conviction.

The sales penalties are going to depend upon the amount and the circumstances. The penal code allows for filing weight enhancements that can add to a sentencing. For example, if you possess cocaine for sale, it is punishable by two to four years in prison. If you have a kilo of cocaine, two kilos, or even 10 or 20, they may add a sentencing enhancement. This means that additional time can be added onto your conviction over and above a four-year prison sentence. This can be three years to five years or longer, depending upon the amount. Possession of a firearm at the same time as possession of narcotics will also aggravate and enhance your sentence exposure.

The sentence may also be enhanced if you have any prior conviction, not just drug convictions but priors for any convicted felonies. Additionally, if you’ve been in and out of prison, they’re going to treat your case more seriously.

Are There Any Alternative Programs Available For First Time Drug Offenders?

First time offenders can take a diversion through Penal Code Section – 1000. You plead guilty, complete this diversion program, and your case can be withdrawn and dismissed. There are other programs. For example, if you’re a first time offender for personal use then you can get into a lengthier program if you have a drug addiction problem. Even if it’s for sale; if it’s a small level of sales and a first time sales, and you have a drug addiction problem then it’s possible to get a reduction to allow you to enroll in a drug treatment program.

Drug treatment programs can be any length of time not usually less than 90 days, and can be as long as one or even two years. This depends on the nature of the person’s drug addiction and what the court requires. Drug treatment programs must be court approved before an offender will be allowed to enroll.

For more information on Drug Offenses In The State Of California, a personal case evaluation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (714) 769-1200 today.

Edward R. Flores, Esq.

Call For A Personal Case Evaluation
(714) 769-1200

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