Codeine is a narcotic opiate prescribed to relieve mild to moderately severe pain, to suppress coughs, and to treat diarrhea. Both federal and California State law make it illegal to possess codeine without a valid prescription.
If you’re accused of a substance abuse crime involving codeine in Los Angeles, you’re looking at serious penalties. Codeine possession is prosecuted as a felony, so if you’re convicted, you also face the loss of any professional licensure you may have. Working with an attorney who’s experienced in drug law is your best means of protecting your legal rights.
Crimes Involving Codeine
The federal Controlled Substances Act lists medications containing codeine under three different Schedules, one of which – Schedule II – is used to describe drugs with a high potential for abuse. The California Health & Safety Code also makes it illegal to possess codeine without a prescription in a number of specific circumstances.
• Health and Safety Code § 11350
It’s illegal to have codeine in your possession without a prescription for this medication. Note that “possession” in this context doesn’t just refer to your physical person but also to physical space over which you exercise control such as a car or a bedroom. If you’re convicted of this felony, you face up to three years in a state prison and a fine of up to $20,000. However, you also have the option to participate in a drug treatment program instead of serving time in prison, and if you complete the treatment program successfully, your drug charges will be dismissed.
If you’re not a citizen of the United States, a conviction on this count or on any of the related counts listed below could lead to deportation.
• Health & Safety Code § 11351
California law considers possession of a narcotic with the intent to sell a far more serious crime than possession of a narcotic alone. If you sell or try to sell codeine-containing substances, you face a felony conviction that carries a sentence of up to four years in a state prison and a fine of up to $20,000. Individuals convicted under Health & Safety Code § 11351 do not have the option of entering a drug treatment program.
• Health and Safety Code § 11352
This statute makes it illegal to transport codeine with the intent to sell it. Felony conviction can lead to a $20,000 fine and state prison term of up to five years or up to nine years if transportation involved crossing two or more county lines.
• Health and Safety Code § 11550
This statute makes it illegal to be under the influence of codeine obtained without a prescription. You need not necessarily have engaged in any misconduct; the influence of the codeine on your physical or mental abilities need only be detectable. This infraction is charged as a misdemeanor, and defendants may be eligible to participate in a drug diversion program.
• Vehicle Code 23152a VC
Codeine is one of the substances that’s singled out by California’s “driving under the influence” law. The legality of the prescription is not an issue here: It is illegal to drive under the influence of codeine regardless of how that codeine was obtained. Convictions under this statute are misdemeanors unless driving while impaired caused an accident that led to a serious injury or loss of life.
A conviction on a codeine-related charge puts you at risk for fines, jail time, and the loss of professional licensures that could have a serious impact on your ability to earn a living in Los Angeles. If you’re accused of a crime involving codeine, it’s in your best interests to speak with an experienced substance abuse attorney as soon as possible to explore your options.