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This is the safety code in California’s law that lays out simple possession charges against defendants. This includes drugs that have legitimate medical purposes (like Hydrocodone or oxycodone) and illicit drugs such as Cocaine base. Some drugs are scheduled to be more dangerous than others and thus will carry stiffer penalties. For example, Cocaine base offenses are more serious than cocaine offenses, and intention to sell cocaine base can net you 25 years. Some drugs, like Hydrocodone, have the potential to be a misdemeanor offense, and sometimes you can even participate in a drug diversion program that allows you to escape jail time altogether, provided you don’t violate any terms during your program.
The United States Controlled Substances Act laid out a schedule of all of the drugs that are illegal to possess without a prescription, and some of them are illegal to possess at all, at any time, for any reason. Depending on the type of possession you’re charged with, you could face a felony or a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor possession will be the less serious of the two, but it can still get you a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. More serious forms of possession, such as that for cocaine, can be a felony, especially if you were in possession with the intent to sell (up to 5 years in state prison). The prosecution will have great leeway if it’s your first offense and you have no other charges on your record. A drug diversion program for a first offense of possession is very common in California, but if you’ve had certain violent and sex offenses on your criminal record, you’re not eligible for these programs. It might also knock you out of a chance to have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
Only a good lawyer is going to be able to benefit you most of all. No one should represent themselves in either a misdemeanor or felony situation. The best thing you can do when you’re charged is to contact a lawyer and get a free consultation with them. They can tell you in what ways they can help your case and tell you how to proceed at each phase of your charge.
Believe it or not, there is a healthy amount of defenses for drug possession, and a good lawyer is going to be able to pick out which strategy is best for your case. Here are just a few of the common defenses for possession:
– Was not aware the drug was in possession
– Drugs were planted (yes, sometimes this can work as a defense)
– Defendant planned to destroy the drugs in a short amount of time but was arrested (Yes, when you find drugs, you have a short period of time under the law to destroy them… doesn’t work for instances where you planned to destroy them to hide them from law enforcement, though!)
All three of these defenses have been used in the past and successfully. Not everyone is going to be able to have defenses like this work for them, but you just might have another circumstance that will help the court reduce your punishment or even dismiss your charges altogether. One example would be a police officer arresting you because they believed the substance you had was heroin, but in reality, it was just another similar looking substance that wasn’t heroin at all. Later on when that substance is tested in the lab, they can dismiss the charges under the careful guidance of your lawyer, who explained the situation. This has also happened in the past.
The moral of the story is: Always call a lawyer! Never take on these tough charges yourself when you could rest easy while a lawyer handles your case and always gives you the best advice for your situation. Your chances of having your charges dismissed or reduced greatly increases with the help of a lawyer, and even if either of those things doesn’t happen, a lawyer can bring about a more desirable punishment and help you avoid jail.