Possession of a controlled substance is illegal in California, and it’s made worse when you’re caught driving while in possession of a controlled substance. A controlled substance is defined as anything regulated by the United States Controlled Substances Act. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an illegal drug. It can be a legal drug that’s been prescribed if the prescription is not in your name. This is a strict law, but there are many considerations regarding this type of arrest. For example, you can pick up a prescription from the pharmacy for your spouse and end up pulled over with it in your car. This is easily explainable and typically not a reason to arrest you if you can prove you haven’t used it.
Possession While Driving
The law is complicated regarding possession in California. It’s not illegal for adults over the age of 21 to carry up to one ounce of marijuana as well as up to 8 grams of cannabis while walking, driving, living at home, or doing anything else. However, the law does require these substances remain in a closed container while driving. It is illegal to drive if the marijuana is not in a container or the container in which it came in is open or missing its seal.
It’s not a major crime to carry if you have under the legal limit even if it’s not in a container. However, you will be punished with a fine not to exceed $100. If you have more than the legal limit, the situation changes. Possession while driving with more than legal recreational use limit of marijuana is subject to fines, and sometimes the crime can be classified as a misdemeanor and you could face time in jail. If you are under the age of 21 and have any marijuana in your vehicle at the time of your arrest, you are automatically fined and guilty of this infraction as it is illegal for you to possess any amount of marijuana.
If you possess any other type of drug or a prescription that’s not yours, you face more serious consequences. Most possession of controlled substance charges are defined as a misdemeanor charge depending on the amount of the drug, the type of drug, and other circumstances, and you could face up to one year in jail as well as fines up to $1,000.
Defending Possession Charges
There are several defenses to this crime, and one might apply to you. If the drugs were found following an illegal search of your person or vehicle, you can fight those charges in a court of law and have them dropped entirely if you win your case.
If you possess a valid prescription, it’s not illegal to carry the drug with you. If you have it and it’s for someone in your household, you can argue that person left it in the car, you didn’t know, or you just picked it up for them. You might not know there are drugs in your car if there are other people in the vehicle with you or you are using a vehicle someone else used before you. For example, the person who used a rental car before you might have left their drugs in the car and they simply were not discovered by the agency prior to you picking up the car.
If you were on your way to a local drug disposal situation offered by many police stations throughout the year, you are not committing a crime. Additionally, you can fight if you believe drugs were planted in your vehicle by the police.
Call an attorney if you are arrested and charged with possession while driving. There are so many different situations that might occur based on your criminal history, how far you traveled with drugs, what kind of drug you have, and how much of the drug you are carrying. You need an attorney on your side to help fight for your rights and keep you out of jail. If you are guilty, your attorney can fight for a reduced sentence. You have a much better chance of winning your case if you hire an attorney to help you.
Operating a vehicle with marijuana in the car is a crime. Possessing up to one ounce of marijuana in the vehicle is punishable under California Vehicle Code 23222(b). The penalty for arrest is a $100 fine and court costs.
Smoking marijuana while operating a vehicle is considered driving under the influence, or a DUI charge.
Concentrated cannabis (hasish) found in a vehicle is punished under California Health and Safety Code 11357(a) and is subject to possible prison time and a much larger fine.
If you are discovered transporting more than one ounce of cannabis in your vehicle, the crime becomes that of transporting marijuana. This crime is prosecuted under California Health and Safety Code 11360.
Some defenses to California possession while driving are:
You have a prescription for medical marijuana.
Legally possessing a prescribed amount of marijuana is not the same as smoking marijuana while driving or transporting cannabis. A person with a medical prescription for marijuana is allowed to take the medical prescription home in the car like any legal drug that may be prescribed.
You are a medical marijuana caregiver.
California’s medical marijuana law allows for certain adults to be appointed caregivers for persons in possession of a medical marijuana card, under Proposition 215. This is by definition an individual who has consistently assumed responsibility for a patient with a medical marijuana card. A person in this capacity may transport a patient using medical marijuana. In this case, marijuana in the vehicle is not a crime.
You do not legally ‘possess’ the marijuana found in your vehicle.
If you are smoking marijuana while driving, you are actively ‘possessing’ the cannabis in your hand. You have direct control over the drug as you drive, even if the marijuana is in an unlit joint in your hand.
If a police officer finds marijuana in your back seat, under the passenger seat or in the glove compartment, you are not in direct control of the substance. If the cannabis is hidden somewhere in your car, there is a chance that you were not aware of the marijuana. It could have been secreted away by a wary passenger or someone who borrowed the car.
It is important to realize that a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer will be needed for the expertise to counter the charge of marijuana possession while operating a vehicle.
An illegal search of your car is made.
A routine traffic stop for speeding is not an opportunity to search your car without a legal reason to search or without your permission. Unless the marijuana can be easily viewed or discovered because you gave permission for a police search, the evidence of your marijuana may be viewed as illegally obtained by the court.
Although marijuana laws have relaxed a great deal in recent years, it is still against the law to drive with marijuana in a vehicle unless authorized to possess the cannabis per medical use.
If you have been apprehended and charged with possession while driving, VC23222(b), please call a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to consult with you as quickly as possible. The sooner the charges can be addressed by a skilled attorney, the sooner your case can be resolved.
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