Though California is often seen as one of the more liberal states (particularly in regards to medical marijuana), this doesn’t apply when it comes to drug possession laws. If you are caught in possession of a controlled substance within the state of California, you can expect to be brought to justice. A local defense attorney can assist you in combating these charges and avoiding the most serious consequences.

Though the potential for jail or prison time is there, there are alternative options available. A defense lawyer can analyze your case and determine if you qualify for such options or whether penalties can be avoided all together. Not every conviction ends in prison time and not every drug charge ends in a conviction. All hope is not lost.

What Is “Possession”?

Possession of a controlled substance refers to you having drugs under your control. While this could definitely apply when you have them in your pocket, they don’t have to be on you for you to be charged with possession. In your glove box, on the sidewalk next to you, or in your home—there are many situations that could warrant a possession charge.

California Drug Possession – Laws

Under California’s Health and Safety Code Section 11350, nearly all possession of a controlled substance charges are considered felony offenses.

The exceptions to this include a handful of misdemeanor offenses for drugs, like:

Any possession of other drugs is a felony charge. These include:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Meth
  • Prescription drugs, whether narcotics, painkillers, or substances that have medical applications

A felony offense means you are at risk of more than a year of prison. Unlike other states, which typically prescribe a sentencing range for judges to choose your penalty from, California does not.

If you are caught in possession of drugs you will face felony charges and a litany of potential punishments. Everything from the amount of drugs you had on you to your criminal history could play a role in determining your ultimate sentence if you are found guilty.

Drug Possession Penalties

Alternatives to Incarceration

The state of California has several options available that could save you from the harshest consequences. Your eligibility for these programs depends on your criminal history, the jurisdiction of your charges, and the court’s determination of whether you are worthy of another chance.

Proposition 36

California’s Proposition 36 was passed in 2000. It was developed to save the state money and to keep people out of prison for the most minor drug offenses. If you qualify for “Prop 36”, you will be required to participate in drug treatment rather than jail time. This program is set aside for nonviolent drug possession offenses strictly. You may not qualify if you have any prior violent convictions on your record.

Deferred Entry of Judgment

Used only by first time drug offenders, a deferred judgment case allows you to serve a period of probation in lieu of prosecution. Typically, you admit to the offense and enter six months of drug treatment. If you remain trouble free for a year, the initial charges are dropped. If at anytime the probation department or prosecutor determines you are not following the predetermined rules you can be prosecuted for the original charge.

Drug Courts

Drug courts in California are a collaborative effort to reform people charged with drug offenses and return them to the community as law abiding citizens. For a possession charge in drug court, you are usually put under supervision for 12 months. During this time you are subject to rules and random drug testing. You may be required to undergo treatment, maintain employment, and participate in counseling.

Just how California drug charges affect your life can vary from person to person. And while an experienced defense lawyer has represented all kinds of defendants in different cases, they know each case is unique and needs individualized attention. Contact us today to speak with a local experienced drug possession attorney who can give you more personalized insight into your case.