The basics of drug possession charges in California

Under California laws, there are two broad categories for crimes involving drug possession. A person can be charged with simple possession or possession with the intent to sell.

In addition, the California Health and Safety Code further separates drug charges. The charges for the possession of marijuana and the subsequent defense strategies that might be used will be completely different than those with narcotics or other restricted dangerous drugs, such as crystal meth, for example. There is also a separate criminal statute for the possession of ingredients that are used to manufacture controlled substances such as methamphetamines or PCP.

It comes as no surprise that the penalties for drug possession will vary depending on what drug is involved, how much was involved and what the defendant’s purpose was for possessing the drug. Possession charges could lead up to a year in jail, but possession with the intent to sell could land jail terms of five years or more. Each county has a certain amount of leeway to dole out punishment.

Penalties for possession are much less onerous. If a defendant possesses less than an ounce of marijuana illegally, they could face a fine of as little as $100. This amount, plus other penalties could rise dramatically if more than an ounce is involved or the person was arrested in close proximity to a school.

There are many possible defenses to drug possession charges. They can include:

  • Drugs that belonged to somebody else. A skilled attorney can many times cast doubt on ownership of the drug in certain instances.
  • Unlawful search and seizure. In drug possession cases, using the Fourth Amendment as a defense is a common strategy.
  • Planted drugs. This is difficult to prove because a sworn officer’s testimony in often times above reproach, but it can sometimes be used successfully, depending on the facts of the case.
  • Medical marijuana. When medical marijuana is legal, with a signed recommendation by a doctor, this can be an effective strategy.

The Linda Louder Law Office proudly serves the residents and businesses of Sacramento and surrounding communities in northern California.