Under California Health and Safety Code 11350 HS, it is illegal to possess certain controlled substances without a valid prescription. These controlled substances, which are also called illegal drugs, include but are not limited to:
● Cocaine (and cocaine base)
● Opiates and their derivatives
● Prescription drugs such as codeine and Vicodin
To be found guilty of possessing a controlled substance, it must be proven that the defendant exercised actual or constructive control over the drug, that they knew of its presence and that it was a controlled substance, and that the quantity was sufficient to be used as a controlled substance.
Health and Safety Code 11350 HS is typically a felony, and a conviction is punishable by either probation and up to a jail in jail or a prison sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years. But if the drugs allegedly possessed are within a certain category of depressants, the offense becomes a wobbler and can be punished as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor penalty is typically up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
Those charged with possessing a controlled substance may be eligible for a drug diversion program, which allows certain defendants to serve their sentences in drug treatment programs instead of prison. If they complete it, the drug possession charges will be dismissed. Drug diversion is only open to those who have committed non-violent drug possession offenses.
Federal charges related to drug possession are traditionally punished more severely than state charges. Anyone convicted in a federal court of possessing a controlled substance faces up to one year in prison and a mandatory fine of $1,000 or more. Second convictions will result in up to two years in prison and a minimum $2,500 fine. A third offender faces a three-year sentence plus a minimum fine of $5,000.
Allowing others to manufacture drugs in one’s home or other structure, being under the influence of a controlled substance, possessing drug paraphernalia, purchasing a controlled substance for sale, sales and transportation of controlled substances
Drug possession charges are not punished to the same extent as other drug-related offenses, such as trafficking and distribution. But a felony record has ramifications for a defendant’s future, such as denial of certain federal rights and benefits and, if they are landed immigrants, deportation. A California criminal defense attorney should be retained as soon as charges are laid to ensure the best possible outcome.
Defenses to drug possession charges include having a valid prescription for the drug, proof that the defendant didn’t actually ‘possess’ the drug, temporary possession in order to destroy the drugs or turn them over to law enforcement, entrapment and illegal search and seizure.
In June 2014 Steve Stevenson, 30, of Sacramento was arrested on charges of drug possession, driving on a suspended license, and evading police. Local police officers tried to pull him over for a traffic violation, but Stevenson allegedly refused to stop, and when the police followed him, he was seen throwing items out of his car window. The items, which were later retrieved, were found to be narcotics.