Drug Crimes

To be convicted of drug crimes charges in Los Angeles means facing severe penalties, among them a long time in prison. You may prevent these penalties by seeking the services of an experienced attorney the moment you or your loved one is arrested. LA Criminal Defense Attorney is a reputable criminal defense firm that can help you to fight any drug crime charges if you have a case pending in Los Angeles County.

What are California Drug Crimes?

Using illicit drugs may result in different risks, among them psychological and general health impairments. That is why the state of California lawfully restricts its citizens from using certain drugs to a given extent. Thus, if one is found going against the stipulated laws on drugs, she/he will be charged with a drug crime offense. In addition, crimes that individuals commit when under the influence of drugs will be charged under drug crimes under California law. Generally, the law prohibits:

  • Cultivation and manufacturing,

  • Trafficking and distribution, and

  • Possession of illegal drug substances.

Drug Cultivation and Manufacturing Laws (Health & Safety Code 11379.6)

It is an offense to manufacture, grow, convert, produce, compound, derive, prepare, or process illicit drugs or controlled substances in California. A controlled substance is a chemical or a drug that is only manufactured, possessed, and used under the government’s regulation according to the US Controlled Substances Act. However, the law permits the growing of marijuana within certain amounts and only for personal use.

According to California Health & Safety Code 11350, controlled substances are drugs and chemicals such as opium products, heroin, cocaine, mescaline, crack, synthetic cannabis, opiates, peyote, schedule III hallucinogens, ketamine, ecstasy, and some prescription drugs like Codeine and Vicodin if they are not legally prescribed. It is also an offense to be in possession of chemicals that are used to prepare drugs such as methamphetamine and phencyclidine (PCP).

Penalties for a Drug Cultivation and Manufacturing Offense

In California, manufacturing or cultivation of controlled substances is a felony and has a penalty of 3, 5 or 7 years imprisonment in state prison and/or a fine of not more than $50,000. Offering to grow, produce, or manufacture drugs is also a felony. Its penalty is three, four, or five years imprisonment in state prison. Illegal possession of chemicals used to manufacture specific drugs could have you serving two, four, or six years incarceration in state prison.

Additionally, if there are minors living, are present, or are harmed at the place where you cultivate, manufacture, or produce drugs, you will face an additional sentence of not more than five years. Other scenarios that can subject you to longer sentences include if:

  1. You are guilty of manufacturing PCP or methamphetamine and you led to another person’s death or severe bodily injury

  2. You re guilty of producing excessive amounts of a chemical or drug substance which contains GHB, methamphetamine, or PCP (you could face an additional 3 to 25 years sentence)

  3. The activities that you are involved in result in other drug crime related offenses

  4. You have previously been convicted of drug charges

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What the Prosecution Must Prove in Drug Cultivation and Manufacturing Charge

In order for the jury to find you guilty of growing, manufacturing, or producing illegal drugs and controlled substances, there are certain factors a prosecutor must prove beyond any reasonable doubt. She/he must prove that you:

  1. Participated in growing, producing, or manufacturing the drug or the controlled substance

  2. Made a proposal to grow or manufacture the drug

  3. Were not licensed to carry out such an activity

Note that for you to be found guilty of this crime, it is not mandatory that the manufacturing process is completed. The crime is already committed if you knowingly participate in the preliminary or intermediate manufacturing steps.

Possible Legal Defenses for Drug Cultivation and Manufacturing Charges

There are a variety of legal defenses your defense attorney can use to make the judge dismiss the charges for this crime. Some of the commonly used defenses are:

  1. You were illegally searched and arrested

    Even if you were illegally and actively participating in manufacturing a prohibited drug, your case would be dismissed or your charges reduced if your attorney successfully convinces the jury that the police violated the California search and seizure laws when arresting you. The search and seizure laws demand that if the police go into a building where you are supposedly manufacturing drugs, they should have a probable cause, a valid search warrant and they should not conduct their search beyond the area the warrant identifies. When the police violate these requirements, the evidence they obtain will be dismissed from the case since it is deemed to have been obtained illegally.

  2. You were at the wrong place at the wrong time

    Your attorney could argue that you were at the manufacturing site or a concealed lab to buy some drugs at the exact time the police were searching the premises which led to your arrest. You may then be charged with possessing or using these drugs which attracts lenient penalties than manufacturing. It may also be possible that you were living on a property you did not know that drug manufacturing was taking place since these labs were not disclosed to you.

  3. Mistaken identity

    Your attorney can argue that you did not take part in the manufacturing process and you are only a victim of mistaken identity or you were falsely accused. A false accusation could be due to revenge, anger, wanting to get away with the crime on someone’s account, a mistake in eyewitness identification, or an unreliable police informant.

Drug Trafficking and Distribution Laws (Health & Safety Code 11352)

In California, it is illegal to sell, transfer, transport, or import illegal drugs and controlled substances with an exception of marijuana. The law allows the transportation or transferring of a maximum of 28 grams of marijuana by adults over 21 years.

Drug distribution offenses also cut across prescription drugs like sleeping pills or painkillers in situations where the defendant had no license to distribute the drugs or she/he sold the drugs inappropriately. Among the drugs prohibited include heroin, peyote, cocaine, LSD, and opiates such as codeine, Vicodin, and oxycodone.

Penalties for a Drug Trafficking and Distribution Offense

Drug trafficking and distribution is a felony, and its penalties differ depending on various circumstances under which it was committed. For example, the amount of drug, the type of the drug, and if minors were involved. The penalties include:

  • Three to nine years’ state prison incarceration or

  • A fine not exceeding $20, 000, or both the fine and sentence

  • Alternatively, you could face a year in county jail alongside probation

Some cases like selling and distributing drugs to minors or transporting them in large quantities can lead to sentence enhancements like life imprisonment or a hefty fine. Controlled substance offenses are described as deportable aliens (U.S Code 1227). Thus, being guilty of distributing or trafficking these substances could make the defendant deported. In addition, the court will impose the harshest punishment on the defendant if the defendant knew the person she/he was selling the drugs was;

  • Pregnant at the time she/he gave him/her the drugs,

  • Previously found guilty of a violent offense, or

  • Receiving treatment for drug abuse or a mental disorder in a mental institution at the time of selling the drug.

What a Prosecutor Must Prove in a Drug Trafficking and Distribution Charge

The prosecutor must prove the following for you to be convicted of this crime;

  • You knew the drug was illegal or a controlled substance

  • You were involved or offered to be involved in either distributing, selling, transferring, transporting of the drug

  • You had enough drug which could be used as a controlled substance

Legal Defenses for Trafficking and Distribution of Drugs

An experienced criminal defense attorney can use the following legal defenses to get your case dropped or penalties reduced. She/he can argue that:

  1. You did have the intention of selling or distributing the drugs and that your intentions were misinterpreted

  2. You did not propose to transport or sell the drugs

  3. You had the drugs for personal use

  4. The police conducted an unlawful search and seizure

  5. You were framed or forced to transport the drugs

Drug Possession Laws

The law divides drug possession into two categories: Simple possession and Possession with intent to distribute/sell.

Possession of stimulants and marijuana is not covered under the health and safety code that governs the drug possession crime.

  1. Simple Possession (Health & Safety Code 11350)

    It is an offense to possess controlled substances and other illicit drugs in California. In addition, it is an offense to possess prescription drugs if they have been legally prescribed to you by a licensed doctor.

    Penalties for a Simple Drug Possession Offense

    Simple drug possession is normally a misdemeanor offense, but it can be a wobbler offense if the drugs in question are in any type of depressants or if you have previously been convicted of a sex offense or a serious offense as stipulated in California law. A conviction will also depend on the criminal history of the defendant and other given circumstances under which the offense was committed. As a misdemeanor, the penalties include a maximum of a one-year sentence in county jail, a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both the sentence and fine.

    If this crime is ruled as a felony, it is punishable by 16 months, 2 or 3 years’ incarceration. In some instances, if the defendant qualifies, the court will agree that they enroll in a drug diversion program instead of incarceration.

    Legal Defenses for Simple Possession

    Your attorney can argue these points which might help you get acquitted of the charges:

    1. You did not know the drugs were there: If your attorney can convince the jury that you did not know you were in possession of the drugs or you knew but did not know what they were, you may be found innocent of the charges against you;

    2. You were not in possession of the drugs: You will not have violated the law if the drugs were not on you or if you weren’t subjected to their control;

    3. The drugs were prescribed to you: If you have a valid prescription from your doctor to possess the drugs, you will be innocent of this crime. Some of the prescription drugs include OxyContin and Vicodin;

    4. You intended to dispose of the drugs: In California, you can temporarily possess drugs if you intended to get rid of them. This will not apply to defendants who disposed of the drugs so the police won’t find out;

    5. The police conducted an illegal search: You will have a strong defense if the police searched your premises illegally, plus any other misconduct like falsifying evidence.

  2. Possession with Intent to Distribute/Sell (Health & Safety Code 11351)

    It is even a much greater offense to possess or purchase drugs in order to sell or distribute. People charged with this crime are not entitled to a drug diversion program under Proposition 36.

    What a Prosecutor Must Prove

    A prosecutor will consider many factors which will help him/her determine if the drugs were, indeed, for sale. Some of these factors include;

    • If the drugs or controlled substances were in large quantities

    • If the drugs were packaged in separate bags

    • Drug scales

    • If you receive several visitors at your place who stay only for a short time

    • If you have a lot of cash in small values

    Penalties for Drug Possession with an Intent to Sell/ Distribute Offense

    The penalties include a sentence of two to four years in prison, a fine not exceeding $20,000, or both the sentence and fine. Alternatively, you can be subjected to probation alongside a maximum of one year in county jail.

    If the drug possessed is cocaine, heroin, or cocaine-base, the defendant is likely to face additional penalties like additional 3 to 25 years imprisonment depending on the narcotic type.

Marijuana Laws in California

Marijuana was legalized in California to be used for recreational purposes (Proposition 64). People who are 21 years and above are allowed to grow up to six plants of marijuana in an enclosed area. They are allowed to possess or buy dried marijuana to up to one ounce or eight grams if it is concentered for personal use. Only a state-licensed store or dispensary is allowed to sell marijuana.

Marijuana should be consumed on private property. It is a misdemeanor offense to exceed the possession, buying, or growing of the above-mentioned amount. This offense is punishable by a sentence of six months in county jail, a fine not exceeding $500, or both. Furthermore, it is an infraction for people below 21 years to possess marijuana. The offense is punishable by a fine if they are 18 years and above and community service or drug counseling if they are under 18 years.

It is a felony for persons aged 18 years and above to sell or distribute marijuana to minors. If the minor is aged between 14 and 17 years, the felony is punishable by three to five years’ imprisonment. Distributing or selling to minors below 14 years is a felony punishable by three to seven years in prison.

It is an infraction to operate an automobile when under the influence of marijuana or with an open container carrying marijuana to consume it while driving. This offense can be punished by a fine not exceeding $100 as per Vehicle Code 23222 (b).

Proposition 215 legalizes medical marijuana. Unlike recreational marijuana, medical marijuana has no restrictions on the quantity one must possess. People who use medical marijuana can possess as much depending on their condition, but with a doctor’s recommendation. In addition, people who are below 21 years can use or grow medical marijuana provided they have a doctor’s recommendation and their parents’ consent if they are below 18 years.

The possible defenses for marijuana possession include:

  • Medical requirement

  • Unlawful search and seizure from the police

  • A prescription from the doctor

  • Entrapment

  • Tampered-with lab analysis

Note that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Thus, it is left to the federal prosecutors in California to decide if they will arrest and prosecute the users and sellers of marijuana, even if they comply with California marijuana laws.

Methamphetamine Laws

This is a drug that is viewed as a threat to Californians. Therefore, the possession, manufacturing, distribution or being under influence can attract harsh punishments. Meth laws cover substances that include GHB, PCP, gamma, ketamine, etc.

Methamphetamine possession was a felony before Proposition 47 was enacted but it is now a misdemeanor. The penalties for simple possession of meth for personal use include a one-year county jail term, a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both. However, possessing this drug with intent to sell or distribute is a serious felony which is punishable by a fine not exceeding $10,000, 16 months, 2 or 3 years imprisonment, or both.

It is an offense to try and sell or exchange meth for goods or services, to transport it with the intention of selling or to administer it to another person. This is punishable by two, three, or four years imprisonment, a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.

Producing or manufacturing meth carries a penalty of three, five, or seven years imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $50,000. In addition, illegal possession of controlled substances used to make meth with the intention of making it is punishable by two, four, or six years’ imprisonment.

To be under the influence of meth is a misdemeanor offense whose penalties include a one-year jail term or being enrolled into a drug diversion program. It is also an offense to drive when under the influence of meth. This is punishable by a period not exceeding one year in jail, a fine not exceeding $390, your driving privileges could be revoked, and enrollment into a compulsory drug education class.

Prescription Drugs Law in California

This law was effected to curb public health crisis. It is unlawful to possess, sell, or distribute prescription drugs if you are not legally authorized to do so. These prescription drugs include Adderall, oxycodone, Vicodin, codeine, fentanyl etc. Additionally, the illegal use of legal prescription drugs like opioid could also be a criminal offense.

Illegal possession of prescription drugs is a misdemeanor whose penalties include a maximum of one-year jail term or a fine not exceeding $1,000. However, your attorney can negotiate with the court so that you are enrolled in a drug diversion program rather than go to jail.

People who use fraud or deceit to get these drugs prescribed to them will face prescription fraud or doctor shopping charges. This also applies to people who forge or modify a prescription.

What Does the Law say on Driving Under the Influence of Drugs {Vehicle Code 23152(f) and (g)

Driving under the influence of any drug, be it a prescription, an illegal, an over the counter, or a combination of drugs and alcohol is a criminal offense.

DUID is normally charged as a misdemeanor offense and has the same penalties as those of driving under alcohol influence. They include;

  • DUI probation for three to five years

  • A $1,800 fine for first-time offenders

  • Enrolment to a California DUI school

  • Suspension of your driver’s license

  • A jail term

However, it can also be charged as a felony if the defendant was previously convicted of DUI, if this is his/her fourth or subsequent DUI crime, or if the offense caused injury to another person. This offense is punishable by a maximum of three years in prison, or four years if another person was injured during the commission of the offense, a fine not exceeding $1,000 or a maximum of $5,000 if another person was injured.

Drugs that are usually emphasized on include marijuana, methamphetamine, Ambien, and prescription drugs like Vicodin. If you use any drug that affects your nervous system, muscles, or brain which affect your driving, you can be implicated with a DUID offense.