Possession of a Controlled Substance

There are many, many variations of this law, depending on what was possessed, who possessed it, and how it was possessed (type of drug, paraphernalia, quantity, purpose, prior convictions, weapons, involvement of minors).  The following are some basics of our drug laws that you should be familiar with if you are facing drug related charges, including Possession for Sale, and are seeking the help of a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney.
Drug Classifications
The Federal and State government regulate drugs by a “Schedule” with 5 levels from the active ingredient in cough syrup to heroin. Punishment roughly increases by amount and Schedule classification.
H&S § 11350, 11357, 11153, 11375, 11377, et al.; Pen. § 381; B&P § 4360
  • Simple 1st time possession of a drug is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county jail except for possession of marijuana which has now been legalized up to just over ounce. Possession of all other controlled substances is a “wobbler,” meaning it is a misdemeanor, but may be charged as a felony if there are priors (previously having been convicted of this crime).
  • Possession is eligible for “diversion” (PC 1000 or “Drug Court” Prop. 36) which means you plead guilty or no contest, complete an in-patient or outpatient drug rehabilitation program, or several NA meetings per week for months, then come back to court for a dismissal of the charges prior to the court having pronounced judgment.
Possession for sale/Transportation
H&S § 11351, 11378, et al.
  • Possession for Sale is a felony and not eligible for diversion. The sentence is up to 4 years incarceration, and is served in county jail.
  • To be convicted of Possession for Sale, you don’t need to be caught in the act of actually selling anything.  Apparently this would make it too difficult to combat drug trafficking, so the law is written such that if the drug is “possessed” with the intent to sell it, that is enough.  In order to prove such intent, the facts surrounding how it was possessed are considered.  For example, was the drug separated into small, salable, amounts (baggies, bindles)?  Was there a scales present?  Was there a large amount of cash present?  How much of the drug was on hand vs. how much would a normal user possess for personal use?  Was any paraphernalia present (tools for drug consumption, like a pipe)?  Was there a prescription?
  • Transportation of a Controlled Substance is a felony with up to a five years sentence, served in County Jail. This crime can be committed by simply “offering” to transport the drugs and carries a stiff penalty because the legislature knows that unless drugs are moved around, they cannot reach the consumers.
  • Prison enhancements will be added for increased drug weight or volume, from 3 to 25 years.
  • Possession of a firearm “during the commission” of the crime, meaning you have a gun in your possession at the time the drugs are discovered, you face an additional 3 to 5 years of incarceration.
  • Federal penalties are by far much more severe with even a simple possession carrying up to a 20 year sentence – most of which will have to be served.
The above is only a short list of potential consequences and outcomes from the illegal possession of drugs.  Contact Felony Attorney Peter Sebastian for a free consultation about your specific case.