We've been practicing criminal defense and handling drug crimes for the past 25 years, so we've handled every single drug related offense that you can think of. We've seen cases from 25 years ago during the 80s when Ronald Reagan put all the hardship drug laws in relation to “just say no to drugs.”
We've seen many propositions pass in California that have lessened the drug laws. So, we have a very good background and history of defending drug cases all over California, particularly in Los Angeles. But the biggest cases that we see are sales cases in which people are charged with possession for sale, sales and distribution. Even the act of giving away drugs to a friend would fall under the sales category.
I defend people at the federal level in big sales cases, RICO violations where gangs are involved and wiretap cases. Obviously, I do the possession cases as well. With all of these propositions that have passed, we are able to get a lot of good people into diversionary programs and protect their record, which is something we couldn't do in years past.
Is a Drug Charge a Misdemeanor or Felony?
It depends on the circumstances of the person's actions, as well as the drug itself. For many, many years, the possession of any drug (cocaine, heroin, even marijuana) was being charged as felony in California.
Now that a number of propositions have passed, most of the drugs are charged as misdemeanors. However, these charges can be jacked up to a felony if someone is selling a particular drug, especially if it's viewed as a dangerous drug. The authorities will file that as a felony. But even Proposition 64 has made selling marijuana a misdemeanor, which has saved people time in prison and saved their records from being tarnished.
So it really just depends on the circumstances of the drugs. Most possession cases are not going to be charged as felonies, but instead will be charged as misdemeanors. Oftentimes we can even avoid a misdemeanor conviction and get the person diversion. Drug related felonies will either involve huge drug operations where the federal government gets involved, or people selling or moving large amounts of drugs.
Unlawful Controlled Substances Under California Law
An unlawful controlled substance is a drug that the authorities have determined dangerous for humans. It is a drug that has been indicated as illegal to possess or sell in the health and safety code sections and the penal code sections.
For example, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy are considered unlawful controlled substances. Under some circumstances, marijuana has also been considered an unlawful controlled substance, although the legislature has spoken on that, and in most circumstances it is now legal to possess.
In addition, any prescription drugs that are being used or sold in an illegal manner are considered unlawful controlled substances. So, it's really a circumstance where the government wants to make sure that people are not ingesting substances that could harm them or could harm our youth. They have listed those particular drugs and made them illegal to possess or sell.
What's considered as possession, sales, or distribution of unlawful drugs? That has to do with somebody who is in possession of or who is moving or selling a drug that has been listed as illegal. Cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine have all been determined by the government to be illegal to possess and dangerous to human life. Therefore, if anybody is caught in possession of those, moving those or trying to sell those particular drugs, they will be prosecuted.
The concept of drug trafficking has to do with people who are moving illegal drugs throughout the United States or into the United States from another country. The trafficking aspect of it has to do with people who are making big money selling drugs in America. The authorities use all sorts of technology, including wiretaps and phone taps in order to detect individuals who are selling and making huge money in California related to drugs.
Legal Penalties for Drug Conviction In California
The biggest penalties in California are probably at the federal level, and involve people who are selling drugs within California, moving drugs out of California into other states or outside of the United States or moving drugs into the United States.
If it is a large volume of drugs, then it will be prosecuted by the federal government. There are many mandatory minimum sentences that can apply where the person will serve a minimum of 5, 10, 15 or 20 years in federal prison at 85%. So, that's usually where we see the biggest numbers as far as sentencing goes. At the state level, people who are selling drugs or in possession of weapons related to drugs are the ones that the authorities are really targeting in trying to send to prison and give very harsh punishments to.
A number of propositions have been passed in California to try and help people who are just possessing and using drugs. That help may be in the form of rehabilitation or just not treating the possession of the drugs for personal use as serious as they once did.
This will help to clean out California's prison and only put really hardened criminals in there. So, we're seeing the biggest benefit being applied to people who are just possessing drugs.
Alternative Programs for Drug Offenders In California
It depends on the circumstances of the case. They're going to look at your criminal record, which drug you were found to be in possession of, the amount of the drug and the circumstances of you having had the drugs. There are a number of different programs throughout LA County and California.
There are drug courts for people who are really immersed and addicted to drugs, and there are diversionary programs that allow more casual users to avoid conviction. There is a concept of deferred entry of judgment where you do a six-month program. If you are clean for 18 months, they will completely dismiss the case.
There is Prop-47, Prop-64 and so many different variations of programs that are designed to help people in California who are addicted to drugs or who are occasional recreational users. So, if you fall under that umbrella, then you definitely want to get an attorney.
You want that attorney to be able to evaluate everything and decide what the best program is for you, and how to get you the best possible result. The people who are going to have problems getting into programs and who are going to be going to prison are the ones who are involved in serious drug sales or trafficking, have weapons or are doing things that the authorities view as destructive to the society.
For more information on Drug Offenses In California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0979 today.