Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance - Health and Safety Code 11550 HS
Those people who are under the influence of a narcotic potentially face a minimum of 90 days in jail if they're actually caught under the influence. It seems to me that the reason that the courts were doing this for a long time was because they were trying to draw the person out to take the ability to get narcotics away from them so that they will not use narcotics any more. This is also a form of a punishment.
I don't see as much anymore. Now they're not really trying to catch people and charge them with being under the influence of a narcotic. They will arrest them though and put them into court. Being under the influence and just straight possession of a narcotic fall under the same Health and Safety Code Section category 11350. So, if you're charged with either being under the influence or in possession of a narcotic you can be charged under that Health and Safety Code section and prosecuted accordingly.
More and more though, the government – including the Governor of California and other legislative officials – have decided that all of these charges against people for drug-related offenses when the people are not selling them, not using weapons and not committing any violent crimes have simply been too harsh.
I've been doing this for twenty-five years and I've seen a huge decrease in people going to jail and the harsh punishments that come along with narcotics-related offenses. Now, there seems to be a nice push towards actually helping the people who get these types of crimes where they're under the influence of a narcotic – whether it be heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine.
Where you start to get into trouble is when people are actually selling the narcotics. Then the authorities and the court system are much harsher. But those individuals who are under the influence can avail themselves to programs, can have the ability to get drug treatment through in-house or out-patient programs.
There are diversionary programs and deferred entry of judgment or your record is protected. There are all sorts of programs now really aimed at helping people who get themselves involved in drugs because the courts and the legislature realize a lot of these people are addicted and can't help themselves. Instead of just being warehoused in jail or prison, they need help.
However, there's another area of the law where people are using narcotics – abusing narcotics – and then committing crimes. Of course, those people are turning around saying I want to get drug treatment and the courts say, you've committed another crime.
Besides just being under the influence of a narcotic or a drug or possessing it, you're now taking it a step further and you're impacting the community and other people's lives by your criminal activity. For example – and I see this all the time now – if somebody takes some of narcotic and begins to hallucinate and then commits a bunch of serious offenses, they're not going to be able to hide behind the shield of a drug addiction.
Getting Help With Addiction
If you want help for your drug problem, obviously the court system and the prisons are equipped to give you that help. But the prosecutors also see when you take it a step too far that the next move that they need to make is to punish you for that and give you a deterrence against any further criminal activity.
So, voluntary intoxication, meaning being under the influence of a drug and then committing other crimes in addition to being under the influence of a drug – that is not a defense in California to almost every crime. The only crimes that voluntary intoxication – through alcohol or through drugs – are a defense to specific intent crimes. For example, let's say somebody tried to shoot somebody because they were hallucinating because they overdosed on methamphetamine. That would normally be an attempted murder case. If you're shooting a gun at somebody, there's a good chance you're trying to kill that person.
However, there could be an argument that the person was so intoxicated under methamphetamine, had no motive to shoot the other party and they did it because they were simply hallucinating. That person is likely going to get out scot free but might have the argument that they shouldn't be hit with attempted murder, which is fifteen to life. Maybe an assault with a deadly weapon which is a general intent crime could be used in that circumstance.
So voluntary intoxication, being under the influence of a drug can be used to mitigate down certain offenses. But the bottom line is, if you are charged with some sort of being under the influence of a drug in Los Angeles County, get to someone like me. We'll figure out where you stand in the big scheme of things with all of the Propositions and your life, your career and your history, and then we can figure out what the best course of action is to help you.