Drug charges are some of the most common in criminal defense. The amount of jail time that may be spent, the range of fines, or other consequences depend on different factors. If you’ve been charged with a first time drug offense, know that those consequences may not be as severe. However, depending on the situation, penalties vary. For instance, if the drug offense involved large quantities of an illegal substance, then jail time may not be preventable – even for a first offense.
Learn more about the potential penalties for first time drug offenders and why factors may affect jail time.
What Are the Different Factors That Determine Jail Time?
There are actually several important factors that go into determining the consequences of a drug offense. These are:
- Is this the first offense?
- What is the drug in possession?
- How much of the drug is in possession?
- Is the charge for simple possession?
- Is the charge for possession for sale?
- What is the reason the drug is currently in possession?
Answering these will provide a better idea of whether jail time will be required. If jail time is a condition, then these can help determine the length of time served. Drug possession charges involve a variety of circumstances and situations.
What Is Considered Drug Possession in California?
A charge of drug possession is possible if two factors exist – first, is the drug on your person? That means it is in a pocket, purse, bag, wallet, or some other way that it is currently physically being carried. Second, is the drug under your control? That means it could be in a locker, in your car, somewhere in your home, or another place to which you have access. A medical prescription for a drug precludes you from being charged with possession. Marijuana is also legal in the State of California, as long as all the different guidelines and laws are being obeyed.
What Are the Angles for Defense?
A drug crimes defense lawyer can follow a few different lines for defense against a drug possession charge. Depending on your circumstance, some of these could include, but are certainly not limited to:
- You were unaware of the existence of a substance. This could happen if a friend asks you to hang onto an item without revealing its true identity.
- You were unaware of the presence of the substance. This may happen if someone leaves something behind in your home or vehicle.
- The substance wasn’t in your possession. If the substance was found close to you, that doesn’t constitute possession.
- The drug is prescribed to you.
- You were unlawfully searched.
Each of these defenses is dependent upon your specific circumstances, and with the right defense, you may not see jail time at all.
Jail Time for Drug Possession
With the passing of Proposition 47, drug possession results only in misdemeanor charges. The penalties have a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $1000 fine. This can include the possession of the following substances:
- Opiates including Vicodin, codeine, oxycodone, and heroin
- Depressants including Valium, phenobarbital, and Xanax
- Steroids including ketamine and testosterone
- Hallucinogens including cocaine, LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin
- Stimulants including Adderall, MDMA, and amphetamines
You may see an increase in jail time if there are prior drug convictions or if there’s a charge of felony drug possession. Charges of federal drug trafficking or possession with the intent to sell are significantly more serious crimes in the State of California.
Drug Diversion Program
The State of California sponsors a Drug Diversion Program. In a few different situations, someone could qualify for a program for treatment instead of jail time. Upon completion of the treatment program, any charges you were facing would be dismissed. The following things would qualify for the program:
- The offense was non-violent.
- This is the first offense.
- There are no charges involving a serious crime.
These items would qualify you for the program. However, there are a few additional things to note. First, the court has to approve the location of your treatment. Second, you will have to participate in drug testing throughout the program. Third, the program might take 12 months or more to complete. And finally, the court will determine that a part of the costs associated with the program will have to be paid by you.
Different Drug Classifications May Affect Jail Time
Drugs have been classified based on their potential to be harmful. The classification is called scheduling and is rated 1 through 5.
- Schedule V. These are drugs like Tylenol that are used for obvious and specific purposes, posing little danger.
- Schedule IV. These are typically tranquilizing drugs or sedatives and do not indicate a high level of dependency.
- Schedule III. This level suggests a risk for addiction that is moderate. It includes ketamine or anabolic steroids.
- Schedule II. While these drugs may result in dependency, they also serve a purpose, such as in the creation of methadone and opium.
- Schedule I. This is the more dangerous drug level and sees levels of addiction that are very high. Things like heroin, mescaline, and LSD fall under this category.
Charges for Intent to Sell
Intent to sell is considered a serious drug crime in the State of California, and it incurs a much higher consequence than drug possession. While you may see jail time of less than a year for a marijuana possession charge, an intent to sell marijuana charge may result in up to three years of jail time. Also, depending on the number of drugs that you are charged with attempting to sell, a penalty of up to 5 years in a state prison may result.
Being arrested for drug charges is a serious situation, and retaining legal aid quickly is your best bet for a good defense. If you’ve been charged with a first time drug offense, Exum Law Offices of Riverside can help determine the best possible outcome given your situation. No circumstance is too big or small, and we’ll take the time to hear your story. We handle our cases with skill and have the knowledge and experience to get your case on the right track. Having an excellent team behind you can help you get back to your life. For the best defense, contact us at Exum Law Offices of Riverside today.