Under California Health and Safety Code 11350 (a) HS, it is illegal to possess a controlled substance without a valid prescription. Both illicit drugs and legal prescription drugs are included within the scope of this drug law. In order to obtain a conviction on a possession of a controlled substance charge under California Health and Safety Code 11350 (a), the prosecution must prove that the defendant illegally or unlawfully possessed a controlled substance; the defendant knew of the drug’s presence and the of its nature and character; and that the drugs were in a usable amount.
Possession of a controlled substance is usually charged as a misdemeanor. A conviction could result in up to a year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Those who are eligible may also be eligible for a drug diversion treatment instead of jail time. However, under some circumstances, illegally possessing a controlled substance can be prosecuted as a felony. For example, if you have been previously convicted of a sex crime or a serious felony crime such as murder or manslaughter, you could be looking at a felony charge. A felony conviction under this law is punishable by up to three years in county jail.
Types of Possession
Possession of controlled substances could be classified into:
Actual possession: This means that you have direct and immediate physical control over the substances. This typically means that you have physical possession of the drugs. For example, it could be in your purse, pocket, etc. If law enforcement officials find you in actual possession of the controlled substance, it could be challenging to argue that you didn’t possess the drugs or that the drugs did not belong to you.
Constructive possession: This means that the police did not find the drugs on you, but in a location over which you exercise control. For example, if the drugs were found in your room or dresser draw, that could be viewed as a space over which you exercise control. In other words, officials will assume that the drugs could not have gotten to that location without you knowing about it or allowing it. But, it’s important to remember that having access to a controlled substance or simply being near the drugs by itself does not constitute possession.
Joint possession: This could occur in cases where you are, for example, sharing an apartment with a roommate. Actual possession is where two people are sharing needles containing a controlled substance. Constructive possession is where the dugs are found in a common area of an apartment that you may be sharing with a roommate.
Other drug crimes you may need legal console for may include Drug Manufacturing, trafficking, or dealing. If you have a question about these or other drug crimes it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Call (949) 264-2114
What the Prosecutor Must Prove
In order to obtain a conviction under California Health and Safety Code 11350 (a) HS, the prosecutor, in addition to proving possession, must show that the defendant had knowledge of the drug’s presence and knew of its nature as a controlled substance. For example, you had a guest in your home who without your knowledge stored drugs in your home you cannot be convicted of these charges. Also, if you did not know that a substance was actually a controlled substance or an illicit drug, you cannot be convicted. However, if you knew that the drug is a controlled substance, but did not know precisely what drug it was, that knowledge is enough to constitute a crime.
The prosecutor must also show evidence that there was a sufficient quantity of the drug for use. In order to be convicted of possession of a controlled substance, you must possess sufficient quantities of the drug for personal use. This means that trace amounts or drug residues will not support a conviction for possession. In other words, if you don’t possess sufficient quantities of the drug to consume it, you should not be convicted of this offense.
What Are the Legal Defenses?
There are a number of legal defenses to fight possession of controlled substance charges. The types of defenses that apply to your case will depend on the nature and circumstances of your arrest. However, here are some of the defenses your drug crime defense attorney can present:
- You had a valid prescription for the drug unless you possess an illegal prescription or significantly more drugs that you are allowed to possess based on the prescription.
- You did not in fact possess the controlled substance in question. For example, if the drugs weren’t actually found on you or in a location that you exercise control over, you cannot be charged with possession.
- You only had temporary possession of the drugs to destroy or dispose of them and did not possess them in order to prevent them from being seized by the police.
- You did not know that you possessed the drug and that it was, in fact, a controlled substance under the law.
- The drugs were obtained as a result of illegal search and seizure. For example, if officials did not have a proper search warrant to search your home or vehicle, the evidence obtained cannot be used in court.
How a Defense Lawyer Can Help
A drug crime defense lawyer can help you get the charges reduced or dismissed, helping reduce your penalties and the potential for jail time. A knowledgeable defense lawyer will also be able to get you into a drug diversion program and help you avoid jail time. These programs allow individuals who have committed non-violent drug possession offenses to serve out their sentences in a drug treatment program instead of going to jail. Your drug charges could be dismissed on successful completion of the program. However, this is not an option for everyone. An experienced California drug crime defense attorney will be able to help you explore all possibilities include alternative sentencing options such as drug diversion programs. If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, please contact our experienced California criminal defense attorneys to schedule a free and comprehensive consultation. Do not talk to law enforcement officials without first consulting with your defense lawyer.