Do First Time Drug Offenders Go to Jail in California?

No, first time drug offenders for small quantity of drugs do not go to jail because you can go to California drug diversion program.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Do First Time Drug Offenders Go to Jail in California?

Determining the duration of a jail sentence for drug possession in California involves factors. Generally, individuals facing their misdemeanor drug possession charge may be sentenced to one year in jail, fined up to $1,000.

The length of your jail time for drug possession in California depends on considerations, including:

  • Whether you are charged with “possession” or “possession for sale.”
  • The specific type of drug involved.
  • The quantity of the drug found in your possession.
  • The reasons behind your possession of the drug.
  • If this is your offense.
  • The quality of representation provided by a drug possession defense lawyer. • Your previous criminal history.

What is Drug Possession in California?

You can be charged with drug possession in California when the police find drugs on you; also, you can be charged with drug possession when the police find drugs within your control, such as in your car, home, apartment, or purse. It’s important to note that possessing drugs with a prescription does not result in charges. Additionally, as long as individuals abide by the regulations outlined in the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, they cannot be charged with marijuana possession in California. For instance, it is against the law to grow more than six marijuana plants for use. If you are caught doing so, you could face a charge of marijuana cultivation. In order for the courts to accuse you of possession, they need to establish two factors:

  1. First, they must prove that you were aware of having the drug.
  2. They must also show that it was reasonable for you to know that the drug was illegal. Usually, mere possession of drugs is considered severe compared to drug-related offenses like drug trafficking. Your attorney specializing in drug possession can work on establishing either of these points to help demonstrate your innocence in your case.

Please note that under federal law, drug possession can be charged under 21 USC 952.

How a Drug Possession Defense Attorney in California Can Protect You

If you are charged with drug possession, there are defense strategies that your lawyer can pursue. These may include the following:

  1. Arguing that you were unaware of the drug’s presence (e.g., if someone left them in your car or home without your knowledge).
  2. Claiming ignorance about what the drugs were (for example, if a friend asked you to hold something for them without disclosing its contents).
  3. Asserting that you did not have “possession” of the drugs. If you are found near drugs, it won’t be considered as evidence against you. As long as you have a prescription for the drug, or if there were issues with the lab analysis, your legal team can explore options to defend you and minimize any potential jail time for drug possession. In some cases, a skilled drug crimes lawyer may even be able to negotiate a reduced sentence.

Do I Go to Jail for Drug Possession?

In California, after Proposition 47, drug possession offenses are treated as misdemeanors, coming with penalties such as up to one year in county jail and a fine of $1000. This includes possession of substances like benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Valium, and Librium), stimulants (like amphetamines, methamphetamine, MDMA, Ritalin, Adderall, and cocaine), hallucinogens (such as mescaline, peyote, psilocybin/mushrooms, LSD), and opiates (including heroin, codeine, oxycodone). Some of these options, for pain relief like oxycodone, can only be obtained with a prescription from a doctor. If you have a conviction, and if you were in possession of a loaded firearm while having the drug, your jail time for felony drug possession can be increased. Possessing drugs with the intent to sell or engaging in drug trafficking are considered more serious crimes. If convicted, you can face jail time in either state or federal prison.

Drug Use Impact on You

The use of drugs can have effects on individuals despite relaxations in drug possession laws. For instance long term cocaine use may result in detachment from reality and panic attacks. Additionally the method of ingesting cocaine can cause harm, such as lung damage when smoked. Prolonged use is also linked to heart problems and an increased risk of stroke.

Heroin is known for its level of addictiveness and individuals may engage in behaviors to obtain it. This uncontrollable pursuit of the drug can have effects, on a persons status, social life, mental well being and emotional stability.

California has adopted an approach aimed at addressing drug use by implementing drug diversion programs as an alternative, to incarceration for individuals charged with drug possession.

California Drug Diversion Program

In situations if you are facing drug charges in California you may be eligible to participate in a “drug diversion” program that focuses on treatment than imprisonment. By completing the treatment program your charges will be dismissed.

You could qualify for the drug diversion program when:

  • This is your offense
  • You are a violent offender
  • You have not been accused of any serious drug related offenses such as possession with intent to sell

To determine if you meet the requirements for the drug diversion program it is advisable to consult with a drug crimes attorney. Ultimately it is up to the prosecutor handling your case to recommend you for participation in the program.

If you meet the criteria, for the drug diversion program there are a few points to keep in mind;

The court must approve your chosen treatment facility

The program, for drug diversion may span over a period of 12 months or longer. During your participation in the program you will be required to undergo drug testing. Additionally you will be responsible for contributing a portion of the costs associated with the drug treatment program as determined by the court.

The duration of jail time for drug classifications depends on the charges.

In California and at a level there is a system in place known as drug scheduling that classifies controlled substances based on their danger. It is prohibited for individuals to possess these substances unless they have a prescription.

Drugs classified under Schedule I are considered dangerous due to their risk of addiction and lack of practical medical use. Marijuana, heroin, LSD and mescaline fall under this category.

Substances listed under Schedule II have potential for dependency. Can also serve medical purposes. Cocaine, methadone, opium and methamphetamines are examples in this classification.

Schedule III narcotics carry a risk of addiction. Include substances such as testosterone, ketamine and anabolic steroids.

Schedule IV drugs consist of sedatives, clonazepam (also known as Klonopin) tranquilizers that have a risk, for dependency but fulfill crucial medical needs.

Schedule V drugs are medications that fulfill needs, without posing much risk of dependency. An example of such a drug is Tylenol containing codeine.

It is also possible for individuals to misuse prescription drugs obtained unlawfully from doctors.

How does the judge decide how to much jail time to give?

When deciding on a sentence in California a judge has three options. The first option follows the guidelines outlined by the law. The other two options involve increasing or decreasing the sentencing based on circumstances.

In cases involving possession of a Schedule I depressant, a jail sentence of one year may be imposed. However it’s important to note that there are situations where marijuana possession’s legal in California. Unlawful possession of this drug can lead to penalties;

Possessing any amount of cannabis could result in one year of imprisonment along, with fines.

Possessing 28.5 grams or less of marijuana is considered an offense resulting in a $100 fine. If you have, than 28.5 grams the consequences can be more severe including both a fine and a jail sentence of up to six months.

  • Intent to sell drugs: Being charged with intent to sell controlled substances carries penalties compared to possession charges. While possession charges typically result in incarceration for than 12 months being found guilty of intent to sell marijuana can lead to jail sentences especially if selling to minors. Ranging from 16 months up to three years. Sometimes even if your attorney proves that you had no intention of selling drugs you may still face possession charges.
  • Drug dealing: The length of jail time for drug dealing depends on factors such as the quantity and type of drugs involved well as any prior criminal records. Penalties for drug sale can result in up to five years imprisonment, in a California state prison. If you find yourself facing accusations of drug possession or any other crime it’s important to know that you have rights protected by the law in the United States. For instance the authorities must inform you about the crimes you are being accused of. You are not obligated to incriminate yourself. Additionally you have the right, to representation provided by an attorney who will advocate for your case.

When it comes to drug related offenses it is wise to exercise caution and refrain from speaking until you have legal counsel present. A skilled criminal defense lawyer who specializes in cases involving drugs can guide you on how to handle police questioning and build a defense strategy.

If you have been arrested for drug possession it is crucial to secure the services of an attorney soon as possible. Hiring a lawyer greatly increases your chances of avoiding a conviction.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

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