If you’re charged with possession of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia or being under the influence of drugs in California, you may face very serious penalties and long-term consequences, including incarceration in the county jail or state prison, substantial fines, mandatory counseling and drug treatment, probation and other penalties.

A drug-related conviction will also remain on your criminal record when future employers or landlords run a criminal background check on you, whether you’re convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor offense. Conviction of a drug offense in California may also have negative immigration effects resulting in deportation in some cases.

What the Law Says

Drugs are classified according to a schedule by the federal government, which determines the seriousness of the penalty associated with different narcotic substances. Generally, a more dangerous drug will result in a more severe sentence.

  • Schedule I Drugs: Drugs in this category are considered the most dangerous and addictive and lack any legitimate medical benefit. This category includes such drugs as mescaline, LSD and heroin.
  • Schedule II Drugs: Drugs in this category may still have a high risk of abuse but also may have legitimate medical benefits. This category includes methamphetamines opium, cocaine, methadone and amphetamines.
  • Schedule III Drugs: These drugs still have some risk of addiction but not as significant as Schedule II drugs. This class of drugs may include some depressants, anabolic steroids, ketamine and testosterone.
  • Schedule IV: These drugs have only a nominal risk of addiction and have significant legitimate medical benefits. This class of drug includes sedatives, tranquilizers and similar drugs.
  • Schedule V: This type of drug carries an extremely low risk of dependency and includes drugs like codeine and Tylenol.

Drug Offense Defense Strategies

As a former prosecutor, I have extensive experience with police investigation and surveillance techniques as well as the DA’s litigation strategies in drug possession cases. When I work on drug cases, I carefully examine law enforcement reports and documents to identify police misconduct or violations of your constitutional rights.

Many drug possession cases are based on evidence that is illegally seized in violation of your Fourth Amendment right against unlawful searches and seizures. I also carefully scrutinize any surveillance footage to determine whether or not it was conducted lawfully. I often challenge ownership and possession of the drugs even if they are discovered in your home or vehicle.

Additionally, while many drug charges in California are charged as felonies, I am often able to obtain diversion for many of my clients to help them avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction and jail time. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may qualify for PC 1000 or Proposition 36, which is a one-year drug treatment program.

I may also be able to obtain drug court relief where you agree to voluntary drug testing and a 12-step program as well as other conditions subject to review of the court. I may also seek a deferred entry of judgment under PC 1000 where you participate in a treatment program for six months and have your charges dismissed as long as you’re not arrested in the subsequent year.