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What Are the Different Types of Drug Charges in California?

Understanding Different Drug Charges

Some of the most commonly prosecuted crimes in the United States are drug-related offenses. The federal government enforces scheduling standards for illicit substances, assigning different schedules to substances based on whether they hold any medical value, the potential for abuse, and addictive qualities. In California, it’s illegal to possess, purchase, or sell any illicit drugs scheduled by the federal government, with the significant exception of marijuana. While California has legalized medical and recreational consumption of marijuana for adults, some situations involving marijuana can potentially lead to criminal prosecution.

It’s essential for every California resident to know the different types of drug charges and how different substances fall within the federal drug scheduling system. If you are accused of any drug-related offenses in California, the penalties you face will largely depend on the type of drug involved in your case, the quantity, and your intentions for the substance. It’s essential to have reliable defense counsel in this situation.

What Is Drug Scheduling?

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of the United States enforces a five-tier scheduling system. Therefore, if you are accused of any drug-related offenses in California, you can expect the scheduling of the drug involved in your case to carry significant weight when it comes to sentencing:

  • According to the federal government, Schedule I drugs are illicit substances that do not possess any medical value and carry a high potential for abuse. A few examples of Schedule I narcotics include heroin, peyote, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy). Drug offenses related to Schedule I narcotics typically carry the most significant criminal sentences.
  • Schedule II drugs can offer medical value in very specific and highly controlled situations but carry a very high potential for addiction and abuse. A few examples of Schedule II drugs include methadone, meperidine (Demerol), hydrocodone (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and Adderall.
  • Schedule III drugs offer some medical value and carry moderate to low potential for addiction and abuse. Testosterone, anabolic steroids, ketamine, and Tylenol with codeine are common examples of Schedule III drugs.
  • Schedule IV drugs are considered to have a low potential for abuse, including Ambien, Tramadol, Valium, Xanax, and Darvocet.
  • Schedule V drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV drugs. Common examples include cough syrups with a codeine concentration of less than 200 mg per 100 ml, such as Robitussin AC, Lomotil, Lyrica, and Motofen.

Any of these substances can lead to drug charges in certain situations. California state law upholds relatively relaxed drug offense laws compared to most of the US, but any drug offense can still potentially lead to significant penalties.

Drug Possession

California recently passed Proposition 47, which reduced the penalty for most drug possession offenses to the misdemeanor level. As a result, simple possession, or possession of an illegal drug strictly for personal use with no evidence of intent to sell the drug, typically leads to relatively minor sentencing.

Possession With Intent to Sell

Possession with intent to sell carries more significant penalties than simple possession. The arresting police must find evidence that the suspect intended to sell the drugs on their person, such as baggies for selling smaller amounts, scales, and other measurement tools to divide a large quantity of narcotics.

Drug possession with intent to sell can also include additional criminal penalties in some situations. For example, if the individual charged with possession with intent to sell also had weapons on their person at the time of their arrest, they could face firearms-related criminal charges.

Drug Trafficking

“Drug trafficking” refers to the possession of illegal drugs with the intention of transporting them across state or national lines. In drug trafficking cases, the prosecution must establish that the accused intended to sell the drugs found in their possession across state or national lines. Many drug trafficking cases involve multiple defendants acting as a criminal network.

Drug Manufacturing

Some drugs, such as methamphetamine, are manufactured in specialized laboratories to produce large quantities for sale. Manufacturing many illicit drugs requires hazardous chemicals and often creates severe health and safety hazards for anyone around these labs. As a result, it’s possible to face many criminal penalties related to drug manufacturing beyond just the drug manufacturing charge itself; depending on the type of operation, the accused could also face penalties for causing environmental harm and posing a threat to public health.

California Rules for Marijuana

California voters passed Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized recreational marijuana use for adults and strengthened existing protections for medical cannabis. However, it is still possible for an individual to face drug charges related to marijuana. For example, it is illegal to possess or consume marijuana near schools, youth centers, and daycare facilities in California. It is also illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, and an individual who is arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) with marijuana could face significant penalties.

Unfortunately, the way the human body metabolizes marijuana means that a DWI test can show marijuana in a suspect’s bloodstream long after the psychoactive effects of marijuana have subsided. Therefore, if you are arrested for DWI related to marijuana, it is vital to hire a criminal defense attorney who can help you challenge the results of a chemical test administered after your arrest.

Penalties for Drug Charges in California

Proposition 47 may have reduced the penalties for simple possession in California, but if a suspect shows any aggravating factors during arrest, they could face felony prosecution. For example, arrest while in possession of a substantial quantity of illegal drugs could preclude simple possession charges and escalate the charge to possession with intent to sell or even drug trafficking. Likewise, if the suspect was arrested while possessing a large quantity of cash or attempting to sell drugs to another party, they are likely to face charges of possession with intent to sell.

Felony drug convictions in California can lead to up to $20,000 in fines, five years in state prison, felony probation, and loss of any professional licenses the offender held. They will also have difficulty finding work in the future due to the criminal record their conviction will create. In addition, juveniles charged at the felony level as adults could lose their eligibility for financial aid for college in the future, and some drug offenders could lose their right to own firearms in California.

If you or a loved one is charged with any drug-related offenses in California, it’s vital to contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Zentz & Zentz can provide the comprehensive defense representation you need to navigate your case with confidence. So, contact us today to schedule a consultation and find out how our firm can help with your defense.

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