Answers To Common Questions About California’s Drug Laws

Knowledge is power when it comes to challenging a drug crimes arrest. California’s laws regarding controlled substances have changed in recent years, but it is a mistake to think an arrest on drug charges is anything less than a legal emergency. Drugs crime lawyer J. Gregory Turner of Turner Law has drafted some answers to drug-related questions heard in our offices in San Diego. The more information you have on this topic, the more effectively you can work with a criminal defense attorney if you ever face these charges.

Frequently Asked Questions About State Drug Laws

Has California decriminalized possession of most street drugs?

Absolutely not. While adult-use and medical marijuana have been decriminalized, most other controlled substances — including synthetic versions and derivative products — are illegal to possess or sell. The least consequential misdemeanor charges can result in a sentence of $1,000 in fines, community service hours and possibly up to a year in jail. If you are charged with possession with intent to sell or drug trafficking, or if you have other types of serious felonies on your record, you may be facing the potential for spending decades in prison.

Can I be arrested on a marijuana charge now that adult-use cannabis is legal?

It only takes one look at what has been legalized by Proposition 64 in 2016 to understand what remains illegal. That proposition and subsequent legislation allow for:

  • Possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana by adults 21 or older
  • Possession of to 8 ounces of marijuana concentrate by adults
  • Consumption of cannabis products in a user’s private residence or in a public place licensed for cannabis consumption

If you possess more than the specified about of marijuana or concentrate, or you consume your marijuana anywhere else other than the locations mentioned, you are at risk of being charged with a drug crime.

The police found drugs in my car. What defenses do I have at trial?

Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, the amount of drugs and other factors, you may have several methods for challenging the prosecution’s case against you, including:

  • You may not have even known the drugs were in the car and thus did not have a means of physically controlling them even though technically you were in possession of them.
  • The police stop or the search of your car may have been conducted unlawfully.
  • The laboratory where the drugs were analyzed may have made mistakes in measuring the amount or determining the substances discovered in your vehicle.
  • An undercover police officer or an informant pressured you into transporting the drugs, resulting in your entrapment.

What is Proposition 47, and what impact might it have on my drug crimes case?

Proposition 47, passed in 2014, reduced the initial charges for many drug possession cases to misdemeanors and provided those serving a felony sentence for a drug possession conviction means to petition to be resentenced. What this means if you have a current drug possession charge pending in court, there is a good chance you may be charged with a misdemeanor-level offense rather than a felony. If you are serving time for a drug possession felony or have a loved one in that situation, exploring the possibility of resentencing with a criminal defense lawyer is now an option.

I am a recreational drug user only. Why am I being charged with possession with intent to sell?

When law enforcement arrests someone on a possession with intent charge, they are attempting to demonstrate a pattern between the presence of drugs in the possession of the defendant and other circumstances, including:

  • A large quantity of a controlled substance
  • Tools for measuring and packaging drugs (scales, small plastic bags)
  • The presence of a sizable amount of cash in small denominations
  • Firearms on the property
  • A high amount of foot traffic on and off the property

Your defense attorney can challenge the amount of drugs found on the property, any relationship between the factors such as foot traffic and tools for packaging drugs (which are also found in many homes), or whether the search of your home was lawful. It is entirely possible your charge could be dropped to simple drug possession, which offers options that could keep you from having to serve time in jail.

Hire An Attorney Who Understands How To Fight For You

Our firm’s lead lawyer has handled 1,500 cases over his two-decade career in criminal defense. He understands the changes in California’s drug laws, as well as developments in other areas of the law. For a consultation, call our offices in San Diego at 619-436-4502 or use our online contact form to get in touch.