Possession of a controlled substance is a serious crime that includes the possession of drugs and/or drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia refers to any equipment, product, or material that is used in the making, concealing, or using of drugs. State and federal laws, such as the Controlled Substances Act, define what constitutes a controlled substance. Illegal drugs and narcotics are often referred to as “controlled substances” and typically include cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or other illegal narcotics as well as the compounds used to manufacture them.
What defines possession of a controlled substance?
Possession of a controlled substance occurs when a person owns or possesses a drug or other illegal substance. As mentioned, you will typically see these charges applied to a person who is found to be carrying marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other illegal narcotics. It is also important to know that some prescription drugs qualify as a controlled substance and possession charges are possible if you do not have a proper prescription.
The crime of possession of a controlled substance occurs whenever a person knowingly and intentionally has control of an illegal drug. In these cases the prosecution will work to prove that the defendant knew the drugs were illegal and intended to use or control them.
Is it a misdemeanor or a felony?
Possession of a controlled substance can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the crime, including:
- Type of drug – Certain drugs are punished more severely than others. Marijuana is typically a misdemeanor offense while methamphetamine or cocaine will typically result in felony charges.
- Amount of drug – The amount of the controlled substance can be a factor in determining whether or not the crime is a misdemeanor or felony. Higher amounts typically result in the defendant being charged with a felony.
- Intent – Possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute usually results in felony charges. Possession for personal use is typically punished less severely.
Penalties for possession of a controlled substance vary and will generally depend on how the drug is classified. Drugs are generally organized according to how dangerous it is, and how much potential it has for treatment versus potential for harm. In most instances, the more dangerous a drug is considered to be the more likely it will be associated with felony charges. California classifies Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) into the following “schedules”:
- Schedule I drugs (such as opiates or marijuana).
- Schedule II drugs (such as raw opium and morphine).
- Schedule III drugs (such as pentobarbital and anabolic steroids).
- Schedule IV drugs (such as diazepam and zolpidem).
- Schedule V drugs (such as low doses of codeine).
Misdemeanor possession charges typically result in criminal fines accompanied by jail time of less than one year. However, felony possession charges can result in fines as well as lengthy prison sentences. For further information on California Code concerning Controlled Dangerous Substances read California Health and Safety Code Sections 11053 through 11057.
“I didn’t know I had drugs on me”
Possession of a controlled substance requires that the person had knowledge of the presence of the substance and also had the ability to control it. If a friend asks you to hold their bag which unbeknownst to you contains drugs, it would have to be proven that you knew about the substances if you were subjected to a search by the police. These cases can be very complicated and it is recommended that you use the representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
“Do I need a criminal defense attorney?”
Possession of a controlled substance is a very serious crime that can carry severe legal penalties. If you need assistance with possession charges or would like to confidentially discuss the details of your case, please contact us today at (559) 222-5800. In most instances an appointment can be scheduled for the same day.