When it comes to California, drug crimes lean on the lenient side of the law. Illegal drug possession in the state is generally classified as an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony. Infractions are the least serious level and do not include jail time. Misdemeanors usually carry up to a year in jail, and felonies carry state prison sentences of 1 year or more. In some situations, a drug crime may be a “wobbler” offense, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.
Note that California law divides controlled substances into 5 schedules, where Schedule I is the most dangerous:
- Schedule I (opiates, heroin, hallucinogens)
- Schedule II (raw opium, morphine, oxycodone)
- Schedule III (pentobarbital, anabolic steroids)
- Schedule IV (diazepam, zolpidem)
- Schedule V (low doses of codeine combined with nonnarcotic active medicinal ingredients)
The penalties of a drug offense in California will depend on the schedule of the drug, as well the amount in possession.
Penalties and Sentencing Guidelines for CDS
According to Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11350 (2019), the possession of any amounts of the following are punishable as misdemeanors that carry up to 1 year in county jail:
- Schedule I opiates, opium derivatives, depressants, cocaine base, mescaline, peyote, or synthetic cannabis
- Schedule II narcotics or opiates
- Schedule III hallucinogens
- Schedule III, IV, or V narcotics without a valid prescription
However, be aware that under Proposition 47, the reduced penalties of 1 year of county jail for the above are available only to offenders who are not registered sex offenders or who do not have convictions for specified serious or violent crimes like murder and gun crimes. Defendants who do not qualify for misdemeanor treatment may instead be charged with wobblers or felonies, depending on the schedule of drug and the amount in question.
Is Marijuana Legal in California?
California was the first state to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes, and in 2016 it further legalized marijuana use for recreational use. Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, establishes that adults aged 21 and older may legally possess, purchase, and consume up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated cannabis.
What are the Penalties for Illegal Possession of California?
The following amounts or circumstances of marijuana possession, however, remain illegal, according to Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 11357, 11362.3, 11362.4 (2019):
- possession of up to 28.5 grams or up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis by an underage person (under 21 years old) – an infraction punishable by up to $100 for defendants 18 and older and possible counseling and community service for defendants under 18 years old;
- possession occurring at or near a school – an infraction for a minor and a misdemeanor for an adult punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and/or up to $500 in fines;
- possession of more than 28.5 grams or more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis by a person younger than 18 – an infraction for a minor and a misdemeanor for a person 18 or older;
- possession of any amount in an open container or package in a vehicle – an infraction.
Contact Amy Schroder online or at 805-704-8810 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your defense options today.