You may think LA is a city where anything goes, but you'd be wrong. Crimes of any sort are taken seriously here and prosecuted accordingly. If you are caught with drugs as a first-time offender, the penalties may not be that harsh.
But if you have been previously convicted for drug possession, cultivation, or another related crime, the consequences will be much harsher.
However, your punishment will be more severe if you have been convicted of the same crime in the past or another felony drug charge. If you have been arrested for a drug offense in Los Angeles, you must know your legal rights and proactively protect yourself from unanticipated consequences.
Read to learn more about what penalties you could face for your drug crime based on the nature of your arrest.
What You Need To Know About Drug Crimes In Los Angeles
The minimum sentence for even a minor possession charge frequently exceeds one year in prison. You may face even harsher consequences if the conviction is your second or third offense.
If you are arrested and charged with any drug-related crime, it's essential to understand the potential ramifications of that charge. Depending on the substance or quantity found in your possession and your past criminal history, a drug crime conviction could result in jail time, probation, fines, and other serious negative consequences.
A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you understand these potential outcomes to make informed decisions about how to proceed. A free consultation with an attorney is always the best way to get started.
The Basics Of Los Angeles Drug Crimes
There are two broad categories of drug crimes: possession and intent to sell/distribute. The penalties for these crimes differ based on the type of drug, the amount found in your possession, and your criminal history.
Simple Possession vs. Intent to Sell
For possession crimes, the burden of proof is much lower than for intent to sell/distribute cases. The prosecution must prove that you possessed the drug, but they do not have to prove what your intent was.
For intent to sell/distribute crimes, the prosecution must prove that you possessed the drug with the intent to sell it.
Valid Prescription Vs. No Prescription
If you possess a controlled substance but have a valid prescription, you may be able to avoid penalties altogether.
However, if you are caught with a controlled substance for which you do not have a valid prescription, you will likely face charges – even if the amount in your possession is small.
Type Of Drug
The type of drug you are caught with will also affect your penalties. For instance, penalties for hard drugs like cocaine and heroin are much harsher than for marijuana.
Amount Of Drug
The amount of drugs in your possession will also play a role in the penalties you face. If you are caught with a small amount, you may only face misdemeanor charges, but if you are caught with a large amount, you could face felony charges.
If you have been previously convicted of a drug crime or another felony, you will likely face harsher penalties than if this is your first offense. Drug treatment courts may be an option for first-time offenders, but generally, penalties become more severe with each subsequent offense.
Consequences And Penalties Of A Los Angeles Drug
Depending on the type of drug, the amount you were caught with, and your past criminal history, you could face severe penalties if convicted.
The penalties for drug crimes increase as the number of convictions you have increases. If you're facing your second or third drug conviction, the minimum sentence you may face is much longer than someone charged with their first offense.
With a single drug crime conviction on your record, you may be eligible for Drug Court, a diversion program that allows a person charged with a low-level drug offense to avoid jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record.
Possession Of Illegal Drugs
If you are found in possession of illegal drugs – including prescription drugs without a prescription – you will likely be charged with drug possession.
Possession can vary in severity based on the type of drug and the amount you are caught with. The possession of most drugs is considered a misdemeanor, except for certain felony-level drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and LSD.
The potential penalties for possession are as follows:
- Up to a year in county jail for possessing a controlled substance (except for marijuana).
- Up to a year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for the possession of marijuana.
Possession Of A Controlled Substance
Controlled substances have been deemed illegal by the state of California.
Possession of a Controlled Substance (Health & Saf. Code, 11350 HS) is a felony drug offense in California. The penalties for this crime depend on the type and amount of drug involved but can range from informal probation to several years in prison.
Sale Or Transportation Of A Controlled Substance
Sale or Transportation of a Controlled Substance (Health & Saf. Code, 11352 HS) is also a felony in California. The penalties for this crime are more severe than possession and can include up to eight years in prison.
Possession Of Cocaine, Heroin, And Other Drugs
If you are caught with cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or other non-prescription drugs, you could face felony charges. The penalties for possessing these drugs vary depending on the type, amount, and whether your charge is a felony or misdemeanor.
Felony charges with large amounts of these substances can result in a sentence of up to 10 years in state prison. If you are caught with other substances such as opium, PCP, or LSD, you could face felony charges.
Cultivation Or Manufacturing Of Drugs
The cultivation or manufacturing of illegal drugs is considered a felony offense in California. Penalties for manufacturing or cultivation vary depending on the type of drug and the amount.
There is a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in state prison for growing more than 100 plants of marijuana. Growing fewer than 100 plants of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in county jail.
Sale Or Attempted Sale Of Illegal Drugs
Selling drugs is an extremely serious crime in California. Penalties vary depending on the type and amount of drug, the relationship between you and the person you sold to, and if any minors were involved.
If you cought attempting to sell drugs, you could face a felony charge, with a potential sentence of three years in state prison. If caught with a large amount of drugs, you could be charged with selling drugs, a felony crime with a potential sentence of 15 years in state prison.
Trafficking Of A Controlled Substance
The California Penal Code defines trafficking as the illegal Transportation of drugs across state lines.
Trafficking is a felony-level crime that is extremely serious and carries very harsh penalties. The penalties for trafficking can include up to 20 years in state prison, depending on the type of drug.
Drug Equipment Or Drug Paraphernalia Possession
Drug paraphernalia can include bongs, scales, and glass pipes. Possessing drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
Importing Or Exporting Drugs
Importing or exporting illegal drugs is considered a felony offense in California. The type of drug and amount determines the exact penalties for this crime. The maximum penalties for importing or exporting drugs are ten years in state prison and a $50,000 fine.
Defending Against A Drug Charge
If you've been charged with drug possession, your top priority should be to hire an experienced Los Angeles drug crimes defense attorney.
A qualified criminal defense attorney can review the facts of your case and help you understand the potential outcomes so that you can make informed decisions about how to proceed. A knowledgeable drug crimes defense attorney can challenge the initial stop and detention that led to your arrest.
In many cases, police officers search and arrest individuals without proper probable cause or a valid search warrant. A skilled defense attorney can challenge these illegal searches and get your charges dropped or reduced.
A drug diversion program may be an alternative to jail time or a prison sentence. If you are a first-time, non-violent offender, you may be eligible for a drug diversion program. This program requires you to complete an assessment by a professional followed by individual outpatient counseling or completion of an intensive outpatient treatment program and perform community service. Your charges will be dismissed if you successfully complete the drug diversion program.
If you were charged after being searched during a traffic stop, your attorney might be able to challenge the stop itself, as well as the search of your vehicle. If the drugs were found in a backpack or suitcase belonging to someone else, your attorney might be able to get the charges reduced or dropped so you can avoid a criminal record.
Drug crimes carry serious consequences that can impact your future negatively.
The penalties can be significantly harsh depending on the type of drug and the amount. It is essential to know your rights if you are arrested for a drug crime and to find a lawyer who is experienced with these cases.
If you are convicted of either of these crimes, you may also face fines, mandatory drug counseling, and a driver's license suspension. In addition, those convicted of drug crimes may have trouble finding employment or housing in the future.
If you have been charged with a drug crime in Los Angeles, it is vital to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can review the facts of your case and help you understand the charges against you.
Additionally, an attorney can help you navigate the court system and protect your rights throughout the process.