California Drug Possession: Law, Penalties, and Defenses | Temecula, Murrieta and Hemet Criminal Defense Attorney

Drug possession laws vary from state to state and on the federal level. In California, Health and Safety Code 11377(a) makes it a crime (felony or misdemeanor) for a person who is caught owning or otherwise possessing a controlled substance such as marijuana, cocaine, meth, heroin or some other substance. Some legally prescribed medications can be considered a controlled substance if there is no proper prescription available. The prosecutor has to prove that the defendant not only knew that the drug in question was illegal but also that he or she knew the drugs were present, say in a house or vehicle, and intended to use or control them.

In Riverside County, penalties for drug possession vary based on the specific circumstances of each individual arrest. In general, they can range from "diversion" (i.e. drug counseling program) and/or rehab to probation and jail.

Defenses against the charge of drug possession.

There are a number of legal defenses against a "possession charge". One is that the police found the drugs through unlawful search and seizure, thus violating the defendant's 4th Amendment rights. An example might be if the police officer found the drugs in the trunk of a car that had been pulled over at a traffic stop without having probable cause for conducting a search.

Another is establishing that the drugs belonged to someone else, say to someone else living in the house or riding in the car where it was found. An example would be attending a party at someone's house when the police raids it and drugs are found in a common area. No one cooperates with the police or accepts responsibility for the drugs, so the police arrests all who are present.

Still another is a claim of entrapment, which occurs when an individual is induced by the police to commit a crime that he or she would not otherwise commit. An example happened recently at a local Temecula high school where an undercover officer posed as a "student" and befriended a developmentally disabled sophomore. The undercover officer then hounded the sophomore to obtain marijuana and sell it to the undercover officer. The sophomore was neither a user nor a seller of marijuana and had no other friends other than the "student". After numerous voicemails and text messages, the sophomore sold his "friend" some marijuana and was later arrested.

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges for possession of a control substance, call us! We can help. Our office represents individuals who were arrested in Temecula, Murrieta, Hemet, Wildomar, Menifee, Perris, Banning, Lake Elsinore, Corona or Riverside.

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