Los Angeles Drug Crime Attorney
Criminal Defense for Drug-Related Offenses
In California, drug crimes are some of the most widely prosecuted crimes
on both the state and
federal level. Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners aggressively defends individuals
charged with possession, transportation, manufacturing, sales and being
under the influence of drugs. Drug charges are serious, are usually prosecuted
as felonies and come with a potential state prison commitment.
If you or someone you know has been arrested, charged or is being investigated
for a drug crime, do not hesitate to call our offices for a
no-charge consultation with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.
Understanding California Drug Laws
California has some of the most complex illegal drug and controlled substance
laws in the country. A person can be charged for a variety of activities
related to illegal drugs:
- Possession (for personal use or sale)
- Sales (including giving drugs to someone)
- Transportation (or trafficking)
- Cultivating or manufacturing
- Attempt to possess, sell, manufacture or transport drugs
- Being under the influence of drugs
"Controlled substances" include illegal drugs like crack or powder
cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and crystal meth. They also include use of prescription
drugs like painkillers, (OxyContin, Vicodin, Hydrocodone) or ADD drugs
(Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta).
How Drug Crimes are Charged
Charges and penalties depend on several factors, including:
- The type and quantity of the drugs involved
- Whether the drugs were for personal use or for sale
- Whether the defendant has a criminal record, especially prior drug convictions
These factors affect whether the drug crime will be charged as a misdemeanor or
felony, whether jail or prison is required, the length of incarceration, fine
amounts, eligibility for sentencing alternatives (deferred entry of judgment)
Possession of Drugs for Personal Use
California Health and Safety Code sections 11350 and 11377 make possession
of a controlled substance a misdemeanor, unless you have a legal written
prescription. Possession of marijuana is usually charged as a misdemeanor.
Marijuana (Health and Safety Code section 11357) is also charged as a felony unless
the possession was less than an ounce of marijuana—then the charge
is either a misdemeanor or an infraction.
Charges can also be filed for being under the influence of a controlled
substance, driving under the influence of a drug (DUI), being present
where a controlled substance is being used, and possessing paraphernalia
for injecting or smoking controlled substances. If you have been charged
with possession of a controlled substance for personal use as a felony,
you could be sentenced up to a year in county jail. Most people will be
eligible for alternative sentencing (Prop 36 or
drug diversion) and avoid jail completely.
Possession of Drugs for Sale
California law makes a distinction between drug possession for personal
use and possession for sale. California Health and Safety Code 11351,
11378 and 11351.5 make it a felony to possess drugs for the purpose of
selling them. The prosecution does not need to prove that you sold the
drugs, but only that you had the intent to sell them. Intent can be proven
with circumstantial evidence. Such as the quantity of drugs, the packaging
of the drugs, and possession of any scales.
Example: If law enforcement goes to your house and finds drugs in quantities
larger than would be normally expected for personal use, this could indicate
that there was intent to sell. Other indications of intent to sell drugs
may include packaging, scales, cutting agents, large amounts of cash,
multiple cell phones, and a fortified location (such as security bars
In Los Angeles, we have encountered many cases that are mistakenly charged
as possession for sale when the drugs were for personal use. Possession
for sale carries up to five years in state prison. A conviction for possession
of drugs for sale is a "priorable" offense, which means that
it will increase the penalties (usually by three years of state prison)
for a future drug sales conviction.
Sales, Transportation & Furnishing of Drugs
California drug trafficking laws prohibit the transporting, importing (bringing
drugs into California) or selling, furnishing, or giving away of controlled
substances. This drug offense is usually prosecuted as a felony under
California's Health and Safety Code sections 11352 or 11379.
This crime is punishable by up to five years in state prison. You can also
be charged with trafficking if you aided, abetted or conspired with someone
to traffic drugs. Trafficking charges are often filed as a result of a
police sting operation, in which case an entrapment defense may be possible.
Manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, deriving, or preparing
by chemical extraction or independently by chemical synthesis or preparing
drugs is a felony in California and is punishable under Health and Safety
Code section 11379.6 by up to seven years in state prison. Cultivating
or Harvesting Marijuana is prosecuted as a felony under Health and Safety
Code section 11358 and is punishable by up to three years in state prison.
Under the Influence of a Drug
Health and Safety Code section 11550 makes it a misdemeanor to use or be
under the influence of a controlled substance except when administered
by a person licensed to dispense, prescribe, or administer. Under this
same section, it is also a misdemeanor to be unlawfully under the influence
of a controlled substance while in immediate possession of a loaded operable firearm.
A subsequent conviction with a prior is prosecuted as a felony. Penalties
for misdemeanor Health and Safety Code section 11550 is a minimum sentence
of 90 days in county jail or up to one year in county jail. However, most
offenders of this charge may qualify for Proposition 36 or DEJ (Deferred
Entry of Judgment).
Sentencing Alternatives for Drug Offenders
We are strong believers and advocates for
alternative sentencing for drug offenders, including drug rehabilitation and treatment programs.
In Los Angeles, depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for
alternative sentencing such as Proposition 36 or Deferred Entry of Judgment
(also known as DEJ or Diversion). We have found these programs to be an
effective alternative to county jail or state prison.
Proposition 36 – Prop 36
The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, also known as "Prop
36," allows individuals charged with first or second time non-violent,
simple drug possession offenses to get substance abuse treatment as an
alternative to incarceration. A Proposition 36 sentence requires treatment
for up to one year, with an additional six months of aftercare treatment.
Deferred Entry of Judgment - DEJ
For a Deferred Entry of Judgment, the defendant must enter a guilty plea,
but he or she is not convicted. For 18 months, the case is put on hold
while the defendant takes drug education classes and shows he or she can
avoid being arrested or convicted of another crime. If the defendant succeeds,
the charges are not entered on the defendant's criminal record and
the charge is dismissed.
Our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Protect You
If you or someone you know is facing drug charges, call us to discuss your
legal situation. We have defended hundreds of clients in the Los Angeles
area facing criminal charges ranging from possession to sales and manufacturing
of drugs. The criminal justice system is stacked against you, but we can help.
One of our team attorneys,
Kenneth J. Kahn, is a former Major Narcotics Los Angeles prosecutor who worked closely
with Federal and State agencies such as the FBI, DEA, California Dept.
of Justice, LAPD, and LA County Sherriff's Department. As part of
the criminal defense team of Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, Mr.
Kahn uses his experience to help our clients defend against their criminal
drug charges. Let us put our 70 years plus of combined legal experience
to work for you.
Call us for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.