If you have been arrested or charged with possession of illegal drugs that weren’t yours, you may be in for the shock of your life. Many people attempt to assert their innocence to law enforcement, though that may backfire. “They aren't mine” or “I don't know how they got there” are excuses that officers hear all the time and are often dismissed as untrue. If the drugs appear to be in your possession, chances are that as far as the police and prosecutors are concerned, they are yours.
The Legal Definition of California Drug Possession
There are three legal types of possession for drug charges in California: actual possession, constructive possession, and joint possession.
- Actual possession means being in immediate physical custody, control, or management of the drug. As an example, a person is in actual possession of a drug when they have the substance in their pants pocket, shirt pocket, or purse.
- Constructive possession means that although the drugs were not on your person, the drugs were in a place over which you had control. Example: drugs were found in your office or home when you were not there.
- Joint possession occurs when you and another person share control of a drug. Example: A husband & wife live together. The cops raid their home and find a kilo of heroin in the master bedroom closet. Both can be charged for possession for sale of an illegal drug under California law.
In order to be convicted at trial of drug possession in California, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt you knew of the drugs and they were in your possession. In addition, the prosecutor must show there was a sufficient amount of the drugs present to actually use, and not a small residual amount.
Police sometimes arrest innocent people on drug charges, often from a stop and search of their car. One police tactic when finding drugs in a car is to arrest all occupants with drug possession unless someone admits owning the drugs. If no one claims the drugs, police and prosecutors think it is best to arrest and charge everyone and let the courts decide who is guilty and who is innocent. Why does this occur? First, it is easier to arrest everyone than to take the time to find out exactly what happened and who is responsible for the drugs. Second, they may hope there will be a greater likelihood that the defendants may turn against each other, providing helpful information to the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence.
If this has happened to you, it is important you gather as much information as you can about the facts of your case and immediately seek legal counsel. It is vital that you do not make any statements to the police without first consulting with your lawyer. You have a right not to incriminate yourself and to obtain legal representation – do not give up these rights.
Drug Possession Penalties
Drug possession criminal charges in Los Angeles are determined by several factors: the type of drug found, the quantity of the drug, the prior criminal history of the accused, and whether the drugs were intended for distribution, sale, or personal use. After passing Proposition 47 (November 2014), some drug possession crimes were reclassified and prosecuted as misdemeanors as long as the possession of drugs was for personal use. The penalty for misdemeanor drug crimes is up to one year in county jail, a fine, and three years of informal probation. Drug diversion programs are available for some drug possession crimes. On successful completion of the drug diversion program the drug charge is dismissed.
Our Los Angeles Drug Crime Lawyers Can Help
Police officers may make mistakes and erroneously place blame on an innocent person. If you have been charged with possession of drugs that did not belong to you, a criminal defense attorney at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners is prepared to investigate your case, get to the truth, and prove your innocence. If we determine your constitutional rights were violated, such as by a failure to read you your Miranda Rights (the right to remain silent and/or have an attorney present during police interrogation) or by an illegal search and seizure (without probable cause), we will work diligently to have the evidence suppressed and the charges against you dismissed.
If you have been charged with possession of illegal drugs in Los Angeles, call our firm today for a free and confidential evaluation of your case to learn how we can help you.