Drug Crimes

In California, crimes involving drugs and/or controlled substances are generally classified as follows:

Possession for Personal Use – For most controlled substances, possession for personal use is a felony (as of January 11, 2011, possession of up to one ounce Marijuana is a civil infraction). Misdemeanor charges can be filed for being under the influence of a drug and/or possession of drug-related items (paraphernalia – pipes, bongs, etc.).

Possession for Sale – It is a felony to possess illegal drugs that are intend for sale. The prosecution does not have to prove that you sold the drugs, but that that you posses them with an intent to sell them. Therefore, money need not change hands to be convicted of “possession for sale.” Drug packaging (multiple small bundles), weighing scales, buy/sell sheets, cutting agents are some of ways that an intent to sell can be proven.

Trafficking (transportation, distribution, buying, selling) – California drug traffic laws prohibit the transporting, importing, selling and distribution of controlled substances. Transporting, importing, selling or distributing drugs is a felony. You can still be convicted of trafficking even if you only aided, abetted or conspired with anyone to sell or purchase illegal drugs.

Cultivating or Manufacturing – In California, it is a felony to: 1) plant, cultivate (grow, care for) or harvest marijuana; 2) manufacture illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine or crack, or possess the chemicals necessary to manufacture illegal drugs.

Conspiracy to do any of the above – A conspiracy requires not only two or more persons conspiring to commit any crime, but it also requires an overt act in furtherance of the crime by one or more of the parties to the agreement.

The Most Common Types of Illegal Drugs/Controlled Substances are:



•Crack Cocaine

•Ecstasy (aka E)



•Ketamine (aka, Kat, Special K)


•Marijuana (Cannabis) – Although see Medical Marijuana Laws

•Prescription painkillers, or stimulants, without a prescription (e.g. Morphine, Vicodin, OxyContin, Demerol, Adderall)


•Methamphetamine (aka Meth, Speed, Crank, etc.)




Sentencing For Drug Crimes
The punishment for drug crimes depends upon the type and quantity of the drugs involved, whether the drugs were for personal use or for sale and if the defendant has a previous conviction for another drug crime (e.g. a second conviction for sales of narcotics adds a minimum 3 year enhancement to the underlying sentence for drug sales).

Sentencing Alternatives for Drug Possession Crimes
Generally, defendants accused of drug possession have a few alternative sentencing options that are not provided to most other people charged with other drugs crimes:

Proposition 36: Under California’s Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, first and second time non-violent “simple drug possession” offenders can receive substance abuse treatment instead of jail time. This includes one year of outpatient, halfway house, narcotic replacement therapy, education classes and/or limited inpatient treatment, plus six months of “aftercare” treatment.

Deferred Entry of Judgment (also known as DEJ or Diversion): The defendant pleads guilty, but is not convicted. Instead, the case is put on hold for 18 months while the defendant must take a 6-months drug education classes and avoid an arrest or conviction of another crime. The case is dismissed after 18 months without a conviction appearing on the defendant’s record.

Drug Court: This involves a “supervision-and-treatment” program typically separated into phases that offer the defendant more freedoms as he/she completes each one. In rare cases, jail time is required. Once the defendant completes the program, the case is dismissed.