Drug Charges: What You Should Know

California drug laws impose very strict punishment especially for drug transportation, possession with intent to sell, manufacturing, distribution, and many more.  In fact, certain drug convictions can result in jail or prison, mandatory drug treatment, loss of employment opportunities, severe immigration consequences depending on your status, and even registration as a narcotic offender with local law enforcement.  If you have been previously convicted of a drug crime, then the potential punishment is much more severe.  Your sentencing can lead to many more years of potential prison.

If you are being investigated for a drug crime, then you must consult with an experienced and aggressive San Diego drug crimes lawyer as soon as possible.  Attorney Anna Yum has successfully and aggressively handled drug crimes cases for the last ten years both as a former prosecutor and a premier San Diego criminal defense lawyer.  Click here for some of her recent impressive victories.

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Regardless of whether you have been charged with possession with intent to sell, distribution of a large amount of drugs or even simple possession, Anna Yum draws on a decade of experience handling all sorts of drug crime cases.  Here at the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum, Ms. Yum will personally meet with you from the moment you walk in the door for a free legal consultation.  From the beginning, Ms. Yum’s goal is to strategize the strongest legal defense in protecting your freedom and to strive for the least amount of consequences in your life.  We are here to help you fight against drug crimes charges and if necessary, to help you seek effective drug treatment.

What Are Considered Illegal Drugs in California?

California has a specific list of drugs that are considered illegal and carry criminal consequences if you are caught with them. It also has separate drug laws when it comes to marijuana, phencyclidine (PCP), and methamphetamine.

Some of the controlled substances that are considered illegal/illicit drugs in the state of California are:

  • Opiates and opium derivatives such as heroin, raw opium, opium poppy, straw, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine,
  • Cocaine base such as crack cocaine and coca leaves,
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD),
  • Peyote and peyote derivatives such as mescaline,
  • Synthetic Cannabis,
  • Ketamine,
  • Anabolic steroids, including testosterone and human chorionic gonadotropin,
  • Dimethyltryptamine (DMT),
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB),
  • Bufotenin (toad venom),
  • Ibogaine,
  • MDMA (ecstasy),
  • Psilocybin (mushrooms).

Types of Drug Crimes

The Law Offices of Anna R. Yum has a successful and proven track record in defending against all types of drug crimes including but not limited to:

  • Drug Possession
  • Drug Possession with Intent to Sell
  • Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance(s)
  • Drug Transportation
  • Drug Transportation for Purpose of Sale
  • Drug Manufacturing
  • Drug Distribution
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Cultivation of Marijuana
  • Drug Distribution
  • Unlawful possession of prescription drugs

The Prosecution

Depending on the drug crime that you are charged with, you could be facing a misdemeanor, a felony, or a charge that is considered a “wobbler”.  A “wobbler” is a crime which can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.  The District Attorney’s office considers a number of factors in determining whether to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor drug crime.  Some of the variables include whether you have a criminal history, the amount of drugs, and the type of drugs that is at issue.

In order for the prosecution to get a conviction for drug crimes, they must first prove the elements of the crime took place. Did the defendant have the intent to sell or distribute? Was it for personal consumption? Is the type and amount of drugs significant?

Often times, an aggressive or overzealous prosecutor will file a more serious charge, such as possession with intent to sell, when you are only potentially culpable for possession of personal use.  There is a huge difference between these two types of crimes.  Possession with intent to sell drugs carries a much more significant punishment which includes the potential for jail or even prison.  At first glance, the difference between the two crimes does not seem much.  However, the reality is that the difference between these two crimes can permanently affect your future and freedom if you don’t retain the right attorney to aggressively defend you.

Who Can be Charged?

The following examples illustrate who can be charged with a drug crime such as California’s health and safety code 11350, possession of a controlled substance and health and safety code 11351, possession of a controlled substance for sale.

Barry bought some LSD and ecstasy in hopes of selling all of it a rave. While driving to his destination he gets pulled over for speeding. When the police officer asks for his driver’s license and registration, Barry placed the illicit drugs in the middle console where his license was. He attempted to use his body to cover up the view when reaching into the compartment, but it wasn’t enough. The police officer noticed the bag and asked what they were. Barry admitted they were his party drugs and they were for his own consumption. Upon closer inspection, the officer noticed the amount in the bag and suspected they were for distribution.

Barry will face more than just simple possession charges. He can be charged with possession of illegal controlled substances with the intent to sell or distribute them. He will face significant fines and several years in a California state penitentiary. He could also face additional charges of driving under the influence of drugs.

Jordan was driving erratically in a residential area and gets pulled over by police. The officer instantly notices white powder on the seat next to her and bloodshot eyes with dilated pupils. Upon further investigation, the officer finds a baggie of cocaine, an ounce of mushrooms, and some molly.

It turns out she had done a couple lines of cocaine and some molly before getting behind the wheel. She admitted to the officer that she purchased them for personal use during her three-day weekend off work. Jordan is charged with possession of and driving under the influence of drugs/controlled substances (DUID).

Paul was driving home and got pulled over for a broken tail light. The officer noticed a plastic grocery bag full of what looked like prescription medicine bottles. When the police officer inquired about it, Paul told him it was his personal medications that were all prescribed by his doctor. Paul showed him what kinds of medicines were in the bag and out of the dozens of bottles, there were only three bottles of painkillers. Two were high dosage ibuprofen and naproxen sodium medications and the third was a prescription for oxycodone.

Although Paul had a plastic bag full of prescription drugs, none of them were considered illegal/illicit drugs. Paul will not face drug charges for the number of drugs he had because they were all valid prescriptions under his name. There was also not enough oxycodone to indicate that he was intending on selling or distributing any of them.

Brad went out jogging with his backpack three times a week and would always come home with money afterward. His roommates suspected he was up to something but didn’t want to be nosey. One day, Kevin comes to the door asking for Brad and gets upset when the roommates tell him Brad’s not home. Kevin begins threatening the roommates and illegally enters the home, breaking things as he enters. The neighbors hear the ruckus and call the police. Kevin is arrested for breaking and entering and for being under the influence of a controlled substance, cocaine. The truth finally comes out about Brad. He was selling several types of controlled substances, morphine, steroids, cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and GHB.

Brad could face serious charges of possession of controlled substances with the intent to sell. If it’s discovered he actually sold illicit drugs, he could be convicted of California’s health and safety code 11352. Because he had so many different kinds of drugs, his sentencing will be more severe than possession charges. He could face up to four years in a California state prison and up to $20,000 in fines. His sentencing could be enhanced if he has a criminal record and he could face several more years if his background history shows prior felonies.

Legal Defenses

Attorney Anna Yum has a decade of experience in handling drug crimes.  Whether she is successfully trying cases in front of a jury or negotiating favorable dispositions with the prosecutor, Ms. Yum has extensive experience when it comes to handling drug crimes cases from beginning to end.  Attorney Yum is meticulous in evaluating your case to determine whether there were any errors or misconduct by the police.  Ms. Yum evaluates a case to determine if there were any illegal searches and/or seizures of the drugs in question.  In defending against drug crimes, it is essential to determine several issues including but not limited to:

  • Did the police officer have reasonable suspicion to detain you?
  • Did the police officer have probable cause to arrest you?
  • Did the police officer search you without a warrant in violation of your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure?  If so, were there any legally recognized warrantless exceptions in your case?
  • Was there a valid search warrant issued by the magistrate or judge?
  • Was there a defect in the chain of custody when the police officer handled the evidence?
  • Was there a confidential informant involved?

One of the keys in defending against drug crimes cases is for your lawyer to assess whether any of your constitutionally protected rights were violated.  If the key legal issues are identified and attacked, then incriminating evidence may be suppressed.  If key evidence is thrown out, then often times, this leads to a dismissal of your case.

Other potential defenses in drug crimes cases include but are not limited to: lack of knowledge that you were in possession of drugs, no evidence of intent to sell (i.e. no baggies, pay-owe sheets, text messages, cash), lack of evidence that you possessed drugs, and entrapment if undercover officers are involved.

Legal Definitions and Potential Penalties

Here are some legal definitions associated with the most common drug crimes:

Possession of Methamphetamine (Health and Safety Code Section 11377)
It is a crime to possess methamphetamine in a useable amount.  In November 2014, Proposition 47 mandates that this crime can only be charged as a misdemeanor.  The maximum penalty is up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1000.  However, depending on the facts of your case and criminal history (if any), you may be able to qualify for beneficial programs such as drug diversion PC 1000, Prop 36 or Drug Court.

Possession of Controlled Substances (Health and Safety Code Section 11350)
Under Proposition 47, it is a misdemeanor to be in possession of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, GHB, certain prescription drugs if you don’t have a prescription such as Vicodin, oxycodone, etc.  Prior to Proposition 47, possession of cocaine was a felony.  But, now, it is considered a misdemeanor.   This means that the maximum penalty is up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1000 not including penalty assessments.  Depending on the facts of your case and criminal history (if any), you may be able to qualify for drug diversion PC 1000, Prop 36 or Drug Court.  Also, if you were previously convicted of a felony HS 11350, you may be eligible to be resentenced to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47.

Possession of Controlled Substances for Sale (Health and Safety Code Section 11351, 11378)
Under California law, possession of controlled substances for sale is a felony.   It is not a wobbler which means that it is not capable of being reduced to a misdemeanor.  In addition, possession of controlled substances for sale does not qualify for drug diversion PC 1000, Prop 36 or Drug Court.  It is much more serious than simple possession of drugs.  This drug crime alone carries very harsh consequences in that you could face up to two, three or 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 if convicted.  If you are convicted of actually selling a controlled substance in violation of HS 11352, then you are facing up to three, four or five years in state prison and a fine of up to $20,000 if convicted.

Sentencing laws are complex when it pertains to drug crimes.  There are other factors that can increase your potential punishment such as: whether you have a prior felony drug conviction (aside from possession), the type of drug involved, the amount of drugs in question, etc.  A prior felony drug conviction, aside from possession, imposes an additional three years to your sentence.

Manufacturing Drugs and Narcotics (Health and Safety Code Section 11379.6)
Pursuant to HS 11379.6, it is a felony to manufacture, compound, convert, produce, derive, process or prepare a controlled substance.  A violation of HS 11379.6 imposes a significantly harsh penalty in that you are facing three, five or seven years in prison and a fine up to $50,000 if convicted.  The potential punishment can even be more severe depending on certain variables including whether children were near the location, a large amount of drugs were involved in the process, or if someone is killed and/or injured.

Under the Influence of  a Controlled Substance (Health and Safety Code Section 11550(a))
Under California law, it is a misdemeanor to use or to be under the influence of a controlled substance such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, etc.  In addition, if you do not have a valid prescription, you could be convicted of this crime if you are under the influence of certain prescription drugs such as Xanax, Vicodin, oxycodone, etc.  The sentencing enhancement increases depending on whether you have one or more prior convictions of this crime.  The maximum punishment is up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1000.  Depending on the facts of your case and criminal history (if any), you may be able to qualify for beneficial programs such as drug diversion PC 1000, Prop 36 or Drug Court.

Hiring an Attorney

You don’t have to risk facing drug charges alone, hiring effective legal representation could help you gain the best possible outcome. If you are located in Los Angeles, Orange County, the greater San Diego area, or the state of Illinois do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. Attorney Yum has earned distinguished awards including The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers. As a former prosecutor, she has an understanding of the intricacies of California’s drug laws. It’s highly recommended you retain an aggressive criminal defense lawyer to fight for your freedom and your future.

Whether you are new to the criminal justice system or not, Attorney Anna Yum is dedicated to protecting her clients and fighting for them in overcoming some of the most difficult hurdles in their lives. If you have been arrested or charged with a drug crime, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum immediately at 619-233-4433 to schedule your free and confidential legal consultation.