Amount of Jail Time for Drug Crimes
The state of California takes a firm stance when it comes to illegal drug related offenses. Even while under scrutiny for its highly overpopulated prisons, California prosecutors and judges are eager to incarcerate those who have been found guilty of possessing or attempting to sell narcotics.The penalties for those who possess, sell, and manufacture various types of illegal drugs vary wildly.
This is because the government has classified the majority of mind altering substances available and have created penalties accordingly. To understand what penalties you will face for your alleged drug crime, you will need an experienced legal mind to help clarify your situation.
Until then, the following information may help you better understand your charge as well as possible options.
Drug Classification Affects Jail Time
Illegal drugs and narcotics or controlled substances in legal speak consist of a wide range of naturally and chemically produced products that are used to numb pain or to create a mind altering state. California and the federal government have adopted a classification method or schedule for these substances that is based on how potentially dangerous they can be.
- Schedule I includes drugs considered to be the most dangerous. This is based mainly on their high risk of addiction with no practical medical use. Marijuana is on this schedule, despite it being found useful in some medical applications. Also included are heroin, LSD, and mescaline.
- Schedule II substances may cause dependency but serve some legitimate medical uses. Cocaine, methadone, opium, and methamphetamines are listed in this category.
- Schedule III narcotics carry a moderate risk for addiction. Here, you will find testosterone, ketamine, and anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV drugs carry only a slight risk for dependency and serve important medical needs. Sedatives, clonazepam and tranquilizers are all included in this schedule.
- Schedule V is meant for those drugs, which serve obvious medical needs with little or no risk of dependency. Codeine laced Tylenol is considered a Schedule V narcotic.
The one thing that all of these substances do have in common is that it is a law, punishable with jail time, that they not be possessed by any individual unless those individuals have a valid medical prescription for it.
How “Possession” Affects Sentencing
In California, possession is when a person owns, is carrying on their person, or has physical control over a controlled substance. This means that even if the drug is not found on your person you can still be found guilty of possession if it were to say be in your car’s glove box.
A prosecutor does not need to show that you used or intended to use the drug. Only that you knew of its existence and that you knew it was illegal.
How Much Jail Time Will I Receive for my Drug Offense?
In California, a judge always has three options when deciding on a sentence. The middle option is the standard, while the others are used in situations where there were mitigating circumstances that either warrant an increased or decreased sentence.
For example, possession of any amount of most controlled substances is punishable with 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail. A judge can take into consideration that the defendant has voluntarily enrolled in a treatment program and enforce the lesser, 16 month sentence.
A first time offender of a possession charge in California is most likely going to receive probation instead of imprisonment. Part of his sentence could also include community service and a $1,000 fine.
With the exception of marijuana and schedule I depressants, all other controlled substances in the schedule carry the same penalty of 16 months: 2 or 3 years in jail.
In cases of possession of a schedule I depressant, a one year jail sentence may be imposed.
There are now circumstances in California where the possession of marijuana is legal. An unlawful possession of the drug is based on the amount of CDS, or controlled dangerous substance, found.
- Any amount of concentrated cannabis in your possession could result in imprisonment of up to a year plus a monetary fine.
- Having 28.5 grams or less of marijuana in your possession is considered an infraction and will result in a fine of no more than $100.
- More than 28.5 grams of marijuana can result in a jail sentence of not more than 6 months plus a fine.
An intent to sell or distribute a controlled substance charge carries higher penalties than the basic possession charge. For example, when talking about marijuana, all incarceration penalties for possession are less than 12 months. If you are found guilty of intent to sell marijuana, regardless of the amount, you could serve anywhere from 16 months to 3 years.
Even more grave is the actual sale or distribution of the drug. If you sell 28.5 grams or more of marijuana, you could be sentenced for 2 to 4 years in prison. 4 to 7 if the intended buyer was under the age of 18.
The amount of jail time you would receive for drug dealing depends upon the amount of drugs you were trying to sell, as well as other factors. A drug sale charge can result in a penalty of up to 5 years in state prison.
Is Jail Time Inevitable With a Drug Related Crime?
California does offer alternatives to jail time with drug related offenses, particularly to those crimes which are non-violent and a first offense for the defendant. Unfortunately, most defendants do not have ‘the know-how’ to convince a judge and/or prosecutor to grant alternative sentencing.
As a former prosecutor, I can say that they will rarely provide attorney-less defendants with plea bargains or decreased sentencing options. This is because the prosecutor’s chances of losing in court become very slim when the defendant does not have a skilled attorney. With proper assistance, a variety of alternative sentencing options could materialize. These alternatives could include:
- The nationally recognized drug court, which is an intensive drug treatment program that upon completion could have your case dismissed.
- Participation in drug education classes. The defendant pleads guilty but can have the case dismissed after 18 months if the class is completed with success.
- Substance abuse treatment in lieu of jail time for first and second time offenders—otherwise known as proposition 36.
For individuals that have been charged with a drug related offense, their best hope is to enlist the services of a drug crime attorney that has extensive experience assisting narcotic offenders. Judges do have leeway when it comes to imposing sentences, but you will need to show cause ,as to why your case deserves a lighter punishment than everybody else’s.
In order to avoid jail time after their client has been arrested for controlled substance possession or intent to sell, a defense attorney will scrutinize the conduct of the arresting officers and the prosecuting attorney involved in the case. Mistakes are often made that can help an individual receive a reduced sentence or have the case dismissed entirely.
Do not underestimate the power of a criminal defense attorney. In these types of cases, you will want their advice and guidance to help keep you out of jail. If you need assistance from a Southern California drug crime lawyer, call (888) 250-2865 to obtain a free confidential case evaluation from experienced legal professionals.