An apprehension for drug crimes in Orange County can result in felony or misdemeanor charges. A guilty verdict carries severe penalties by imprisonment, losing the right to vote, driver’s license suspension, and other consequences. 

If you are arrested, charged, or being investigated for drug-related crimes, it is critical that you hire a criminal lawyer to combat the criminal case against you. The Orange County Criminal Lawyer has defended clients accused of federal and state drug crimes all over Orange County.

What Are Drug Crimes?

Drug crime is the general term used to designate various offenses relating to controlled substances. The federal government and every state have laws against illegal production, possession, distribution, or use of certain drugs, including amphetamines, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. Such laws aim to minimize unlawful drug use and minimize drug-related crimes.

In the US, drugs are classified into different categories or schedules, depending on their possibility of causing dependency and abuse instead of their therapeutic value. For instance, there are Schedule I Controlled Substances that have the highest risk of causing dependency and doesn’t have any current therapeutic value. Schedule V Drugs offers the highest accepted medical uses and causes low dependency.

When a state or federal government lists a certain drug as “controlled,” this means that the distribution and use of the drug are governed by the law. Manufacturing, producing, and selling controlled drugs unlawfully are considered drug crimes.

Types of Drug Crimes

In the state as well as the federal criminal justice systems, drug crimes cases originate from charges of manufacturing, trafficking, and possession of controlled drugs. Below is a brief description of different types of drug crimes that you can be charged with if you are found with controlled substances.

  1. Drug Trafficking and Distribution Crimes

Trafficking refers to the unlawful distribution and/or sale of a controlled drug. Despite the term, trafficking has nothing to do with whether the drug crosses from one state to the other – it is more about the amount of the drug involved.

As a substance charge, “distribution” means that you are accused of providing, delivering, or selling controlled drugs unlawfully. This charge usually arises when you try to sell controlled drugs to undercover police. 

The penalties of a conviction for trafficking and distribution drugs depend on the following things:

  • The type as well as the amount of the drug involved.
  • The area where the accused was arrested (distributing controlled substances near colleges or schools attracts a higher penalty).
  • The accused’s criminal history.

Sentences for trafficking and distribution of drugs generally range from 3 years and a fine to life in prison, especially trafficking. Drug trafficking is often charged as a felony and thus attracts higher penalties.

  1. Drug Transportation Crimes

Drug transportation is when an individual carries unlawful substances from one area to another with the knowledge of the presence of the drugs, the ability to control the drugs, and knowledge that they are illegal substances. Thus, drug transportation means moving the drugs, regardless of the quantity or distance.

Charges for transportation across national or state borders are usually charged under federal law. These charges often include drug distribution charges. The penalties for drug transportation are similar to those of drug trafficking and distribution. 

  1. Drug Dealing Crimes

“Drug dealing” is “distributing” controlled substances but in small quantities. It is defined differently from drug trafficking under federal law. Since this crime involves a single person selling drugs in small amounts, the penalties are less severe than trafficking drugs. 

For instance, the Drug Enforcement Administration states that if a person is arrested for dealing 50 grams of marijuana, that person can be sentenced for a maximum of 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. If you are arrested for trafficking more than 1,000 kilograms, you could end up in jail for more than 10 years. 

  1. Drug Manufacturing Crimes

Another kind of drug crime is the manufacturing of illegal substances - this involves any process of production of the unlawful drug. Manufacturing can also mean the cultivation of the drug, including growing, producing, or possessing naturally occurring substances to manufacture unlawful substances.

Some of these elements include marijuana plants, cannabis seeds, and others. You can also be charged for creating or producing unlawful substances via a chemical process in your laboratory. Drugs produced this way include methamphetamine, cocaine, and LSD.

Usually, the prosecutor needs to prove intent to produce and possession of the elements to convict you. If the court finds you guilty, you might end up paying heavy fines and spending time in prison.

It is important to realize that marijuana manufacturing and cultivation laws are charging because of its personal and medical use exceptions in the US. 

  1. Drug Possession Crimes

Over 80% of drug charge, especially in apprehension made under California drug laws, involves possession of the unlawful drug. For a drug possession charge, the prosecutor needs to prove the following things to find you guilty:

  • You intentionally and knowingly possessed an illegal substance.
  • You did not have a valid prescription.
  • You had a sufficient quantity for sale or personal use.

A possession charge might be based on “constructive” or actual possession of the unlawful drug. A constructive charge means that you might not have had the drugs in your pocket or home, but you have control and access to the place where the controlled substance was found.

This is critical to understand since, unlike DWI/DUI laws, the prosecutor doesn’t have to show that you were using the drugs to bring up possession charges. The law of constructive charge comes into effect if unlawful substances are found in a vehicle during a traffic inspection.

You can also be charged for possessing paraphernalia associated with substance use, like scales, cocaine pipes, syringes, and more. Being found with these objects can be enough for you to be convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense, even if you didn’t have the actual drugs.

Drug charges usually start with possession and then overlap with other charges. For instance, if an officer finds marijuana plants in your house, you can be charged with possession and growing of marijuana. If the quantity is huge enough, you can further be charged with trafficking, distribution, or manufacturing charges. 

Charges for intent to distribute are more serious than charges for just possession. The difference doesn’t necessarily mean the actual motive to distribute, but the amount of drug you are found in possession – large amounts will lead to a felony charge while small amounts will lead to a misdemeanor charge. 

Possession for Sale Crimes

The prosecutor could charge you with a simple possession if you possessed one of the drugs jotted under the Health and Safety Code. However, you might be charged with “purchase for the aim of sale” or “possession for sale” if the prosecutor thinks that you intended to be involved in drug dealing. 

The drug possession crime is generally considered a misdemeanor offense, which attracts a maximum of $1,000 in fine, up to 6 months in jail, or both the fine and jail time.

Drug possession is treated as a felony if your records show that you were previously convicted for a felony like sex crimes against a child, murder, or any conviction that put you on sex offenders list. Depending on how the case turns out, a felony guilty verdict for possessing drugs will land you in jail for 2 to 4 years, attract a maximum fine of $10,000, or combination of the fine and jail time.  

  1. Under the Influence

The Health and Safety Code 11550 states that no individual shall be under the influence or use any controlled drug, except when it is administered by a licensed person. If you are convicted of violating this code, you might end up being charged with a misdemeanor offense and serve a sentence of at least 90 days and up to one year in jail. 

You might also be placed on probation for 5 years if you are found guilty of an under the influence crime. To be judged guilty, the prosecutor needs to prove the following:

  • Illegal and willful use of illegal drugs by the accused shortly before the apprehension.
  • The accused was unlawfully under the influence of drugs due to his or her will to abuse them at the time of the arrest.
  1. Marijuana

There are various Health and Safety Code that you should know to understand how marijuana crimes come about. They include the following:

  • Health and Safety Code 11357 (b) – This code looks at possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and states that except as directed by the law if you possess at least 28.5 grams of marijuana you are guilty of an offense and liable to pay a fine of up to $100. This code doesn’t apply for concentrated cannabis.
  • Health and Safety Code 11357 (c) – The code looks at possessing more than one ounce of marijuana and notes that except as directed by the law, if you are found with over 28.5 grams of marijuana you will be punished by a jail term of up to 6 months and a fine of up to $500. The code doesn’t apply for concentrated cannabis.
  • Health and Safety Code 11359 – This code looks at possessing marijuana for sale and states that you can be punished with a sentence of up to 3 years in jail or a fine of $10,000, except where the law allows.
  • Health and Safety Code 11358 – If you plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process marijuana you can be penalized by a jail term of up to 3 years and a fine of up to $10,000. There are exceptions as listed by the law.
  • Health and Safety Code 11360 (a) – If you transport, import into a state, Sell, furnish, control, or give away or attempt to import marijuana, you shall be punished by a jail term of up to 2, 3, or 4 years.

You might need a qualified criminal lawyer to help you when faced with charges to ensure that you do not end up in prison or having a convicted record.

Drug Diversion and Prop 36

Drug Diversion

The state can allow diversion if you are a first-time offender who is charged with having unlawful drugs (simple possession). It allows you to maintain a clean record by accepting the charges and then enrolling in a prescribed drug abuse program and not possessing the drugs in the future.

“Drug diversion” is defined as the practice of allowing a qualifying defendant to have his or her charges or conviction cleared if he or she completes a court-recommended drug treatment program.

A court-recommended drug treatment program is a treatment program that includes:

  • Drug education,
  • Narcotic replacement therapy or detoxification services,
  • Residential or outpatient services treatment or
  • Aftercare services.

It doesn’t refer to any rehab program that is present in a jail or prison facility.

When you conclude the diversion (in 18 months), the guilty verdict is vacated, the charges are dismissed, and you can legally claim to have never been apprehended or convicted of a drug crime.

California Proposition 36 (Prop 36)

Prop 36 is defined as Penal Code sections 1210-1210.1 PC and 3063.1, and it relates to individuals on parole. It is a form of drug diversion. Prop 36 requires that first or second-time offenders who have been found guilty of nonviolent drug possession charges to receive up to 12 months of drug abuse treatment instead of going to prison. The period can be prolonged by 2 to 6 months if it will help the defendant.

Prop 35 also applies to parolees who go against their parole by being involved in a nonviolent drug possession charge. Such an individual won’t be taken to prison but will be required to enroll in Prop 36.

Nonviolent drug possession refers to:

  • Being under the influence or using any of the substances listed in the US Controlled Substances Act, or/and
  • Transporting or possessing any of the following narcotics for your personal use – cocaine, peyote, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, methamphetamines, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, ketamine, some hallucinogenic drugs, and some prescription drugs like hydrocodone and codeine.

An experienced Orange County Criminal Lawyer can help you to maintain a clean record even if you are charged with drug crimes by negotiating for a drug diversion instead of jail time and fine.

Common Defenses for Drug Crimes

If a prosecutor charges you with a drug crime, either having drugs with intent to sell or for personal use, a criminal defense lawyer can apply the best defenses for your case. Some of these defenses challenge the evidence, testimony, or stated facts in the charges; others point out procedural errors, and some challenge actual drug possession.  

  1. Unlawful Search and Seizure

The law outlines that it is unlawful for an officer to search and seizure drugs without following the due process. You shouldn’t be arrested if the law was not followed, according to the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. Search, and seizure defense is common for drug possession charges. 

Illegal substances found in “plain areas” such a vehicle’s dashboard by a traffic officer can be seized and presented as evidence. Drugs found hidden in the trunk of an automobile after crowbarring open cannot be presented as evidence.

If your Fourth Amendment rights were infringed, then no evidence can make you stand trial and be charged.

  1. Drugs Belong to Another Person

One of the common defenses to drug crime is to say that the drugs are not yours. This means that you did not know the drugs were there – in your car, apartment, or work station.   

For example, a criminal lawyer will pressure the prosecutor to prove that the drugs found in a vehicle belonged to the driver (if he or she is the accused) and not any of his or her passengers.

  1. Crime Lab Analysis

The prosecutor should be able to prove that the seized element is an illegal drug by getting evidence from crime lab analysis. Simply because it looks like LSD or cocaine doesn’t mean it is that drug.

Besides, the crime lab analyst should testify during the trial for the case to stand.

  1. Missing Drugs

The other drug crime defense your lawyer might use is to state that the drugs are missing. This is similar to crime lab analysis since it means that there cannot be any charges if the drugs are missing.

Seized drugs are transported a few times before they can arrive in the evidence locker. Hence, you should never assume that they are still in exists when standing trial.

  1. Planted Drugs

This can be hard to prove because an officer sworn testimony is more credible in a courtroom than the defendant’s argument. Besides, other officers might not be willing to back your case by blowing the whistle on their colleagues.

However, your criminal attorney can bring up a motion that requires the police to release your file from a certain office. This file often contains all the names and contacts of the people who complained about the drugs and your lawyer can interview and investigate them.

  1. Entrapment

While the law allows the officer to set up traps, entrapment arises when an officer induces you to commit a drug crime that you would not have committed. If you are suspected of possessing drugs and the informant pressures you into selling them to another person, then this can be seen as entrapment. 

Entrapment occurs if the state distributes the drugs in question.

  1. Proof of Intent or Knowledge

The prosecutor needs to prove that you had a particular state of mind when you are arrested for possessing drugs. This means that the prosecutor needs to show that you knew about the drugs.

Besides, if you are charged with a sale crime, the prosecutor needs to prove that you intentionally sold the drugs. You cannot be charged if the prosecutor cannot prove the intent or knowledge.

  1. Medical Exception

The medical explanation works for some drugs in some states, like marijuana. If you are arrested for possessing marijuana, you can argue that it is for medicinal purposes as directed by your doctor.

Proving a Drug Crime

The prosecutor needs to prove different elements for the accused to be found guilty of a drug crime. Some of the elements that the prosecutor must prove are:

  1. Trafficking Behavior

This can include manufacturing, dispensing, cultivating, or distributing a controlled substance. It can also include possessing an illegal drug with the intent to cultivate, manufacture, dispense, or distribute that substance. Trafficking behavior might also mean transporting a controlled drug across state lines or within the state.   

  1. Intent or Knowledge

The prosecutor also needs to prove that you had “intentionally or knowingly” committed the crime. 

  1. An Illegal Amount of Drugs

Finally, the prosecutor needs to prove that your activities involved a minimum amount of a controlled drug.

FAQs About Drug Crimes

Q: What is a drug schedule?

This is a guide that was developed in 1970 and is part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. It outlines narcotics and drugs that are controlled under the US Federal Law into these categories:

  • Schedule I – It includes substances that are not useful for any medical purpose and place the user at a high risk of abusing them, like mescaline, heroin, and LSD.
  • Schedule II – It includes substances that are used for medical purposes, although they are restricted, like amphetamines and opium.
  • Schedule III – It includes substances that can easily lead to drug abuse and not in Schedule II but are used for medical purposes.
  • Schedule IV – It includes substances that can lead to abuse, but less likely than Schedule III, and can result in abuse, like diazepam and barbital.
  • Schedule V – It includes drugs that are less likely to be used than in those of schedule V.

Find a Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Do not hesitate to take your first step toward freedom from drug crime charges. The longer you take to see help, the more complicated your case will be, and the higher the possibility of being convicted. Pick up the phone and contact the Orange County Criminal Lawyer at 714-262-4833