From its many large urban areas to its beautiful beaches and extreme weather patterns, many things make California one of the most unique states to live in. This unique nature extends to their drug crime laws and how law enforcement and the judicial system handle punishing drug-related offenses. Most states have a set drug code that outlines which offenses, if any, are considered minor infractions, which are misdemeanors, like possession of less than a gram of an illegal substance, and which are considered felonies. California, on the other hand, charges each crime separately based on its individual circumstances. This means that possession of the same amount of heroin, for instance, could receive two vastly different sentences based on the circumstances of each case.
Drug Crime Law
Drug charges are still divided into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are extremely minor charges, usually punished with a fine and treated with the same weight as a traffic ticket. Misdemeanors are more serious, but still will not permanently affect a person’s criminal record. These can result in jail time, but in California misdemeanors always result in less than one year of jail time. Felonies come with a punishment of more than a year in jail and hefty fines, and permanently affect a person’s criminal record. Like in most states, felony charges are reserved for the most severe drug crimes.
Some of the circumstances taken into consideration when determining the severity of a drug crime include:
- The illicit substance involved
- The amount of that substance
- The location of the crime
- Aggravating circumstances like violence or possession of firearms
For example, let’s say two people were found with four ounces of cocaine in their possession. One was caught at home, arrested peacefully, with no evidence of violence or illegal use of firearms. This person would likely receive a much lighter sentence than a person who was caught with the same amount of cocaine, but had a firearm and got into a shootout with the police. This is an extreme example but illustrates how different circumstances can affect how drug crimes are charged in California.
Drug arrests are in decline, but over 1 million people were still arrested for drug-related offenses in California last year. If you are arrested for a drug crime, contact a lawyer, like a drug crime lawyer from the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright, to get the legal representation you need to minimize your sentencing as much as possible.