California Drug Possession Laws

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Sean F. Leslie are well versed in defending clients accused of drug possession charges in California. We know that prosecutors often allege sales charges instead of possession charges, as charges for selling drugs make defendants ineligible for drug diversion programs generally available to first-time drug possession offenders. Our firm has years of experience persuading the prosecution to reduce the charges for our clients. Unfortunately, many police and prosecutors believe that every social drug user is also a drug dealer. We know this is not the case. It is important to know the penalties you could face for possession and use of drugs in our state.

Penalties for drug possession charges in California vary. They can be classified as infractions, misdemeanors, “wobblers,” or felonies. An infraction is most often for first-time offenders, and is the least serious charge with no jail time associated. Drug-related misdemeanors can result in up to one year in jail, and drug-related felonies have a minimum prison sentence of one year. A “wobbler” offense is charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case, as well as the prosecution and the judge. In November of 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, which reduced some simple drug possession crimes to misdemeanors.

California’s Classification of Controlled Substances

The State of California divides its controlled substances into schedules, as governed by California Health and Safety Code Sections 11053 to 11057.

  • Schedule I: Marijuana or opiates
  • Schedule II: Morphine, raw opium, hallucinogens
  • Schedule III: Pentobarbital, anabolic steroids
  • Schedule IV: Diazepam, zolpidem
  • Schedule V: Prescription narcotics

Possession of any amount of any of these controlled substances (except marijuana) can be punishable by up to one year in county jail. However, Proposition 47 has made reduced penalties available to those who qualify – those that are not registered sex offenders or have previous violent crime convictions.

Penalties for the Possession of Marijuana

The penalties associated with the unlawful possession of marijuana are charged based upon the amount in question.

  • Any amount of concentrated cannabis: Either a $500 fine or up to one year in jail, or both.
  • No more than 28.5 grams, other than concentrated cannabis, is classified as an infraction and the penalty is a $100 fine.
  • Greater than 28.5 grams, other than concentrated cannabis, is penalized by either a $500 fine, up to six months of jail time, or both.
  • An adult possessing less than 28.5 grams of marijuana (other than concentrated cannabis) on the grounds of a school during school hours will be charged with a misdemeanor. The penalty is either up to ten days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.
  • A minor found in possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana, other than concentrated cannabis, on school grounds will be fined $250 for their first offense. Any subsequent offenses can be punished by up to ten days in a juvenile detention facility and a fine up to $500.

If you have been charged with drug possession, the Law Offices of Sean F. Leslie can help. Contact us today for a consultation.