Marin County Drug Possession Lawyer

A Drug Possession Charge is a Serious Legal Matter.

If you were arrested for or charged with a drug possession offense in Marin County, it is important to retain the services of a seasoned and knowledgeable drug possession lawyer. Why? Because a drug possession attorney can help guide you through the complexities of the California legal system, avoid pitfalls, and mitigate the ramifications of a potential conviction for drug possession.

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What Drugs are Illegal in California?

Drug possession, also referred to as “possession of a controlled substance”, is generally considered a felony offense under California law. However, being found in possession of certain types of drugs may instead be charged as a misdemeanor offense.

If you are found to be in possession of cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy, heroin, ketamine, LSD, methamphetamine and/or prescription painkillers that are not prescribed for you, then there is a greater probability you will be charged with a felony offense.

If, on the other hand, you are found to be in possession of cannabis (and the cannabis was for personal use), then you may only be charged with a misdemeanor offense.


When is Cannabis Legal?

Under California law, you are allowed to possess cannabis, but must be an adult age 21 or older. Specifically, adults age 21 and older are allowed to possess and use no more than 28.5 grams of cannabis. In addition, the use of cannabis can only occur in your own residence, or an establishment that allows for legal use.

Please note that, even adults age 21 and older need to be cognizant of specific laws that regulate how, when and where cannabis can be used. For example, it is illegal to possess marijuana on any K-through-12 school grounds. The use of marijuana while operating a vehicle can result in license suspensions or the forfeiture of the user’s vehicle. Residents can possess, cultivate, and process up to six marijuana plants and retain the product as long as it does not exceed the 28.5-gram legal limit.

Possession of a Controlled Substance California

In California, one of the most frequently-charged drug offenses is possession of a controlled substance. This offense is chargeable pursuant to California Health & Safety Code Section 11350 HSC. Under California law, individuals may be charged with a felony offense for possessing even a small amount of drugs. If convicted, you will be subjected to penalties, including having to serve time in jail time..

However, it is important to understand that the burden is on the state to affirmatively prove you were guilty of possessing a controlled substance. For example, a California prosecutor is obligated to prove the following elements in order to achieve a conviction:

  • You unlawfully possessed a controlled substance;
  • You had knowledge of its presence;
  • You had knowledge of the substance’s nature or character as a controlled substance; and
  • The controlled substance was in a usable amount.

This is where having a skilled and experienced drug possession lawyer can pay dividends. Your drug lawyer can raise affirmative defenses and highlight deficiencies in the prosecutor’s evidence (or lack thereof) to the point where it is not possible to achieve a conviction, or at least strengthens your argument to negotiate a favorable plea agreement.


California Drug Classifications

In California, controlled substances generally fall under five distinct categories. These categories are based on specific characteristics, including: 

  • Acceptable medical use;
  • Risk of abuse; and
  • Risk of developing a psychological or physical addiction.

Within these categories, Schedule I controlled substances are considered to be the most serious. In contrast, Schedule V controlled substances are considered to be the least serious. 

For example, Schedule I substances have no accepted medical use and are deemed to pose a significant risk of abuse. In contrast, Schedule V substances generally present a low risk of being abused.

Schedule I Drugs

Drugs classified as Schedule I under California law are considered to be the most dangerous and/or highly addictive. These are generally drugs that are linked to chronic abuse that do not present or provide actual medical value to individuals. They are also deemed most likely to lead to dependency or abuse by individuals. When it comes to penalties of possessing or manufacturing a controlled substance in California, the harshest penalties are associated with Schedule I drugs. The drugs in this schedule are primarily made up of opiates, hallucinogens, and depressants, including:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Peyote
  • PCP
  • Marijuana
  • Mescaline
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cannabis

Schedule II Drugs

Schedule II drugs generally have few legitimate medical uses. In addition, they are known to present a significant risk of addiction, dependency, and/or abuse by individuals. Stimulants, depressants, and various opiates consist a significant percentage of Schedule II drugs, which also include:

  • Adderall
  • Amphetamine
  • Barbitals
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opium
  • OxyContin
  • Ritalin
  • Vicodin

Schedule III Drugs

There is little medicinal value associated with Schedule III drugs. In addition, Schedule III drugs are typically more addictive when compared to Schedule IV or V controlled substances. Examples of Schedule III drugs include the following:

  • Benzphetamine
  • Clortermine
  • Ketamine
  • Lysergic acid
  • Mazindol
  • Nalorphine
  • Pentobarbital
  • Steroids
  • Testosterone

Schedule IV Drugs

Schedule IV drugs, in contrast to Schedule I-III substances, possess medicinal value and are designed to treat specific conditions. However, the Schedule IV substances are known to be habit-forming. Examples of Schedule IV drugs include the following:

  • Ativan
  • Ambien
  • Fenfluramine
  • Phentermine
  • Pemoline
  • Tramadol
  • Xanax

Schedule V Drugs

Schedule V drugs are generally considered to present the lowest probability of being addictive. They are drugs that are generally legal when used with a prescription. Examples of Schedule V drugs include the following:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Codeine
  • Dihydrocodeine
  • Diphenoxylate
  • Difenoxin
  • Ethylmorphine

Felony Drug Possession Charge

Under California law, it is possible to be charged with felony drug possession. Felony drug charges may be brought when predicated on allegations that you sold and/or transported illegal substances with the actual intent to sell or transport those substances. These allegations are typically based on alleged evidence of you engaging in the sale or transport of various substances.

In addition to selling and/or transporting illegal substances, simply being in possession of a large amount of narcotics can be a sufficient basis to charge you with felony drug possession.

Being convicted of a felony drug offense usually carries serious, potentially life-altering penalties. There is a  probability you will be ordered to serve time in jail for a felony drug possession conviction, along with having to pay a fine and other conditions..  You also stand to lose rights afforded under the U.S. Constitution. For example, individuals convicted of a felony drug possession charge typically lose their right to vote while they are still imprisoned or on parole for a felony. In addition, individuals convicted of a felony drug possession charge lose their right to serve on a California jury. Also, if you are convicted of a felony drug charge, you will lose your right to possess a firearm in the Golden State.

Misdemeanor Drug Possession Charge

After the passage of Proposition 47 in California, most simple drug possession crimes are classified as misdemeanor offenses. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor violation, you may be ordered to serve up to one year in county jail and pay a $1,000 fine. As long as the possession was insufficient for possession with intent to sell, you may also be eligible to request admission to a treatment program in lieu of jail..

Whether drug possession will be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depends on multiple factors, including:

  • The type and amount of drug(s) in your possession
  • Whether you had the intent to sell or distribute the drug(s)
  • Aggravating circumstances such as if you had illegal substances within 1,000 feet of drug-free zones such as schools, playgrounds, colleges, youth centers, swimming pools and arcades. Other aggravating factors include possessing a firearm, gang-related activity, and/or having the drugs in the presence of a minor.

Federal Drug Possession Charge

Certain situations may result in you being charged with a federal drug possession offense, as opposed to being charged by the State of California. Circumstances that may lead to a federal drug charge include:

  • Selling large amounts of drugs;
  • Using the U.S. Postal Service to facilitate drug crimes, and
  • Importing, distributing, selling, or moving drugs across state lines.

Federal charges may also apply if you buy or sell drugs on federal property or to a federal agent or informant.


Possession with Intent to Distribute California

Pursuant to California Health and Safety Code § 11351, it is a felony offense to possess controlled substances with an intent to sell to others. It is also a felony offense to attempt to purchase controlled substances with the intent of turning around and trying to sell them.

Repeat Possession Charges

If you have a prior drug possession conviction on your record and are charged with a repeat possession offense, there is a possibility that a subsequent conviction will incur greater penalties. This is because California judges have the authority to consider prior drug offenses, along with the type of drug(s) you were convicted of possessing when determining penalties for a subsequent conviction.


Work With a Drug Possession Lawyer Today!

If you were charged with drug possession in or around Marin County, the Law Offices of Kevin Heaney are here to help. Kevin possesses more than three decades of practical legal experience representing individuals charged with a variety of criminal offenses, including various drug charges. Put Kevin’s significant experience to work for you. Contact us today to schedule a FREE confidential case review.


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