Los Angeles Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Attorney
The drug possession laws in California are complicated, and involve a multitude of substances, classifications, and potential penalties. At CBS Law, we understand the charges involving drug possession and other drug offenses. And we have years of experience representing clients charged with drug crimes. If you are charged with illegal possession of drugs, we can help. Contact us for a free consultation.
Illegal Possession of Drugs in California
Illegal possession of drugs is addressed in HSC 11350 and the sections that follow it. They specify the classification and punishment for illegal possession of drugs based upon:
- which drug is involved,
- the amount of the drug allegedly possessed,
- prior drug convictions, if any,
- whether the possession was for personal use or was linked to a further act, such as sale, and
- other factors, including where you were when you possessed the drugs (school zone, etc.).
Most simple drug possession cases are charged as misdemeanors, although possession of certain drugs (methamphetamine, heroin, and others) can lead to a felony charge.
Illegal Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Many people are surprised to learn that California law prohibits the possess not only of illegal drugs, but also drug paraphernalia. Under HSC 13364, possession of an opium pipe or other device used for illegally smoking, injecting various illegal drugs. The Penal Code contains an extensive list of “paraphernalia,” including bongs, water pipes, roach clips, etc. Illegal possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor.
What Does “Drug Possession” Mean?
One of the many reasons you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with a crime, is that the wording of the criminal statutes can be confusing.
Common sense often does not provide you with the information you need to understand exactly what a statute means. Your attorney can explain the specifics of the charges against you, what the prosecutor needs to prove in order to obtain a conviction, as well as the possible defenses that may apply in your case.
This issue of defining the details of the charge against you is apparent in any discussion of “drug possession.” Specifically, the statute refers to a person who “possesses” various controlled substances. The dictionary definition of “possess” includes, among others, “to own,” or “to take control of.” Unfortunately, these common definitions do not help very much when applied to the criminal law regarding drug possession. Here are some examples:
- Example 1. A friend asks you to hold a package for him for a brief period of time. After you take possession of the package, you are approached by the police, and you discover that the package held a usable quantity of an illegal drug. You are arrested. While you had physical control over the drugs, you had no knowledge of what you were holding. You are not guilty of drug possession.
- Example 2. Same situation as above, but the person charged is the one who asked you to hold the drugs. He is arrested, but claims that at the time of the arrest, he no longer had physical control over the drugs. This will not be a defense because you, acting as his agent, had possession.
- Example 3. You buy illegal drugs and store them at your parents’ home. You nevertheless “possess” the item because you have access to and the ability to control the drugs. Your parents, unaware of their child’s actions, are not guilty of possession.
As you can see, even a simple word like “possess” can have different meanings, particularly when they are used in defining the element of a crime in California.
Penalties for Drug Possession
Most drug possession charges are misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $750.00. However, some are felonies, and if you have a prior serious or violent felony conviction, or a conviction requiring registration as a sex offender, you can also be charged with a felony.
Defenses to Drug Possession Charges
Depending upon the facts of your case, there may be one or more defenses to the drug possession charge you are facing. They include:
- Illegal search and seizure. If the drugs were discovered during a warrantless search with no probable cause or other justifying circumstance, the search and seizure should be deemed unlawful, and the property seized – in this case the drugs – should not be admitted into evidence.
- Valid Prescription. If you had a valid prescription for the drugs in question, this is a defense to any charge of illegal possession.
- Chain of Custody. If the state cannot establish that the drug presented in court is the same substance as you allegedly possessed and the same substance that was tested to determine what the substance is, the chain of custody has been “broken,” and the evidence that the substance was an illegal drug is flawed.
- Unknowing Possession. Assume your friend asked you to hold a package for him while he went on with other tasks. Also assume that the package contained illegal drugs, and that you were arrested for possession. Your lack of knowledge of the contents of the package is a valid defense to a possession charge.
Additional defenses, including entrapment, improper crime lab testing, and others, may also apply.
Los Angeles Drug Possession Defense Lawyer
Drug possession seems at first glance to be a simple offense. But as we have shown, there are numerous ways in which you may defend against a drug possession charge. Of course, the defenses are only as good as the attorney presenting them.
If you are facing a drug possession charge, contact CBS Law for a free consultation with an experienced drug crimes defense lawyer. Call CBS Law at (213) 800-8005
“Do NOT speak to law enforcement or investigators about your possession of drug paraphernalia charges, as that information can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Christopher J. Bou Saeed Founding Attorney of CBS Law