If you were arrested for possession of a controlled substance, it can have lasting consequences. A conviction for possession of a controlled substance could prevent you from obtaining housing, employment, or financial aid.
In 2014, California made sweeping changes to how it handles drug possession. The biggest change was possession of a controlled substance reclassified from a felony to a misdemeanor. This significantly reduced the impact and consequences associated with a conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Proposition 47 designated drug possession offenses under Health and Safety code section 11350, 11357(a), and 11377 as misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in county jail. Offenders could no longer be sentenced to prison for simple possession.
There are some exceptions to the misdemeanor classification of a controlled substance. Under Prop 47, if a person is a registered sex offender or has a prior conviction for a specified serious or violent crime, they can still be charged with a felony depending on the amount of drug or circumstances of the crime. This is why obtaining an attorney at the early stages of the criminal process is vital if these situations may apply to you.
Even a misdemeanor conviction for possession of a controlled substance has consequences. If convicted, you could face fines and incarceration. If you’re struggling with drug addiction, the compounding effects of a conviction could lead to more hardship. This short article will explain some ways to avoid a conviction or have the charges dismissed.
One of the first ways to get a conviction dropped for drug possession is to enter drug diversion. Commonly called PC 1000 or pre-trial diversion, this program allows a person charged with a drug offense under health and safety code 11350, 11357, 11364, or 11365 to attend drug treatment, and if successfully attended, the charges are dropped.
If a person charged with one of the above offenses meets the criteria, they can request the court provide them an opportunity to seek treatment. The criminal court proceedings are suspended, and the person must enter a suitable and approved treatment program. Once treatment is completed, the defendant returns to court and provides proof of completion. The charge is dismissed, and no conviction occurs.
To qualify for drug diversion, the following must apply:
(1) Within five years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense, the defendant has not suffered a conviction for any offense involving controlled substances other than the offenses listed in this subdivision.
(2) The offense charged did not involve a crime of violence or threatened violence.
(3) There is no evidence of a contemporaneous violation relating to narcotics or restricted dangerous drugs other than a violation of the offenses listed in this subdivision.
(4) The defendant has no prior felony conviction within five years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense.
If you have been charged with a drug offense, contacting a skilled attorney could help you get the offense dismissed. They can determine if you fit the criteria for drug diversion and negotiate with the district attorney and court on your behalf.
If you do not meet the criteria for drug diversion, there are still opportunities to have the charges dropped. There is the possibility to negotiate a plea agreement with the district attorney. If you choose to enter a drug treatment program, and you have a minimal criminal history, you may be able to enter drug treatment and have the court process suspended while you participate in treatment. When you successfully complete treatment within the specified time, the district attorney often drops the charges.
Of course, this often requires a knowledgeable attorney to assist in the negotiation process to ensure your rights are protected and the requirements are clearly specified.
Proof of a Prescription/Legal Possession
If you possessed the controlled substance with a valid prescription, the charges would be dropped. If for example, you were contacted by police and were in the possession of a controlled substance but these drugs were legally prescribed to you or the person you were carrying them for, it is not a crime. However, you must prove the drugs were prescribed and you had the authorization to possess them. If you picked up a prescription for a friend or relative with a valid prescription, you are able to transport the drugs to their home. At trial, you would present the evidence to prove legal possession. If you hire an attorney, they could also provide you with a legal defense and improve your outcome in court.
Evidence Thrown Out/Illegal Search by Police
One final method to getting drug charges dropped is to prove the police obtained the evidence through an illegal search and/or seizure. This type of defense often requires the assistance of legal counsel to ensure the proper steps are taken to evaluate the police search process. Defense attorneys are knowledgeable in the rights and requirements of legal searches. They can evaluate if the police acted illegally when obtaining evidence. This can include the evaluation of how the police obtained the search warrant, how the search warrant was conducted, and how evidence was collected and processed. An evidentiary hearing will be conducted, and defense counsel will attempt to get the evidence excluded. If this evidence is thrown out, the district attorney would have to dismiss the charges as they would not be able to prove you possessed the controlled substance beyond a reasonable doubt.