Heroin is prohibited in California and categorized as a Schedule I drug by both the United States Controlled Substances Act and California drug law. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high likelihood of abuse and no approved medical use in the United States. In the late 19th century, Bayer Pharmaceuticals sold heroin as a non-addictive substitute for morphine and a cough suppressant, but its addictive and harmful properties were soon uncovered. As a result, the drug was completely banned by the U.S. government in 1924. This sets it apart from other controlled substances such as hydrocodone and codeine, which may have legitimate medical uses and can therefore be legally prescribed.
If you are caught with heroin for personal use, you may face a misdemeanor charge. However, selling or transporting the drug is considered a serious felony offense that can result in years of imprisonment in either a jail or state prison.
In California, possessing heroin for personal use is a violation of Health & Safety Code 11350 HS, which prohibits possessing controlled substances. Most simple possession cases are considered misdemeanors, and the penalties may include a maximum of one year in county jail and a fine of up to $20,000. However, if the defendant has prior convictions for serious felonies or sex crimes, they may face a felony charge with a sentence of 2 to 4 years in jail. Fortunately, a conviction for simple possession may allow the defendant to participate in a drug diversion program, such as Proposition 36, which offers drug treatment as an alternative to prison. Upon successful completion, the charges may be dismissed.
Possessing or buying heroin with the intention of selling it is a more severe crime than simple possession under California law (Health and Safety Code 11351 HS).
If you are convicted of possession or purchase with the intent to sell, you can expect to face state prison time of 2-4 years and a maximum fine of $20,000. The consequences are more severe if the weight of the heroin exceeds 1 kilogram, with potential additional prison time of 3-25 years and fines up to $8,000,000.
Drug diversion programs, such as Prop 36 or Penal Code 1000, are not an option for those convicted of possession for sale. However, if the defendant is found to have only possessed the drug for personal use or if a plea bargain is reached for a lesser charge of simple possession, they may be eligible for drug diversion programs.
According to Health & Safety Code 11550, if law enforcement suspects that a person was under the influence of heroin at the time of their arrest, they may be charged with being "under the influence" of the drug. This refers to a condition where the individual's physical and/or mental abilities are impacted in a noticeable way.
Being charged with this crime means that the person is accused of using heroin to the point that their abilities were impaired. The penalty for this crime is a misdemeanor and can result in up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of $1,000.
However, it's possible for those charged with this crime to participate in a drug diversion program instead of serving jail time.
The sale or transport of heroin with the intention to sell it is a violation of California's Health & Safety Code 11352 and is considered to be the most serious of all heroin-related crimes in the state.
Being found guilty of such an offense is a felony and may result in a prison sentence ranging from three to five years, or three to nine years if the heroin was transported across more than two counties with the intention to sell it. There is also a potential fine of $20,000.
Additionally, if the amount of heroin involved exceeds 14.25 grams or if the defendant has a prior conviction under HS 11351 or 11352, the fine may increase to $50,000. And if the amount of heroin sold or transported weighs more than one kilogram, an additional three to twenty-five years in prison and a fine of up to $8,000,000 may be imposed.
Under California law, it's a criminal offense to be knowingly present during illegal substance abuse and offer support or aid to the person using drugs. The offense, as described in Health & Safety Code 11365 HS, is not applicable to all illegal drugs in California, but it does apply to heroin. Thus, if you are present while someone else is using heroin and aid or encourage their use, you could be charged with this crime.
This crime is classified as a misdemeanor, with a maximum jail sentence of 6 months and a fine of up to $1,000. If convicted, you may be eligible for drug diversion through a "deferred entry of judgment" program.
According to California's Vehicle Code 23152(f), it is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of heroin. Convictions for DUI of heroin are typically misdemeanors, with potential penalties such as license suspension, fines, required DUI school, probation, and in some cases, jail time. However, drug diversion programs are not available for VC 23152(f) convictions.
The definition of "under the influence" for driving under the influence offenses is distinct from that used in California's "under the influence" laws, as a person is considered under the influence while driving if their heroin use has noticeably impacted their ability to drive like a cautious and prudent person.
Common defenses against California heroin charges can vary depending on the circumstances, but some of the typical ones are:
If you are in need of legal assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out to us to learn about how we can work together to achieve the best outcome for your case.