Drug crimes make up a significant percentage of the cases filed by district attorneys throughout California. Although most people understand it is illegal to possess illegal narcotics like cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin, it often surprises people to hear that even simply being under the influence of an illegal drug, even in one’s own home or while minding one’s own business, can land you in court. In California, the most frequently charged misdemeanor drug crimes are:
- Health and Safety Code 11350(a) – possession of Cocaine or Heroin
- Health and Safety Code 11377(a) – possession of Methamphetamine
- Health and Safety Code 11550(a) – being under the influence of a controlled substance without a prescription
- Health and Safety Code 11364(a) – possession of drug paraphernalia
Although public sentiment is slowly but surely turning against the ineffective and costly “war on drugs”, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies still dedicate massive amounts of money, time, and resources towards bringing these cases. To make matters worse, because personal use cases are victimless and start out without anyone reporting a crime, courts give officers broad latitude in justifying full-blown searches based on what starts out as simple observations made by the officer of a person’s “signs and symptoms” consistent with drug use. And although having arrest quotas is unconstitutional and illegal, retired officers will often admit off the record that there is still a substantial pressure on new officers to make frequent arrests for petty drug offenses in order to climb the ranks within a department.
This pressure leads cops in some cases to profile people based on race or perceived class status, and in the worst cases, it enables a culture within departments of evidence planting, perjury, or flat-out framing of innocent people.
If you are charged with a drug crime, a conviction can land you in jail or on probation, negatively affect your employment, immigration status, child custody status, and ability to travel. Some jobs that require passing an in-depth background check, like being a teacher at a public school, will automatically deny applicants that have any sort of drug conviction on one’s record, even if it’s just a simple one-time personal use misdemeanor.
The good news is that a competent and experienced defense attorney has many tools in their toolbelt that can prevent a conviction from ever landing on your record. Because misdemeanor drug crimes are often the result of fishing expeditions on the part of overzealous officers with little-to-no scientific training, bringing a motion to challenge the search can sometimes lead to a judge finding that the officer lacked probable cause, thereby tossing out any evidence resulting from the search.
When motions to challenge the search fails, in certain circumstances your defense attorney can get you a diversion program that prevent the crime from ever showing up on your record. In most other cases, even someone with multiple prior drug convictions can still avail themselves of a drug probation that can end up in the conviction being expunged after only six months on probation and drug classes. The last option is available to defendants even when they have gone to trial and lost.
No matter the case, if you have a misdemeanor drug charge, an experienced defense attorney can help you keep your record clean and minimize the damage in a variety of ways. Even if you have multiple prior convictions and a history of treatment and probation failures, there’s always hope to turn your life around and get started on the right path. Nobody should be judged harshly for suffering from addiction, and nobody should have to suffer a conviction because they are the victim of unjust and unnecessarily punitive laws. Call Mr. Ganschow to set up a free consultation today.
Although most forms of simple drug use and possession are now misdemeanors in California, if the prosecutor has evidence that you possessed illegal drugs or controlled substances with an intent to sell, they will charge you with a felony that carries with it more significant consequences like jail, a felony probation, or potentially state prison time. In addition, prosecutors will often file motions to require an in-custody defendant on a drug sales charge to prove that their source of bail funds is legitimate and not related to any illegal sales activity before they can post bail and get out of custody.
The evidence in a possession for sales case can come from confidential informants, statements from co-conspirators, circumstantial evidence (like scales, baggies, and large amounts of cash), supposed admissions by the defendant, wiretaps, and sting operations. In most cases of possession for sales, the goal of a skilled defense attorney is to create reasonable doubt as to what the evidence really shows, and depending on the type of evidence, the strategy for finding that reasonable doubt will differ.
Although felonies carry with them significantly worse consequences for defendants who are convicted, unlike misdemeanor charges, all felonies require the prosecutor to justify their case to a judge at a preliminary hearing before they can bring the case to a jury. If a prosecutor cannot establish through live witness testimony from the investigating officer that there is probable cause to hold the defendant over for trial, a judge will dismiss the felony charge following the preliminary hearing.
Because felony charges require this extra step, this gives defendants the opportunity to cross-examine and challenge the testimony of the investigating officer outside the presence of the jury much like civil lawyers do in a deposition. In addition, even when judges do not dismiss cases following a preliminary hearing, prosecutors will often reduce or dismiss the charges if they feel the case has been significantly weakened by the defense attorney’s skillful cross-examination.
Because preliminary hearings can make or break a drug sales case, prosecutors will often dangle offers that expire once the preliminary hearing is finished. This makes it all the more crucial that a defense attorney undertake this step of the process with caution and strategy. If you have been charged with a felony charge of possession for sales, you need an experienced defense attorney that knows how to navigate every step of the process from “source of funds” hearings to preliminary examinations and trial. Call Mr. Ganschow today for a free consultation. Collect calls accepted.