Possession of Prescription Drugs Charges in California
For many, the use of prescription pain medication can mean the difference between living in excruciating pain and living a relatively normal life. However, there are also serious concerns about the illegal use of such medication. The number of Americans who died from drug overdoses has doubled in the last decade and over 70,200 individuals passed away from drug overdoses in 2017 alone. A great deal of these deaths are due to misuse of prescription painkillers like codeine, oxycodone (Oxycontin), and hydrocodone (Vicodin). Because they pose such a severe threat to public health, California law does not take possession of prescription medication charges lightly.
Individuals Charged with Possession May Be Able to Avoid Jail Time
If you are found with certain prescription drugs in your possession without a valid prescription in your name, you could be charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Unlawful possession of a controlled substance is generally a misdemeanor charge in California punishable by up to a year in jail and $1000 in fines. Individuals who qualify may be able to avoid going to jail by participating in a pretrial diversion program via a state-approved drug rehabilitation provider. In order to qualify for this diversion program, a defendant must meet the following criteria:
- The offense was non-violent;
- The defendant has not been convicted of a felony within the last five years;
- The defendant has no prior drug convictions related to controlled substances in the last five years except for simple possession; and
- There was no concurrent narcotics violation.
A defendant who successfully completes the pretrial diversion program may be able to have his or her records sealed. Sealed records are inaccessible to civilian criminal records requests, but state agencies can still see the conviction.
Possession of Prescription Drugs is a Felony in Some Circumstances
In some cases, possession of prescription drugs is a felony change. If there is evidence that a defendant had intent to sell the drugs, he or she may be charged with “possession of controlled substances for sale.” This crime is a felony and is not eligible for a diversion program. Those convicted of possession of controlled substances for sale face up to four years in jail and a maximum fine of $20,000. If a defendant is caught in the act of selling prescription medication, he or she may be charged with “sale or transportation of a controlled substance.” This felony carries a sentence of up to nine years in county jail depending on the circumstances.
Contact a San Jose Drugs Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested on drug-related charges, do not hesitate to contact the Santa Clara criminal defense law firm of Wesley J Schroeder, Attorney at Law. Call 408-277-0377 to schedule your confidential consultation today.