California Cocaine Laws & Penalties
Cocaine is a popular but deadly party stimulant. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has placed the drug in Schedule II, meaning it has high addictive and abuse potential and may have medicinal value. As the second most-abused recreational drug, it’s no surprise that Bail Bonds agents find themselves dealing with individuals charged with cocaine possession.
Before the passage of Proposition 47, most drug charges in the state were felonies. However, the penalties for cocaine possession for personal use have gone down to a simple misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Under Penal Code Section 1000, which was passed by Proposition 36 in 2000, most people arrested for personal possession qualify for pretrial diversion. That means that if they complete a drug treatment program, they will not face further penalties. Naturally, after Proposition 47 was passed in 2018, drug prosecutions in California for felony offenses plummeted.
However, these reforms to California cocaine laws do not apply to most sex offenders and people who have been convicted of violent crimes. Additionally, these reductions of offenses and pretrial diversion opportunities are only available to individual users. California cocaine laws remain the same for possession with intent to distribute (PWID). PWID cocaine under 1kg is a felony that is two, three, or four years in prison, and a fine not to exceed $20,000. PWID cocaine base carries the same maximum fine, but three, four, or five years in prison. The penalties are far more severe for those caught with greater than 1kg of cocaine or its base. The sentence for this stacks on top of the sentence for PWID, and it adds 3 to 25 years in prison and potentially fines not to exceed $8 million. This is an interesting deviation from the trend of lightening penalties for cocaine possession in California.
Though drug charges related to trafficking are seen as the most serious, those trafficking cocaine locally are subjected to identical penalties to those caught selling or attempting to sell cocaine base: three, four, or five years in prison. However, they substantially increase when the offender crosses multiple county lines with cocaine. Although the number of county lines crossed is notoriously difficult to prove during drug prosecutions in California, the prison sentence becomes three, six, or nine years.
Returning to simple cocaine users, California cocaine laws have many oddities. For example, under Health and Safety Code 11550 HS, it is a misdemeanor to simply be “under the influence” of cocaine. Sentencing rules are identical to those under Penal Code Section 1000, other than that it is an unconditional misdemeanor. Regardless of previous convictions, this will not be a felony. The only conditions for conviction are that the person knowingly took the drug “immediately before arrest” and their mental or physical condition is somehow affected. Oddly, there is no stipulation that the person must be in public to commit this offense. On the bright side for those convicted, the conviction must be expunged after the sentence is carried out, although there most often is no jail sentence.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID), including cocaine, carries a fairly standard jail sentence up to six months, fine of between $390 and $1,000, and a possible license suspension. The infrequently enforced “Driving While Addicted to Drugs” charge carries essentially the same misdemeanor penalties. However, there is no requirement that a person actually is under the influence of cocaine while driving to be convicted of this. If an officer knows a certain person is addicted to it, or the person states they are, they can be arrested if found driving. The only exception to this law is if the person is currently enrolled in a drug addiction treatment program. Notably, there is no exception for someone who is dependent upon a prescription drug that they are legally prescribed.
Although penalties for cocaine possession for personal use have been curtailed, those in the Bail Bonds industry will still be plenty busy due to the many laws criminalizing activities that are bound to occur if someone is using cocaine.