Possession of a Controlled Substance

California has strict laws against possessing certain types of drugs. This charge is known as possession of a controlled substance. The charge can carry a lengthy prison sentence and large fines under certain circumstances. It will help to know how possession of a controlled substance is defined under the California penal code and what steps one should take to get bail and get on the track to freedom.

Definition of a Controlled Substance

California has a list of controlled substances broken up into five different classes or schedules. These are different tiers of controlled drugs. They include many of the typical narcotics sold illegally on the streets like methamphetamines and heroin. The list includes hallucinogens like LSD and peyote. The code also makes it illegal to possess prescription medications like opioids or sedatives unless the person can prove that they were prescribed by a doctor. Over-the-counter medications like allergy pills are not considered controlled substances.

Understanding Possession

An individual must possess the controlled substance in some way in order to be arrested. Actual possession means that the drug is in a place where the person has direct physical control over the substance. This means in a pocket, in a backpack or in a shoe being worn. Constructive possession is different. This form of possession means the controlled substance is in a location the individual has control over although not physically at the time of the arrest. Examples of constructive possession include finding the substance in the vehicle, apartment or locker of the person under suspicion. The person has control over the area although they do not have to be near it when the substance is found.

Bail for Possession of a Controlled Substance

An individual arrested for possession of a controlled substance is taken to the nearest jail in order to await trial. It is possible to get out of jail until the end of the trial by posting a bail bond. This is commonly done through a bail bond agency. Bail is an amount of money that is held to ensure the individual makes all court appearances. The money is returned when the case is resolved if the defendant showed up for all court dates. Bail bond agencies make the process easier and can reduce how much has to be paid up front. Bail amounts for possession of a controlled substance are very different depending on the case and the county. Defendants can pay as little as $1,000 in San Diego County and as much as $20,000 in Orange County.

Penalties If Convicted

All possession of controlled substance charges starts as misdemeanors in California. Misdemeanor charges can lead to up to one year in jail if the defendant is convicted. A monetary fine of up to $1,000 can also be part of the sentence. An exception is if the individual has a previous criminal record. Another exception is if the arrest also resulted in charges for a violent crime. This allows prosecutors to charge the defendant with felony possession of a controlled substance. Felony convictions can result in up to three years in prison and potentially larger fines if there are aggravating circumstances. People charged with misdemeanor possession might be able to avoid jail time by agreeing to enter into a drug diversion program.

Check out Aggravating Circumstances