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Common Drug Charges in California

Drug crimes in California are categorized into three main types: possession, distribution, and manufacturing. Each category varies in severity and possible penalties. Your Folsom drug defense attorney will ensure you fully understand your charges and legal options.

Possession of Drugs

Drug possession is the act of having a controlled substance without a valid prescription or authorization. The charge’s severity depends on the drug’s type and quantity, as well as the defendant’s prior criminal history.

Simple Possession

Simple possession of a controlled substance (California Health and Safety Code Section 11350(a) HS) is the least serious drug possession offense, typically involving small amounts of drugs for personal use. It is generally considered a misdemeanor.

Possession with Intent to Sell (PWIS)

This charge (California Health and Safety Code Section 11351 HS) is more serious than simple possession and indicates that you possessed the drugs with the intent to distribute them. PWIS is typically a felony offense.

Distribution of Drugs

Distribution of a controlled substance involves the sale, transportation, or delivery of a controlled substance. The severity of the charge depends on the type and quantity of the drug and how it was distributed.

Sale or Transportation for Sale

This charge involves selling or transporting a controlled substance for money or other consideration. It is typically a felony offense.

Manufacturing of Drugs

Manufacturing of a controlled substance is the process of producing or creating a controlled substance. This is typically a very serious offense, as it involves the production of illegal and dangerous substances.


This charge (California Health and Safety Code Section 11379.6 HS) involves the actual production or creation of a controlled substance. It is typically a felony offense.

Operating or Maintaining a Drug House

This charge (California Health and Safety Code 11366 HS) involves operating or maintaining a place where controlled substances are manufactured, sold, used, or given away. It is typically a felony offense.

Other Drug-Related Offenses in California

In addition to these three main categories, there are many other drug-related offenses in California, such as:

  • Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance (California Health and Safety Code Section 11550): This misdemeanor makes it illegal for you to be under the influence of a controlled substance or narcotic drug. There is no requirement for possession.
  • Possession of Paraphernalia (California Health and Safety Code Section 11364 HS): This misdemeanor involves the possession of drug-related items, such as pipes, syringes, or scales.
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of a Controlled Substance (California Vehicle Code Section 23152 VC): This offense involves driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance. It may be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts of the case.
  • Driving While Addicted to Drugs (DWAD) (California Vehicle Code 21352(c) VC): This misdemeanor involves driving or operating a motor vehicle while addicted to a controlled substance.
  • Aiding and Abetting the Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance (California Health and Safety Code Section 11365 HS): This misdemeanor involves assisting or encouraging another person to unlawfully use a controlled substance.
  • Marijuana Crimes: Although marijuana use is legal in California, there are still restrictions on how much you can carry, who can sell it, and how it is transported and manufactured. These crimes can amount to either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the facts of the case.

Penalties for Drug Crimes in California

The criminal penalties for drug crimes in California vary widely. Some crimes are misdemeanors with lower-level penalties, some are felonies with significant penalties, and others are considered “wobblers.”

What Are Wobblers?

A wobbler is a special class of crime that can be charged and punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor decides whether to charge a wobbler as a felony or a misdemeanor, and the judge has the discretion to sentence a defendant with a wobbler conviction to either felony or misdemeanor penalties.

Misdemeanor Drug Penalties

A standard misdemeanor conviction can result in the following penalties:

  • Up to six months in jail
  • Up to $1,000 fine
  • Informal (summary) probation

A gross misdemeanor conviction can result in the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to a $1,000 fine
  • Informal (summary) probation

Felony Drug Penalties

A felony conviction could result in serious penalties that will impact your entire life, including:

  • One year or more in prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000 or higher
  • Formal probation

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Why Hire a Folsom Drug Crimes Lawyer?

There are many reasons why you should hire a Folsom drug crimes lawyer from Walsh Law if you have been arrested or charged with a drug crime.

Drug crimes lawyer Chris Walsh has experience with specific California laws that are ever-changing. He can apply those laws to your case and get the best outcome possible.

Chris is skilled at negotiating with prosecutors to reduce the charges against you or get you a lighter sentence. He may also be able to get you into a diversion program and help you avoid a criminal conviction.

If your case goes to trial, Chris Walsh and his legal team will be able to represent you in court and protect your rights. They will present evidence and argue on your behalf.

Defending Against Drug Crimes Charges

Every case is unique and needs a strategic defense strategy. The defense attorneys of Walsh Law will creatively develop an aggressive defense that targets the evidence against you.

We may argue one or a combination of:

  • Unlawful Search and Seizure: The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from illegal searches and seizures. If evidence of a drug crime was obtained this way, it may be suppressed or thrown out.
  • Lack of Knowledge: The prosecution must prove you knowingly possessed the drugs.
  • Entrapment: This can be raised when law enforcement induced or persuaded you to commit a crime you would not have otherwise committed.
  • Mistake of Fact: If you made a mistake in believing the substance you possessed was legal, you may not be guilty of a crime.

What should I do if I am arrested for a drug crime in California?

First, you should remain calm and do not resist arrest. You should also politely decline to answer any questions from the police without an attorney present.

Once you are booked into custody, you will have the opportunity to make a phone call. You should contact an experienced drug crimes attorney as soon as possible.

Can a drug crime conviction be expunged in California?

Drug crimes can be expunged in California under certain conditions. To be eligible for expungement of a drug crime in California, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have been convicted of a misdemeanor drug offense. Your conviction must not be for a drug offense involving violence or a controlled substance that is considered a narcotic.
  • You must have completed all the terms of your sentence, including probation, parole, or any other required community service or treatment programs.
  • You must have been free from any new arrests or convictions for at least one year.

What are some collateral consequences of a drug crimes conviction?

A drug crimes conviction can have several collateral consequences, which are the legal or social repercussions of a criminal conviction beyond the direct punishment of the crime itself. These consequences can significantly impact a person's life, making it difficult to find employment, housing, education, and other opportunities.

You may also lose your right to vote and gun rights if you are convicted of a felony offense. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may be deported or have other serious immigration consequences.

Call Walsh Law About Drug Crime Charges in Folsom

Some drug crimes, such as simple possession, are rarely prosecuted in California. While others, such as drug manufacturing, are harshly punished. Folsom drug defense lawyer Chris Walsh understands how to work with prosecutors because he was one. However, today he is dedicated to defending people like you who need a lending hand through the California criminal justice system.

Contact Walsh Law as soon as possible to maximize your chances of getting the best outcome possible. Contact us today at 916-237-8270 to schedule an initial consultation.

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