Drug Crimes Attorneys in Bakersfield, California
The term “drug crimes” can cover a number of different charges—from drug possession to sales, distribution, or manufacturing of drugs. Most drug charges in California are tried as misdemeanors. In fact, in 2019, over a quarter (25.5%) of misdemeanor arrests were drug-related, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. No matter what specific crime you’ve been arrested for, it’s entirely natural to feel overwhelmed and unsure of your path forward.
At Underwood Law Firm in Bakersfield, California we’ve helped clients just like you understand and fight drug charges. We are ready to help you navigate the criminal justice system, whether you live in Bakersfield, Lamont, or anywhere throughout Kern County. You don’t need to face drug crime charges alone. Reach out to us today to set up a consultation.
Federal Drug Crimes
The first thing to understand about drug crimes is how different local, state, and federal laws can affect the charges. In general, federal law has harsher restrictions and punishments for drug crimes than California state law, especially in regard to marijuana possession. Federal drug charges are typically pursued if you’re arrested for the trafficking or selling of drugs from one state to another or if there are large amounts of drugs in question. In these instances, since you’ve crossed state lines, federal law would take precedent. On the other hand, other charges such as simple possession or possession with the intent to sell would typically be handled under state law.
Drug Charges in California
There are four general categories that your drug charges can fall into under California law: manufacturing, delivery, selling, or possession. It’s important to understand what each of these mean.
- Manufacturing: A drug manufacturing crime covers any charge involving the cultivation or manufacturing (making) of drugs. This can include both natural cultivation (such as illegally growing cannabis or psilocybin mushrooms), or chemically producing drugs like LSD, cocaine, or methamphetamines.
- Delivery: Delivering controlled substances usually refers to distribution or drug trafficking, which will often result in a federal charge. Distribution charges are often paired with possession and intent-to-sell charges.
- Selling: Charges involving the sale of drugs can either mean that you were caught actually selling the product (for example, to an undercover police officer), or that you simply intended to sell the drugs. You could be charged with this latter crime if you possessed an amount of drugs that was more than personal use, if you had packaging materials for selling and distributing drugs (like small bags), or if other evidence was found such as a list of customers or large quantities of money.
- Possession: Possession charges are the most common of all drug crimes and the vast majority of these will fall under local control, not federal. However, possession charges can be complicated because there are a couple of ways to think about them; namely, either “actual” or “constructive” possession. Actual possession means that you knowingly have non-prescription drugs on your body or in your possession in a quantity either for personal use or for sale. Additionally, you can be arrested for constructive possession. This means that even if the drugs aren’t yours, if they are in a place you have control over (such as your car or home) and there’s a reasonable belief that you know about them, you can still be responsible for them.
Drug Schedules (Schedule I-V)
All drugs are categorized both at the state and federal level as one of five “schedules,” with Schedule V drugs carrying the lowest penalties (or none at all), and Schedule I carrying the highest. Schedule V drugs usually have the lowest level of potential addiction and most are available with a valid prescription or over the counter. Common examples of Schedule V drugs are codeine or cough preparations like Robitussin. Schedule I drugs are considered highly addictive and have no agreed-upon medical usage. Examples of these are cocaine, heroin, PCP, or marijuana.
The penalties for a drug charge will depend on the circumstances of your case (such as the type of drug, what you were arrested for, and whether you’ve been convicted in the past of any drug crimes), and whether you’re facing state or federal charges. A simple possession charge could result in a minor fine, but more serious charges could mean larger fines, jail time, mandatory rehabilitation programs, probation, and convictions staying on your permanent record. This can limit your ability to find a job or rent an apartment.
In 2014, however, California voters passed Prop 47 (called the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”) which has actually helped many people who were either facing drug charges or who were convicted of certain drug charges to seek lesser penalties. Specifically, most possession felonies are now downgraded to misdemeanors due to this new legislation.