Most Common Drug Crimes and Penalties in California

With the drug laws in California changing all the time, it’s no wonder why many people are confused about the penalties involved. Of course, everyone knows that possession of illegal drugs results in penalties that range according to the severity of your situation.

Most commonly prosecuted drug crimes in California include possession, transportation, sale, manufacturing, and trafficking. California is among the leaders in the number of drug prosecutions across the state.

Those caught with various types of drugs face charges depending on the type and quantity of drugs found in their possession. Other factors like whether the drug was meant for personal use or for sale can affect the punishment as well.

People charged with any of these drug crimes face prison time, hefty fines, drug counseling and drug offender registration along with license revocation. The only way to minimize the punishment is to hire an experienced attorney like the Monder Law Group to represent you and try to have the charges rejected.

In this article, we’ll list some of the most common drug crimes and related penalties.

Possession of a Controlled Substance

Possession of controlled substances is illegal according to the California Health & Safety Code 11350. The narcotics listed as illegal include heroin, cocaine, crack, ketamine, and ecstasy. Possession of prescription pills like codeine or Vicodin is also illegal unless the drug was prescribed by a health expert licensed by the state of California. Physicians, podiatrists, veterinarians, and dentists can all prescribe these pills. In most cases, the highest penalty is up to a year in the jail along with up to $1000 fine.

Possession for Sale

Possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell is a much more serious crime, and therefore the punishment is more severe. The obvious problem here is the way law enforcement determines whether you were in possession of these drugs with the intent to sell or not. In most cases, the law enforcement will consider several factors but mainly the quantity. If you are charged with possession with the intent to sale you could face up to four years of prison time.


Transporting a controlled substance is a felony that can lead to three to five years in prison. However, transportation does not only involve big drug jobs you see in movies. Even if someone forgot their illegal substances or even prescription pills in your car, you can be charged with drug transportation and face serious consequences.

Drug Paraphernalia Possession

If you are caught with drug paraphernalia you could be charged with a misdemeanor. To clarify, drug paraphernalia involves any items used to consume drugs such as opium pipes, cocaine spoons, and hypodermic needles.

If you are caught in possession of drug paraphernalia you could be sentenced to up to six months in jail. People caught with drug paraphernalia can opt in for a diversion program as stated by the Proposition 36.

An experienced attorney can help dismiss these charges, for example by proving that the items were found during an unwarranted search.

Methamphetamine Possession

Under the recently passed Proposition 47, people caught in possession of methamphetamine face misdemeanor charges. However, possession with the intent to sell, transport or distribute is still considered a felony and can lead to several years in a state prison.

Marijuana Possession

Since the beginning of 2018, marijuana can be legally used for recreational purposes in California. However, people using marijuana have to be over 21 and only carry up to an ounce of this drug. However, possession with the intent to sell or growing marijuana for the same purpose are still serious crimes that could lead to years in a state prison.

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