Drug Crimes Defense Attorney San Diego

San Diego Drug Crimes Lawyer
The failed war on drugs continues.  Law enforcement in San Diego, and across the nation continue to try to marginally disrupt the illegal drug trade, instead adding the violence and danger of drugs.  Drug policies have become more sensible in recent years, but Californians can still be arrested and face serious criminal charges for possessing, using, buying or selling illegal narcotics.  In San Diego, the proximity to the Mexican border means that drugs of all kinds are plentiful and the jails are full of drug offenders.  Methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, prescription medications (Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, Percocet and more), heroin, LSD, MDMA (Molly/Ecstasy), GHB, PCP and other drugs are common in San Diego.  San Diego's nightlife, tourism and large number of college students keeps demand for drugs high.

Until recently, California law made possession of most drugs a felony, even for personal use.  In 2014, California voters passed Prop 47, a new law that made all simple drug possession (and several minor theft offenses) misdemeanors.  Drug sales offenses are still felonies, but simple possession for personal use is now a misdemeanor, regardless of the drug.

HS 11350 - Possession of a controlled substance is the charge for possession of many illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc.), prescription painkillers (Oxycontin, Vicoding, etc.) and more.  Formerly a straight felony, Prop 47 significantly changed the effects of a possession of controlled substance arrest, charge and certainly conviction.  Possession of a controlled substance is punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail, but can no longer land most drug offenders in prison without an element of sales or serious violent felonies on the criminal record.  Defendants with certain prior convictions may still face a prison term for a drug possession conviction, but most will qualify for a misdemeanor. 

HS 11377 - Possession of a controlled substance, HS 11377 covers possession of drugs like methamphetamine, PCP, MDMA, etc.  Also now a misdemeanor due to Prop 47 (formerly a "wobbler"), possession of methamphetamine is punishable by up to one year, absent indicia of sales or a serious criminal history.

HS 11357(a) - Possession of concentrated cannabis is also now a misdemeanor for most offenders, pursuant to Prop 47.  Formerly a wobbler, possession of concentrated cannabis is now strictly a misdemeanor for most.  HS 11357(b) possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction, punishable only by a fine.  HS 11357(c), possession of more than an ounce, without a medical doctor's recommendation is a misdemeanor.  For a more detailed explanation of marijuana and medical marijuana laws, visit our San Diego Marijuana Lawyer page.

HS 11351 and HS 11378 - Possession of a Controlled Substance for Sale is a felony in California.HS 11351 makes it a felony to possess illegal drugs with the intention to sell (cocaine, heroin, prescription medications, and more).  HS 11378 addresses possession for sale of methamphetamine, MDMA, PCP and other manufactured drugs.  The law does not require that an alleged drug dealer be caught in the act of selling any illegal drugs.  Many factors may help a prosecutor establish the necessary facts to charge, and even convict someone of drug sales.  Quantity, packaging, scales, bags, vials, processing equipment and more can go to establish sales.  User paraphernalia such as pipes or needles can help to counter drug sales cases.  All drug sales charges are straight felonies, and cannot be reduced to misdemeanors or eligible for diversion, without a plea negotiation to a lesser offense.

Pursuant to HS 11352 (cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs), and HS 11379 (methamphetamine, PCP, MDMA) it is a felony in California to sell (or even give away) illegal drugs.  There are serious consequences to being caught selling drugs or transporting a quantity that indicates the drugs are possessed to be sold or furnished to others.  These determinations are fact-specific and leave room for your attorney to argue on your behalf, for a better outcome in your case.

HS 11359 imposes harsh punishments for sale of marijuana.  Someone charged with marijuana sales could get up to 7 years in prison (if sold to a minor under 15), but many people charged with marijuana possession for sale do not end up doing any prison time, instead serving county jail or probation sentences.  You do have defenses in drug sales cases, including entrapment, Fourth or Fifth Amendment violations, medical marijuana, lack of intent to sell, officer mistakes, and more.  In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate down to a lesser charge, like possession of marijuana concentrate, which can later be reduced to a misdemeanor, helping to avoid a permanent felony conviction.

HS 11379.6 provides the harshest punishments of all for California drug crimes and may apply to anything from pressing kief into hash up to operating a sophisticated meth lab.  These charges are clearly very serious, but you may have defenses that can help you avoid prison and may be able to prevail on a motion to get the evidence thrown out.

Growing marijuana, even for personal use, is a felony pursuant to HS 11358.  If cultivation is for personal use, it may be eligible for Deferred Entry of Judgment (a delayed dismissal of your case).  Marijuana cultivation cases often involve Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues or medical marijuana defense issues.

Due to the relative ease of proving drug crimes, defending a drug possession or possession for sales case frequently leans heavily on what is called a motion to suppress evidence.  Pursuant to Penal Code 1538.5, a defendant may move to suppress illegally obtained evidence.  If the police violated a defendant's Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights to obtain evidence, it can be thrown out in court, leaving the government to prove their allegations without any evidence.

California offers a few programs to let drug users charged with drug crimes avoid jail time in favor of drug treatment.  The most common of these programs are PC 1000 (Deferred Entry of Judgement, or "DEJ") and Prop 36.  PC 1000 is available only to first time drug offenders who have not previously taken advantage of a drug diversion program.  In addition to avoiding jail time, defendants who are eligible for PC 1000, will avoid a criminal conviction.  Prop 36 is available to more people and helps those charged with simple drug offenses to avoid custody, and instead do outpatient drug treatment.  Prop 36 does not, however, help defendants avoid a criminal conviction.  Informal diversion may also be an option, which could help a defendant avoid a conviction and may have better terms and consequences than even PC 1000.  Although drug sales, cultivation and manufacture offenses are not eligible for diversion, it may be possible to negotiate for different, eligible, charges and a dismissal of the original, ineligible, sales charges.

Most drug possession cases, except possession for sale or transportation for sale, are eligible to be a misdemeanor per Prop 47.  The reductions do not apply, however, to defendants with prior convictions requiring PC 290 Registration (Sex Offenders) or serious and violent felony convictions enumerated in PC 667(e)(2)(C)(iv) (homicide, sexually violent offenses, solicitation to commit murder, possessing a weapon of mass destruction and other extremely serious crimes.  Most people, even with strike priors are Prop 47 eligible.  Only the most serious prior convictions will disqualify a defendant from the misdemeanor reductions pursuant to Prop 47.

If you or a loved one is facing drug charges in San Diego, you need a skilled, knowledgeable and experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney on your side.  You want a lawyer who has a strong grasp of constitutional rights and the strong cross-examination and argument skills necessary to get the evidence against you thrown out, explain a misunderstanding and/or negotiate to get you the best possible plea deal.  It may be necessary to assert your innocence at a preliminary hearing or even trial, and you want an attorney who can persuasively assert your position and knows what will and will not work to get you the best possible outcome in your case.  Being arrested and facing criminal charges is scary and stressful, but we can help.  Call the Law Offices of Nicholas Loncar now for a free consultation with a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer.  888-200-9454.

Nicholas M. Loncar, Esq.
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
San Diego DUI Lawyer
Toll Free: 888-200-9454
By Nicholas Loncar



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