Possession of a Controlled Substance

HS 11350 – Possession of a Controlled Substance

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Possession charges can vary depending on a number of unique circumstances and facts. When it comes to California's drug policy, one of the most commonly prosecuted drug crime charges is an offense referred to as possession of a controlled substance. All aspects of this offense, as well as court procedures and criminal penalties, are outlined in the California Health and Safety Code § 11350. In short, HS 11350 prohibits the possession of various controlled substances without a valid prescription.

Of course, this charge entails a number of elements that must be addressed according to the specific circumstances at hand. Having spent years defending the rights, futures, and freedoms of clients charged with a wide range of drug crimes, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys possess a strong working knowledge of HS 11350. The following information better outlines the major elements inherent to this charge.

Controlled Substances

Under HS 11350, no person is permitted to possess a controlled substance without a valid prescription. A controlled substance is any drug, chemical, or narcotic for which manufacturing, sale, possession, and use are regulated by the government. In particular, the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA) outlines many of the drugs that are considered controlled substances. The CSA is also used to outline the drug classifications in states throughout the country. Controlled substances are placed into Schedules, which classifies them according to their "potential for abuse," and which aid federal, state, and local courts in determining criminal penalties for various types of drugs. Although there are many different types of controlled substances, the following outline of the Schedules and common drugs within those Schedules can serve as an example:

  • Schedule I – Controlled substances with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and lack of accepted safety for use. Common types of Schedule I drugs include: Heroin, LSD and various hallucinogens, MDMA, and marijuana.
  • Schedule II – Controlled substances with a high potential for abuse and the potential for severe psychological or physical dependence. Common drugs in this Schedule include cocaine, opium, oxycodone, amphetamines, and codeine.
  • Schedule III – Controlled substances with less potential for abuse than Schedule I or II drugs, a high potential for psychological abuse, and a moderate to low potential for physical dependence. Examples of Schedule III drugs are anabolic steroids, ketamine, hydrocodone / codeine when compounded with anti-inflammatory drugs (Vicodin), and certain barbiturates.
  • Schedule IV – Controlled substances that have a lower potential for abuse and dependency than those in previous Schedules. Long-acting barbiturates and benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium are the most common examples of Schedule IV drugs.
  • Schedule V – Controlled substances with low potential for abuse and limited potential for dependency. Schedule V drugs, including cough suppressants containing codeine, must still be regulated and dispensed with a prescription.

Legal Elements, Defense & Penalties

Prosecutors have the burden of proving that an individual knowingly possessed a controlled substance. While this legal element may seem straightforward, there are many circumstances that can result in potential defense strategies. In some cases, for example, drugs may not be physically present on a person, may be found on property that belongs to a person, or may be found in a location where two or more people may have immediate access to the drugs. Prosecutors will also focus on proving that an individual knew that they had a controlled substance in their possession and that they knew possession of such a substance to be illegal.

In some cases, prosecutors may also charge individuals with additional related offenses, including possession of a controlled substance for sale, being under the influence of a controlled substance, and others.

Depending on these and other facts, there may be differing defenses. People with valid prescriptions and people who did not know that a controlled substance was present on their property, for example, have a legitimate defense.

By focusing on all aspects of your arrest and charge, our legal team can tailor defense plans specifically to the situation at hand. We also conduct meticulous investigations to ensure that your rights were not violated at any point before, during, or after your arrest and that you were not the victim of an unlawful search and seizure.

As with many drug crime offenses, penalties can vary widely. Based on the nature of the charge, controlled substance, prior criminal records, and whether other crimes were committed, prosecutors will determine an appropriate sentence. Typically, possession of a controlled substance is a felony offense punishable by fines and up to one year of imprisonment. Penalties will increase with multiple offenses. As California has begun to recognize the need to rehabilitate drug offenders – rather than simply punish them – court systems throughout the state are turning to alternative sentencing options that will allow offenders to obtain the help they need while preserving their record and freedom.

Personal Attention From a Proven Legal Team

Should you choose to bring your case to the attention of Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, you can be confident knowing that our legal team works each case on an individual basis. We view all aspects and elements of your unique situation, take the time to listen to your story, and provide you with personal attention throughout each stage of the court process. Depending on the circumstances involved in your case, we can help you understand your rights and your options, and will guide you toward the most favorable resolution possible – whether it be diversionary drug treatment programs, deferred judgment, or fighting on your behalf during trial. Learn more about HS 11350 and how our firm can help. Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney from Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP.

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