From the manufacturing of controlled substances, drug possession to drunk driving, the prosecution of drug and alcohol-related offenses is a common feature for California prosecutors and other law enforcers in state and federal criminal courts. Despite drastic changes including, California's legalization of the use and possession of recreational marijuana, drug offenses are on the rise. While penalties for drugs and alcohol-related crimes vary depending on several factors, offenses such as drug trafficking and manufacturing and possession of a large quantity of a controlled substance are serious crimes with heavy penalties. The penalties may include lengthy prison sentences, hefty court fines, and mandatory treatment for substance abuse. Additionally, a forced registration as a drug offender and a criminal record may significantly reduce your employment prospects.

The fact that California aggressively prosecutes drugs and alcohol-related crimes increases the likelihood of mistakes in the arresting, evidence collection, and prosecution process. These and other factors, including determining the correct quantity of a controlled substance that a person should possess, makes it easy for the prosecution to accuse a defendant wrongfully. Therefore, it is critical to have experienced drugs and alcohol-related crimes attorney by your side to defend your rights. If you are in Pasadena, CA, and are facing drugs and alcohol-related accusations, our skilled criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley are committed to defending your rights while helping you get the best possible outcome.

Drug and Alcohol-Related Charges

California is a leading state in the prosecution of drug and alcohol-related crimes. Drug-related charges can be broadly categorized into possession or trafficking crimes, while alcohol-related charges mainly involve drunk driving or driving under the influence (DUI). In California, common drug charges include manufacturing, sale, possession, and illegal use of drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, crystal meth, methamphetamine, ecstasy, hallucinogens, and some prescription medications.

Common Drug-Related Charges and Penalties

California criminalizes the illegal possession and use of all controlled substances including, street drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin, party drugs such as ecstasy and prescription drugs like Vicodin. Common drug-related criminal offenses in Pasadena, CA include:

  • Possession
  • Distribution or sale
  • Manufacturing
  • Cultivation
  • Trafficking

Prosecutors pursue most of these drug-related charges regardless of the quantity of the drugs involved. However, the severity of a drug charge depends on several factors, including whether the drugs were for your personal use or sale. The various California laws that govern drug-related charges further differentiate them. For example, while drug possession falls under California Health & Safety Code 11350 (a), drug possession for sales is governed by H&S Code 11351. Possession and distribution of marijuana are under H&S Code 11359.

  1. Drug Possession: According to the California Health & Safety Code 11350 (a), possession of any controlled substances or narcotics is unlawful. The substances include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. It is also illegal to possess prescription medication such as Vicodin unless a licensed health expert has prescribed it. In drug possession cases, possession is either be actual or constructive. For example, if the police search you and find narcotics in your pockets, the court may charge you with actual possession of a controlled substance. However, if the police were to arrest you for a different offense, including a traffic offense, but later discover narcotics in your car, the court may charge you with constructive possession. In essence, you are in control of all the items in your vehicle.

    Penalties for a drug possession charge include up to one year in prison and or a fine of up to $1000 for a first-time offender and $2000 for a second-time offender. Additionally, the court may also require community service as part of the fine or in place of it. However, the severity of your punishments largely depends on the quantity of drugs involved, as the law may consider more significant amounts as a possession for sale, which attracts more severe punishment. The main issue is how law enforcers determine whether you intended the drugs for personal use or sale.

  2. Possession for Sale: Compared to drug possession, California laws consider possession for sale or possession with intent to distribute a severe crime with more severe penalties. One of the characteristics that differentiate this offense from drug possession is the larger quantities of drugs. The court may also decide you intended to distribute the illegal narcotics if they find apparent signs such as the packaged drugs. Necessarily, the prosecutor does not need to prove that you were selling, trying to sell, or had already sold the illegal narcotics.

    Common incriminating factors during possession for sale charges include having more substantial than usual quantities of drugs where it is apparent to any reasonable person that such amounts are not for personal use. Other factors include having multiple packages and packaging materials, having measuring equipment, and evidence of actual sales. People frequently visiting your location and having small denominations of cash can also be used to incriminate you in possession for sale criminal case.

    If the court finds you guilty of possession with intent to distribute, you risk a prison term of up to four years and or a fine of up to $20000. However, the charges may increase if the court charges you with multiple drug charges. Similar to drug possession, the severity of the penalties depends on several factors, including the quantity of drugs, type of drugs, and your criminal history.

  3. Possession and Distribution of Marijuana: Despite California being the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, charges related to the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana are a common occurrence. The law stipulates that the recreational use of marijuana is only for people over 21, and no one should carry more than an ounce of the drug. Many people are not aware of these stipulations, hence the frequency of marijuana-related arrests and prosecutions. Despite the legalization of recreational marijuana, possession or cultivation of the drug with the intent to sell is still a serious crime that has severe penalties. Other prevalent marijuana criminal offenses in California include underage possession distribution and transporting marijuana across state borders.

    Despite marijuana being legal in some other states, including Washington and Colorado, it is always crucial to remember that the federal government still considers it an illegal drug. Therefore, transporting or distributing marijuana across state borders and places such as airports may attract federal charges. While the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use only attracts a fine, cultivating, distributing, or selling more significant amounts of marijuana can lead to serious criminal charges. Depending on the amount involved, you risk three years in prison and a maximum fine of up to $500. However, in California, many different laws are governing the use and possession of marijuana.

    While some offenses such as possession of less than an ounce for personal use are non-criminal infractions without prison sentences, other crimes including possession with intent to distribute are felony crimes whose punishment may include up to three years in state prison. Even though marijuana-related legal issues being common, some aspects of California marijuana laws are not easy to understand unless one is a legal expert. This difficulty in understanding has not only led to misconceptions, but it has also led to ignorance of the law. For example, many Californians think that all types of marijuana use are legal even though marijuana use is only legal for medical and recreational purposes. Even for the permitted uses, you still risk criminal charges if you do not follow some very stringent rules California laws stipulate.

  4. Cultivation of Marijuana: The regulation of marijuana in California is comprehensive, with the law treating cultivation slightly different from possession and distribution of the drug. While there are some 'blurred lines' in the regulations regarding the possession and distribution of marijuana, the law is unambiguous on cultivation. While the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes means that most Californians can grow the drug for personal use, the law is clear on who can grow, how much, and where.

    According to the law, you should only grow marijuana if you are aged 21 and above, and it should be for personal use. You are also allowed to grow a maximum of six plants only regardless of the stage of growth. The plants need to be in your property where passersby do not see them. Additionally, the cultivation of marijuana is subject to local regulations with some Californian towns and cities out rightly banning outdoor cultivation. Similar to laws about the possession and distribution of marijuana, the aspect of different localities having different regulations on marijuana cultivation can be confusing for some people.

    Generally, the cultivation of marijuana outside the recommended guidelines is unlawful and can result in criminal charges. If the court were to find you guilty of growing, drying, or processing more than six living marijuana plants, you would risk a prison term of up to six months in a Los Angeles county jail and or a fine of up to $500. Similar punishment applies to anyone who breaks the age limits, especially if they are under 21 but over 18. However, anyone under the age of 18 is only guilty of an infraction and will incur a maximum of up to $100 if found growing, drying, or processing more than six living marijuana plants.

  5. Manufacturing a Controlled Substance: In California, it is a serious criminal offense to manufacture a controlled substance. While some drugs such as marijuana do not need complex forms of processing, others such as methamphetamines and crack cocaine requires significant processing, including compounding and chemical processing. Other drugs that are subject to considerable processing, conversion, and manufacturing include LSD, Ecstasy, and PCP. Most offenders manufacture or process the drugs to lower their cost hence the obvious criminal charge of possession for sale.

    The manufacture of controlled substances is under California Health and Safety Code 11379.6, and the courts punish the violation of this law with up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $50000. However, the severity of the penalties depends on quantities of drugs,  manufacturing location, and criminal history of the defendant. A conviction for manufacturing a controlled substance charge does not require the accused to have completed the manufacturing process. The prosecution only needs to prove that the defendant took the initial steps necessary for the manufacturing of a controlled process. You would risk additional penalties, including up to 15 years of added prison time, if the manufacturing involved copious amounts of drugs or controlled substances. Other aggravating factors include:

    • The manufacturing of methamphetamines within 200 feet of an occupied residential building or structure.
    • The use of volatile solvents in the extraction of concentrated marijuana within 300 feet of an occupied residential building or structure.

    The aggravating factors protect other unsuspecting individuals and minors from the dangers posed by the various chemical processes involved in the manufacturing of controlled substances such as methamphetamines and concentrated cannabis.

  6. Prescription Drugs Misuse and Forgeries: Prescription drugs are all types of medicines that are prescribed by a doctor or any other licensed health professional for purposes of treatment. Despite the many necessary and legitimate uses of prescription drugs, California reports many cases of misuse, forgery, and alteration of these drugs. As a result, the state highly regulates them and treats any unlawful use or possession the same way it treats the use and possession of illegal drugs. In California, prescription drug violations, including misuse and forgery, are serious criminal offenses.

    The biggest issue with prescription drugs is that their misuse can lead to dependency or addiction, just like illegal narcotics. Opioid painkillers are among the most commonly misused or abused prescription drugs in California. It is common for individuals with a drug problem to forge doctor's prescriptions or alter genuine prescriptions to obtain prescription drugs illegally. Doctors may also face criminal charges for intentionally prescribing controlled substances or drugs to patients they know are addicted or dependent on the drugs.

    While penalties for prescription drug violations depend on various factors, you risk up to six months in jail for a prescription drug forgery and up to one year for altering a prescription. Other criminal charges associated with the misuse of prescription drugs include the crime of doctor shopping, which is the act of visiting multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions. The penalties for doctor shopping may consist of a prison sentence of up to three years. Similarly, the illegal possession of prescription drugs is punishable with up to one year in prison and or a fine of up to $1000 for a first-time offender and $2000 for a second-time offender. Additionally, you risk summary probation of up to three years for a misdemeanor offense and up to five years for a felony prescription drug violation.

Common Alcohol-Related Charges and Penalties

While alcohol-related offenses are almost similar to drug-related crimes, including crimes like vehicular manslaughter, alcohol use is not illegal in California; hence is not as regulated as the use of drugs such as marijuana. Some of the common alcohol-related charges include:

  • Drunk driving
  • Public intoxication
  • Furnishing or selling alcohol to minors

Depending on various factors, including the level of intoxication and the defendant's criminal history, some of these offenses are serious crimes with severe penalties, including imprisonment.

  1. Drunk Driving: Also known as DUI, drunk driving is the most common alcohol-related criminal charge in Los Angeles County and the rest of California. In Pasadena and surrounding areas, law enforcers rely on DUI checkpoints to check drunk driving. According to California law, it is a crime for any driver to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.8% or more. After several tests, including a chemical test to confirm their BAC levels, such a driver will be arrested and charged with drunk driving. In California, a DUI conviction attracts both administrative and criminal penalties.

    Penalties for drunk driving vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the offense and the DUI history of the offender. first-time offenders risk a prison sentence of up to six months in County jail and a fine of up to $1000. The court may also impose administrative penalties, including the suspension of your driver's license and a requirement to install and maintain an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in your car. Additionally, you may also be required to attend mandatory DUI classes for up to nine months.

    Compared to first time offenders, a second time and third-time offenders face enhanced criminal and administrative penalties, including potential imprisonment of up to one year for a third-time offender. While for the first time, a second time and third time offense, the court charges you with a DUI misdemeanor, they may charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony DUI for four or more DUI offenses. Consequently, such a charge attracts more severe punishments, including imprisonment of up to 3 years for a DUI felony conviction.

  2. Furnishing Alcohol to Minors: California laws criminalize the provision or selling of alcohol to any individual under the age of 21. Similarly, it is also a crime for a minor to purchase or consume alcohol in any bar or such establishments. Furnishing alcohol to minors is a misdemeanor offense whose penalties include community service and a fine of $1000 if convicted. However, if the intoxicated minor causes an accident, the crime attracts enhanced penalties, including up to one year in jail. Localities, including some towns and cities, have their regulations, especially on social gatherings concerning the furnishing of alcohol to minors where state law is silent.

  3. Public Intoxication: Simply being drunk in public is not a criminal offense. However, you may be convicted of public intoxication if you display apparent signs of intoxication, you are unable to take care of yourself or others, and you interfere with other people's free use of streets and sidewalks. A public intoxication conviction may attract up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1000, and or probation. Even though public intoxication is a misdemeanor and a comparatively lesser offense, it can still attract additional criminal charges if, as a result of your intoxication, you behave violently towards the police or other members of the public.

Common Defenses

While the various drugs and alcohol-related crimes have some elements and defenses that are unique to them, others are common. One of the common arguments is about how law enforcers handle drugs and alcohol-related arrests. As a defense, you could argue that your arrest violated the Constitutional Fourth Amendment that protects individuals from unreasonable searches. Another common argument is about whether the drugs were for personal use or sale. For lesser charges, you could argue that the drugs involved in the case were for personal use. A competent defense attorney can also help you argue that the drugs were for legitimate treatment purposes in case of drugs like marijuana. If successful, most of these common defenses can help you avoid hefty fines and enhanced prison times.

Contact a Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

California is probably the leading state in the prosecution of drugs and alcohol-related offenses. In Pasadena, the arrest, filing, and prosecution of drugs and alcohol-related offenders are not only confusing but complicated.  In addition to a lack of clarity in some California laws complicating the process, it may also result in unfair and wrongful accusations.

Despite a lack of clarity in state laws and the questionable actions of arresting officers and prosecutors, you do not need to worry. You only need a skilled and experienced drug and alcohol-related criminal defense attorney to defend your rights and guide you through the whole process. If you are in Pasadena, and are facing drugs and alcohol-related charges, contact our defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley. They will ensure you get the best possible outcome, including a dismissal or reduction of your charges. Contact us at 626-793-4111 to learn more about our services.