What Are Illegal Substances & Drug Crimes In California, United States?

Drug crimes and criminals have been the recent highlight in the media in the last few years. Drug defense attorneys sometimes call in for the help of criminal defense attorneys to help their clients deal with the federal court system of the United States. In this article, we define the possible drug crimes associated with the state of California in the United States. But before going into a list of the drug crimes we look at how drugs are registered according to the United States laws. 

What Are Illegal Drugs & Controlled Substances?

Illegal substances can be categorized into five specific groups. The group of substances in the first group has the highest potential for psychological addiction and abuse. Similarly, the group of substances in the fifth group has the least potential for psychological addiction and abuse in comparison to the other groups. Here we look at the different groups and the elements in each group of drug schedules according to the DEA.

  1. Schedule 1:
    1. Heroin
    2. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
    3. Marijuana (Cannabis Sativa)
    4. 3-4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (aka MDMA or Ecstasy)
    5. Methaqualone
    6. Peyote (street name candy, purple haze, electric kool-aid, green dragon,)
  2. Schedule 2:
    1. Adderall
    2. Cocaine 
    3. Dexedrine
    4. Fentanyl
    5. Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
    6. Meperidine (Demerol)
    7. Methadone
    8. Methamphetamine
    9. Oxycodone (OxyContin)
    10. Ritalin
    11. Vicodin
  3. Schedule 3: 
    1. Anabolic steroids
    2. Ketamine
    3. Products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine)
    4. Testosterone
  4. Schedule 4:
    1. Ambien
    2. Ativan
    3. Darvocet
    4. Darvon
    5. Soma
    6. Tramadol
    7. Talwin
    8. Valium
    9. Xanax
  5. Schedule 5:
    1. Lomotil
    2. Lyrica
    3. Motofen
    4. preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC)
    5. Parapectolin

In addition to these drugs, any substance which is substantially similar to a schedule 1 drug but is not on this list, will be treated as a schedule 1 drug in a court of law. 

State or Federal Drug Crimes?

Anyone charged with a drug crime offense can potentially be facing both state and federal drug charges. It can be confusing to understand how drug charges can be both state and federal charges at the same time. A drug charge will only be charged by the state government and another type of drug charge will only be charged by the federal government. Some drug charges will be prosecuted both by the state and federal government at the same time. 

A drug crime is usually tried on a state level with local prosecutors making the arrest and filing charges. Depending on the severity of the crime, a criminal may be charged on a federal level. The case will travel up from a state level to a federal level but the case may continue to be tried in the same court locally within the same state. Requirements, sentences, and penalties will become much more stringent, longer, and harsher for federal cases. 

A crime will be a federal case if a federal informant notified the government or a federal agency makes the arrest. A crime will also be a federal crime if it is perpetrated on federal property. The crime will also become a federal crime if the state has insufficient resources to investigate the crime. In such cases, a federal prosecutor will ask for jurisdiction to investigate to achieve a more significant objective and higher punishment. 

What Is Drug Trafficking?

Drug trafficking occurs when an individual crosses state lines or country lines with large amounts of controlled substances in their possession. Drug trafficking is a federal offense due to the nature of the crime. Drug trafficking in multiple states within the United States is a guaranteed way of accruing federal charges. However, you can expect to face a federal case even if you crossed just one state line with large amounts of controlled substances. The United States federal law for drug trafficking is legitimized in 21 USC §841.  

First Offense Drug Trafficking Penalties For: 

  • Cocaine (between 500 and 4,999 grams)
  • Cocaine base (between 5 and 49 grams)
  • Fentanyl (between 40 and 399 grams)
  • Heroin (between 100 and 999 grams)
  • LSD (between 1 and 9 grams)
  • Methamphetamine (between 5 and 49 grams pure or 50 and 499 grams of a mixture).

Up to $2 million in fines ($5 million for multiple parties involved)

Between 5 and 40 years in federal prison if convicted of drug trafficking:

First Offense Drug Trafficking Penalties For:

  • Cocaine (5 kgs or more)
  • Cocaine base (50 grams or more)
  • Fentanyl (400 grams or more)
  • Heroin (1 kg or more)
  • LSD (10 grams or more), and
  • Methamphetamine (50 grams or more pure or 1 kg or more mixture).

Fines up to $8 million (or $20 million if more than one person is involved).

Between 10 years and life in prison with a conviction in drug trafficking.

What Is Drug Possession?

According to the California Health and Safety Code 11350(a), if you do not have a valid prescription for a controlled substance you can not legally possess the controlled substance. It is a common misconception that you cannot be charged with possession until and unless the authorities find that you are directly in possession of a controlled substance. According to the authorities drug possession can be charged in three ways: 

  • Genuine Possession: This is when the controlled substance is found physically within reach of the individual for example, in their pockets. 
  • Constructive Possession: This is when the controlled substance is located in an easily accessible place for the individual. The prosecution must prove that the substance was “within your control” to keep or dispose of according to your desire. 
  • Joint Possession: This occurs when there is more than one owner of the controlled substance. Joint possession is a combination of genuine and constructive possession because there are joint owners for the controlled substance. 

Possession of a controlled substance mentioned in the Schedule is a misdemeanor crime in most cases according to Proposition 47 which was passed by California voters in November 2014. Drug possession is often identified as a “wobbler” charge. This is because drug possession can “wobble” towards being a misdemeanor or felony based on the individual’s previous record and also because marijuana was decriminalized in California according to Proposition 64 in January 1, 2018.

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