Arrested for Drug Possession?
Vista Criminal Defense Attorneys On Your Side
For first offense simple possession of drugs (assuming there are no non-drug
offenses also charged), defendants are eligible for drug diversion which
requires a guilty plea then a delay of 18 months for sentencing. If the
defendant successfully completes an out-patient drug treatment program
and has no new drug violations during the eighteen-month period, the case
is dismissed prior to sentencing resulting in no conviction.
Additionally, the law provides that the booking records are to be ultimately
sealed and destroyed. The only downside to drug diversion is that non-compliance
with the "program" can result in actual sentencing, since the
participant has already pled guilty.
Other less desirable options are "drug court" and Prop. 36, which
require a higher level of court scrutiny and greater defendant participation.
All of these programs allow the defendant to avoid custody and the stigma
of a criminal conviction if successfully completed.
Possession of methamphetamine or concentrated cannabis are felonies, but
are "wobblers" that can be filed as misdemeanors, whereas "hard"
narcotics like cocaine and heroin can only be filed as felonies.
If the quantity of drugs exceeds that for personal use and there is some
evidence indicating prior sales of the drug, such as packaging equipment,
scales, pay and owe sheets, and large amounts of cash on hand, the DA
will charge "possession for sale" which is a more serious offense
for which the various drug diversion programs are not available.
Defending Drug Possession Charges
In a significant number of drug cases there may be a viable issue as to
the legality of the law enforcement search which led to the discovery
of the drugs. In the great majority of drug cases the search is conducted
without a search warrant, which can be a legal search provided the situation
justifying the search meets certain criteria set forth by the U.S. Supreme
Court. Searches conducted pursuant to a search warrant are presumptively
valid, but sometimes can be attacked by demonstrating that there is insufficient
probable cause in the supporting affidavit. Most drug search warrants
are based on information supplied by a confidential informant, whose identity
will not be revealed as long as the informant is not a material witness
on any of the charged offenses.
It is important to remember that if you accept drug diversion you essentially
waive any objection to the legality of the police search which uncovered