drug possession, criminal defense, los angeles, CaliforniaAvoiding drug convictions in California is completely possible with the right legal strategy.  When a person is arrested for drug possession in California, the thought of suffering a felony conviction and even serving time in state prison or jail can be daunting.     There are many defenses and resolution to a drug charge in California whether you pick up the charge in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside or any other county in the Golden State.  To understand the possible defenses and rights you have in a criminal drug case, you should always consult with and/or retain an experienced California criminal defense attorney.

Drug Diversion in California Under Cal. Penal Code 1000  

If a person is charged with felony possession of drugs whether it be cocaine, marijuana, heroin, crystal methamphetamine or even prescription drugs, they may be entitled to diversion pursuant to California Penal Code section 1000.  Under California Penal Code section 1000, a defendant essentially can have his or her case suspended for a certain amount of time, usually 18 months, and if the Defendant completes the required drug classes or whatever condition a court may impose, their charges will be dismissed.  At the time of a plea for diversion, the criminal defendant actually pleads guilty to the felony drug charges and if the defendant fails to successfully complete the terms of the 18 month Diversion program, the Superior Court has the discretion to impose sentence.  Again, if the defendant successfully completes the Diversion program, no conviction is recorded and the case is dismissed.  During the pendency of the Diversion program, there is no conviction recorded on any criminal record for the accused.

California Penal Code section 1000 sets forth the requirements for a person to qualify for diversion which include:

    (1) The defendant has no conviction for any offense involving controlled substances prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense.

   (2) The offense charged did not involve a crime of violence or threatened violence.

   (3) There is no evidence of a violation relating to narcotics or restricted dangerous drugs other than a violation of the sections listed in this subdivision.

   (4) The defendant’s record does not indicate that probation or parole has ever been revoked without thereafter being completed.

   (5) The defendant’s record does not indicate that he or she has successfully completed or been terminated from diversion or deferred entry of judgment pursuant to this chapter within five years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense.

   (6) The defendant has no prior felony conviction within five years.

Criminal drug charges that are eligible for Diversion include:

  • California Penal Code section 653(f) (soliciting illegal drugs)
  • California Health and Safety Code section 11368 (Using a forged prescription to obtain drugs);
  • California Vehicle Code Section 23222 (b) (marijuana possession while driving);
  • California Health and Safety Code section 11357 (Possession of Concentrated Cannabis (“hash”) an/or Possession of Marijuana);
  • California Health and Safety Code section 11350 (Cocaine possession or other illicit drugs for personal use);
  • California Health and Safety Code section 11364 (possession of drug paraphernalia);
  • California Health and Safety Code section 11358 (cultivating/growing marijuana for personal use);
  • California Health and Safety Code section 11357 (unlawful possession of prescription drugs without a prescription)

In some cases, it is unclear whether a defendant qualifies for Diversion and they should always retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to explore whether Diversion of charges is possible since the results of a dismissal of the felony charges is always a great result for a defendant.

Drug Court/Proposition 36

When a person has multiple prior drug conviction and/or cases involving prior Diversions, they may be ineligible for Diversion but still may qualify for a drug program which can also lead to the dismissal of felony charges.  Many counties in California including Los Angeles have drug courts where a person enters a plea of guilty to criminal drug charges but a person can avoid a state prison sentence by successfully completing a drug program authorized under California Proposition section 36.

Often times the drug program in a drug court is much more strenuous than a Diversion program.   The drug program can include numerous weekly drug classes and counseling an drug testing.  It is not unusual for a person to fail a drug test in a proposition 36 drug program but a skilled defense attorney can often times move the court to place a defendant back in the program.

Importance of hiring a Quality Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney When Facing Drug Possession Charges:

Possession of drugs for personal use can often times lead to jail or prison but there are many avenues that a person can seek which may lead to avoiding jail or prison and/or having felony drug possession charges dismissed.  It is important that a person shortly after an arrest for drug or any other criminal charges retain or consult with a criminal defense lawyer who can you help an accused achieve a positive result to often life changing criminal charges.  Whether the arrest happened in Orange County, Los Angeles or the Inland Empire, hiring a great legal defense team is essential to avoiding a conviction and keeping the charge from ruining your life!