In California under Health and Safety Code Section 11350-11356.5, any person controlling a specified controlled substance will be punished by imprisonment under Penal Code Section 1170. So, what is illegal possession of a controlled substance?
Illegal possession of a controlled substance is a very serious crime and occurs when a person owns or possesses a specified drug without permission. Qualifying substances generally include cocaine, methamphetamine, narcotics, prescription medications that do not belong to them, and more. Here are elements that must be proven by a prosecutor for this crime to exist specifically to a person:
- If the person charged knowingly and intentionally possessed the drug, then this element is proven. A prosecutor must only show that the accused knew the drugs were present and intended to use them. They are able to prove this by showing circumstances of the case and do not have to have actual statements or evidence that the drugs were used.
- The person must have actually possessed the drug, which can take various forms. For instance, the person may have had it in their pocket or have it inside another person’s glove compartment for use by themselves for later.
- A defendant can be convicted if they have shared possession of the drug as well. If two roommates shared an apartment and were therefore sharing the drug, this element applies.
So, What Defenses Can be Used?
- Unlawful/Illegal Search: If evidence was obtained illegally through an unsecured warrant/search and seizure, the evidence cannot be submitted in trial.
- Possession Belongs to Someone Else: This will work in some cases. However, there are laws known as constructive possession, which are those that allow a person to be found guilty even if the drugs were not theirs.
- Not a Controlled Substance: In some cases, a substance isn’t actually a drug even though it looks like one. There can be a request made for lab tests to determine if it is or isn’t.
- Missing Evidence: Sometimes evidence becomes lost during the course of trial during transfer. If this happens, that will definitely weaken the prosecutor’s case.
- Duress/Coercion: What happens if you were forced to carry or hold drugs for another person? This could be used as a defense if you were threatened, say, by gunpoint to do so.
- Immunity: People are protected under a drug overdose immunity law if they possessed the drug to obtain medical help for an overdose.
Drug possession is a very serious charge and, in some cases, can lead to a person obtaining a felony from it. It depends on several factors, including the type of substance involved, the amount of drugs possessed, and whether or not the defendant possessed the drugs for personal use or distribution for others. If you have been charged with this crime, you will almost always certainly need an attorney on your side. Defenses for drug possessions can vary and it will depend if you can use a defense at all. Each state has different laws so it is a good idea to speak to an attorney that understands these laws. Call the Blair Law Firm today to speak to someone you can trust about your case!