Drug Charge Lawyer, Los Angeles & Orange County

If you or a loved one鈥檚 freedom is at risk due to a drug crime in Los Angeles or Orange County, be very careful. The consequences of drug charges can be disastrous.

It is critical to get a skilled Orange County or Los Angeles drug crime attorney on your side asap. All cases can potentially be won no matter how they may appear.

Our award-winning drug crime attorneys will fight to get the best possible outcome, reduce or dismiss charges and keep you out of jail. We can help you immediately.

Experienced Drug Possession Lawyer

We have an exceptional record handling 1,000鈥檚 of drug and criminal cases: drug possession, manufacturing, possession for sale, transportation for sale, drug trafficking, money laundering, federal charges and distribution in Los Angeles and Orange County.

California drug crime laws involve the unlawful use, possession or sale of: amphetamines, ayahuasca, cocaine, crack, ecstacy, GBH, heroin, ketamine, LSD, marijuana, MDMA, methamphetamine, molly, speed, PCP, peyote, psychedelic mushrooms, steroids or prescription drugs such as Dilaudid, Oxycontin and Vicodin.

Proven Former DA Fighting For You

Our former District Attorney knows how police, courts and DAs build their cases against you and the best ways to find flaws to use in your defense. If charges can鈥檛 be dismissed up front, they know how to use drug diversion programs to get drug charges dismissed.

Often it is not the facts of the case that result in the best outcome, but understanding the system, relationships and a skillful presentation of your case to the court or DA. Our drug case lawyers not only know the system inside out, they are at home in it.

You can rest assured our Los Angeles or Orange County drug charge lawyer will vigorously fight to defend you and achieve the best resolution possible.

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We handle cases throughout southern California from our offices in LA and OC.

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Drug Crime Attorney in Los Angeles & Orange County, CA


California drug possession, distribution & trafficking laws in 2019

California enacted Proposition 47 in November 2014 which decriminalized simple possession of many illegal drugs by changing them from felony charges to misdemeanor.

There are 3 types of drug charges:

  1. Infractions typically without jail time or major penalties,

  2. Misdemeanor charges with minor penalties, and

  3. Felony charges with major penalties and jail time.

Under California HS 11350(a), a first offense of 鈥渟imple possession鈥 of a controlled substance for your personal use is a misdemeanor subject to up to 1 year in jail, up to $1,000 in fines and/or community service.

California Health and Safety Code 11350 defines possession of the following controlled substances for personal use as a misdemeanor (see DEA drug schedule):

  • Schedule I: Heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone, peyote and opium derivatives.

  • Schedule II: Cocaine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall and Ritalin.

  • Schedule III: hallucinogens

  • Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substances without a valid prescription.

A 2nd offense of HS 11350(a) is subject to up to 2 years in jail and a fine up to $2,000 and/or community service. The charge can become a felony if you have been convicted of a prior serious felony or are a registered sex offender.

California Health and Safety Code 11352 defines the laws that apply for possession of controlled substances with intent to sell. Distribution of drugs, sale of drugs, possession near a school, selling or distributing drugs to minors and drug trafficking charges can all cause serious felony charges with 3 to 5 years of prison time or more.

If the drugs are transported to a non-contiguous county, enhanced sentencing of 3 to 9 years can be added. If you sell to minors or minors are involved in the sale, that can enhance the prison sentence to 3, 6 or 9 years in state prison.

California drug crime laws

California drug crime laws are defined in the California Health and Safety Code. The most commonly charged drug crimes are:

Federal drug crime lawyer

While most drug crimes are charged as state crimes, they can be charged as federal crimes. Drug charges typically become federal charges because:

  • The crime involved crossing state lines or the U.S. border.

  • You were named by a federal informant.

  • You were arrested by a federal officer.

  • The crime involves a large scale crime ring targeted by DEA, FBI or CBP.

  • The drug crime occurred on federal property.

Federal drug crime laws are defined in Title 21 U.S. Controlled Substance Act, sections 801-971. If you are arrested for a federal drug crime, it is important to speak with an experienced federal drug charge lawyer as soon as possible. Call Chudnovsky Law for a free attorney consultation.

Federal drug charges are typically serious felony charges that carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. Federal prosecutors often wait until they have very strong case and evidence before filing charges.

The best drug charge lawyer defenses

There are many legal defenses to criminal charges and most drug charges require the District Attorney prove several crime elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

Some of the best drug crime attorney defenses our Orange County criminal defense attorney for drug charges use for Health and Safety Code HS 11350 are:

1) Momentary Possession

Perhaps another person handed you the drug to avoid being arrested for drug possession and you only had momentary possession. Or perhaps someone left the drug at your home during a party and you were unaware. This defense is strengthened if your drug possession attorney can show you didn鈥檛 do anything to prevent police from finding or taking the drugs.

2) No Possession or Control

Simply being near drugs when you were arrested is not enough to prove you were in possession of drugs. You could have had no possession or control of them. A classic example is if a friend stashes drugs under a seat in your car. Your Los Angeles drug crime attorney can argue they weren鈥檛 in your possession or control.

3) Drugs Were Found During an Illegal Police Search

If police found the drugs during an illegal search, you cannot be convicted under HS 11350. Police must have probable cause to search you or a search warrant. If they didn鈥檛, any evidence found can be suppressed.

4) You Did Not Know the Drugs Were There

If your attorney can prove you didn鈥檛 know what the drugs were or did not know you had the drugs, you cannot be convicted. For example, if your friend puts drugs in your purse and police find them during a search and arrest. If you didn鈥檛 know they were there, your lawyer can use that as a defense.

5) You Had a Valid Prescription

If you had a valid prescription for the drug and the amount you possessed was consistent with the prescription and it鈥檚 purpose, your possession is legal.

6) You Temporarily Had the Drugs to Get Rid of Them

You may be able to possess drugs for a short time in order to dispose of them. Your Orange County drug charge lawyer will need to show that you did not dispose of the drugs to avoid discovery and arrest by the police.

Most Drug Cases Are Resolved Without a Trial

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer usually obtains the best outcome without going to trial. Trials can publicly expose sensitive personal issues for the public record and be more costly than a skillfully negotiated dismissal or favorable plea deal. Drug diversion programs also provide a great option for getting drug charges dismissed.

But if a Prosecutor is being unreasonable, there are situations where fighting the case in trial can be in the defendant鈥檚 best interest.

Drug diversion programs

California offers those charged with first offense drug possession for personal use a way to get the charges dismissed and avoid a criminal record and arrest record.

California Penal Code 1000 Pre-Trial Drug Diversion Program

Under California Penal Code 1000 eligible non-violent drug charges can be stayed while the defendant goes through a drug treatment and education program. Once the program is completed and all requirements and conditions met, courts can drop the drug charges.

Even though defendants can plead 鈥渘ot guilty鈥 and still be eligible for drug diversion, the defendant must waive their right to a jury trial in order to get pre-trial diversion. If the defendant fails the drug program, they still can fight their drug charges in a bench trial where the case will be decided by a judge (no jury).

Pre-Trial Diversion Eligibility

Diversion program eligibility is limited to non-violent, low level drug offenses such as:

  • Possession of a controlled substance.

  • Being under the influence of a controlled substance.

  • Possession of drug paraphernalia.

Most controlled substances are eligible as long as the amount of drugs are of limited quantity or for personal use. Eligibility may be driven by whether the defendant will benefit from a drug education and treatment program.

The following are not eligible for pre-trial diversion:

  1. Defendants with a prior drug conviction or felony conviction within last 5 years.

  2. The drug offense involved violence or the threat of violence.

  3. Drug possession with intent to distribute.

  4. Drug trafficking charges.

Pre-Trial Diversion Program Process:

  1. Defendant decides they would like pre-trial drug diversion.

  2. The District Attorney determines if the defendant is eligible.

  3. The court holds a hearing to confirm eligibility.

  4. The court along with the probation department determine the type of drug treatment, rehabilitation and education for the defendant.

  5. The defendant chooses a qualifying program (county-certified).

  6. The defendant pays a diversion restitution fee (typically $100-1,000).

  7. Defendant participates in the program (typically 12-18 months).

  8. Defendant submits to any required periodic drug testing.

  9. In some cases, defendants may be able to use prescribed medications as a component of their treatment program.

  10. Once the defendant completes the program, charges are dropped and the arrest is dropped from the defendant鈥檚 record.

Since both the charges and record of the arrest are dropped from your record, you will not have to admit even to an arrest on your criminal record on job applications or background checks. Only certain law enforcement will even know the arrest ever occurred.

What Happens if You Fail The Drug Treatment Program?

The court holds a hearing to decide if failing to complete the program terminates your participation in the pre-trial diversion program. If so, this puts you back at square one: you will be facing the criminal charges in a court bench trial.

The most common reasons defendants fail to complete the program include:

  • Failure to comply with the drug treatment program conditions.

  • Failing a drug test.

  • Not going to the required treatments.

  • Being convicted for a separate felony or violent crime.

PC-1000 certified drug programs

Each county鈥檚 Public Health Department establishes their own list of Penal Code 1000 certified county programs. The programs provide drug abuse education and counseling services as an alternative to criminal conviction for first time drug offenders.

Here are the certified programs by county (pdf):

Most common abused prescription drugs

Scientific evidence has shown that misusing prescription drugs can alter one鈥檚 ability to think clearly, lead to powerful addictions, health risks and cause pregnancy issues.

The most commonly abused drugs include:

Opioids:

  • Hydrocodone: Lortab, Vicodin, Norco, Lorcet

  • Oxycodone: Oxyfast, OxyContin, Roxicodone

  • Fentanyl: Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora

  • Methadone: Dolophine, Methadose

  • Hydromorphone: Exalgo, Dilaudid

  • Diphenoxylate: Lomotil

  • Oxymorphone: Opana

  • Meperidine: Demerol

  • Propoxyphene: Darvon

Stimulants:

  • Methamphetamine: Ecstasy, Molly

  • Amphetamines: Vyvanse, Adderall

  • Dextroamphetamine: Dexedrine

  • Methylphenidate: Concerta, Ritalin

Benzodiazepines:

  • Barbiturate: Nembutal

  • Diazepam: Valium

  • Lorazepam: Ativan

  • Clonazepam: Klonipin

  • Alprazolam: Xanax

Drug crime statistics

California passed Proposition 47, 鈥淭he Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act鈥 in November 2014. The sweeping criminal justice reform decriminalized simple possession of many illegal drugs by changing them from felony charges to misdemeanor.

California Department of Justice data shows felony drug arrests have plummeted 79% after enacting the new laws from 137,054 in 2014 down to just 28,376 in 2018.

California Felony Drug Crime Arrests per Year

Felony drug crime arrests per year in California. Source: California Department of Justice

California Drug Use Statistics

The California Health Care Foundation 2018 Substance Use in California Report published the following California drug use statistics:

  • 8.5% of the population had some type of substance use disorder in 2016.

  • 3.3% of the population had an illicit drug substance use disorder in 2016.

  • 0.6% of the population had a pain medication substance use disorder in 2016.

  • Substance use disorders are most prevalent among young adults 18 to 25, occurring at nearly twice the California average rate.

  • Opioid related emergency visits surged 93% from 2,219 in 2006 to 4,281 in 2017.

  • Heroin related emergency visits surged 235% from 1,219 in 2006 to 4,089 in 2017.

  • Drug poisoning deaths increased 38% from 1999 to 2016.

  • Fentanyl opioid overdose deaths surged 300% from 2011 to 2017.


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If you are looking to hire a drug charge lawyer, we invite you to call for a Free confidential consultation.


Office locations

LOS ANGELES
At Metropolitan Court
1933 S Broadway #1100
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 212-5002
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ORANGE COUNTY
Near Harbor Justice Center
23 Corporate Plaza Dr, Suite 150
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 750-25002
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SANTA MONICA
Across from Santa Monica Pier
1541 Ocean Ave, Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(424) 340-7220
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Service Area:

We represent clients throughout southern California from our Los Angeles and Orange County offices, including:

Los Angeles County: Alhambra, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Buena Park, Burbank, Culver City, El Segundo, Encino, Glendale, Hollywood, Huntington Park, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Pomona, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Torrance, Van Nuys, Venice, Ventura, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles and Woodland Hills.

路  路  路

Orange County: Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, La Palma, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster and Yorba Linda.


Written by Tsion Chudnovsky, JD, Robert Weinberg, JD and Sherry Cross, JD.

Last updated 8.14.19