Did you know you can get arrested for drug possession in Los Angeles even if the drugs belong to someone else? Nearly half of the adults in the L.A. metro area live with roommates, making the chances of being caught with someone else’s stash a frightening possibility. But every criminal case depends on the circumstances. Working with a California criminal defense lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.
What Are The Laws for Drug Possession in Los Angeles?
Under California law, possession of drugs can result in a misdemeanor or felony conviction, jail time, and fines. Possession of drugs is classified in three ways:
- Actual possession – If the drugs are in your physical possession or on your person, you are subject to a charge of actual possession.
- Constructive possession – If the drugs are under your “domain and control,” meaning on your property but not on your person, you may be charged with constructive possession. Let’s say you know your roommate has cocaine in your apartment. If you can easily access the cocaine (e.g., in a dresser or desk), the prosecution could argue you had domain and control over the furniture and, therefore, the drugs as well.
- Joint possession – If multiple individuals have access to the drugs and no one admits to the ownership of the drugs, all involved are subject to a joint possession charge.
Can You Get in Trouble for Being Around Drugs?
You can get in trouble for being around drugs even without using them. California law makes it unlawful to visit or to be in a place where someone is using drugs if you know that such activity is occurring. To be convicted of this offense, the prosecutor must prove that you aided, assisted, or abetted the unlawful use of drugs.
Being present in a car or residence where the drugs are used is not enough to get in trouble. But suppose you serve as a lookout for the police or keep drug paraphernalia for someone else. In that case, a prosecutor may have sufficient evidence of you aiding and abetting the drug user. If convicted, you could face misdemeanor charges, jail time, and a hefty fine.
How Can You Prove the Drugs Didn’t Belong to You?
In any criminal case, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of a crime. If you’re facing drug charges, you’re likely asking yourself, “How do you prove possession of drugs?”
The prosecutor has the burden of proving the drugs found by the police belonged to you — or that you had control of the drugs and knew of their presence on your property. Your defense attorney’s job is to present evidence that contradicts or casts doubt on their argument. For instance, if other people had access to the drugs, your lawyer might use that information to dispute your possession charge.
Alternatively, your attorney could offer evidence that you lacked knowledge of the presence of the drugs or that you thought they were legal drugs prescribed by a doctor. Another possible defense is that police lacked probable cause to search your home or vehicle.
No matter what, the defense must be tailored to fit the facts of your case. An experienced drug possession lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your arrest to identify the best strategy.
California Penalties for Drug Possession
The penalties for drug possession in California vary depending on the type and quantity of the drugs, your alleged intent, and your prior drug charges or convictions. For example, a first-time offender will likely be charged with a misdemeanor, serve up to a year in county jail, and pay a fine of $1,000 or perform community service. If you have prior convictions, you may be subject to a felony charge, additional fines, and a lengthier jail sentence.
Talk with a Drug Crimes Attorney in Los Angeles Today
The Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling is a hard-hitting criminal defense law firm in Los Angeles. Our proven legal team is ready to protect your rights, reputation, and freedom. Contact us today for a free consultation with a drug crimes attorney in Los Angeles.