Have you been charged or arrested on suspicion of felony drug possession in Los Angeles? California takes drug offenses very seriously. Avoiding a conviction can be difficult without the help of a tough drug possession lawyer. With over 20 years of criminal defense experience, the Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling can protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.
Prosecutors work hard to crack down on felony drug cases. Getting legal representation immediately can give you the best chance of avoiding the life-changing consequences of a conviction, such as incarceration, the loss of certain privileges, and a permanent criminal record. The good news is that a drug charge does not have to define the rest of your life. At The Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling, we know what you’re up against and what it takes to beat serious criminal charges. Contact us now for a free consultation with a Los Angeles drug possession attorney.
What is Felony Drug Possession?
California law prohibits the possession of certain controlled substances without a prescription. Examples include drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, LSD, and drugs not prescribed to the individual who possesses them.
When Proposition 47 passed in 2014, many simple drug possession crimes became misdemeanors. However, some individuals can still face felony charges. Factors that could affect whether you face a felony drug charge in Los Angeles include:
- Type of drug – The amount and kind of drug impacts the severity of your charges. An illegal substance like cocaine could be a felony regardless of the amount.
- Intent – The prosecution might assume you intended to sell drugs if investigators found a significant quantity of a controlled substance in your possession, evidence of packaging materials, scales, or lots of cash.
- Other circumstances – Aggravating circumstances, such as possessing a weapon or committing a violent crime, could also affect whether you get charged with a felony or misdemeanor. Even if you only possess a small quantity of drugs without the intent to distribute, there are cases where this could still be a felony offense. One example is possession in or around a school, playground, or other drug-free zones.
- Prior convictions – Previous criminal convictions could affect your case. For example, California prosecutors might upgrade a drug possession charge for a registered sex offender or someone convicted of a serious felony.
What Are Common Defenses in Los Angeles Drug Possession Cases?
An experienced drug possession attorney can thoroughly investigate the alleged offense and uncover valuable evidence in your defense. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, a lawyer could develop a strong defense by demonstrating one or more of the following:
- Illegal search and seizure – The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure by the government. If law enforcement conducts an unlawful search of you or your property, any evidence they find of drug possession might not be valid in court. An example of illegal search and seizure would be if law enforcement officers forced their way into your home without a warrant or searched your person or vehicle without probable cause.
- Lack of knowledge – If you were unaware drugs were in your possession, you might have a valid defense. For instance, you might be able to fight drug possession charges if a friend borrowed your car and stashed drugs under the seats or a roommate hid drugs in your closet without your knowledge.
- Prescription or medical use – If you have a valid prescription for the substance in question and possess only a reasonable quantity that you obtained legally for medical use, this is a straightforward defense that would be difficult for a prosecutor to contest.
- Entrapment – If a police officer or an informant working for law enforcement coerced or persuaded you to sell them a drug as a tactic to collect evidence, this could be considered entrapment. This defense is especially relevant in contesting drug trafficking charges. You might have a strong argument if law enforcement’s persuasion tactics were deceptive enough to convince you to sell a substance you would not have sold otherwise.
- Problems with evidence – Chain of custody issues can arise if there is doubt about how law enforcement transported, stored, or handled the evidence for your case. A skilled attorney can look carefully into the records of how law enforcement dealt with the evidence to uncover any inconsistencies. For example, if there were discrepancies in the transportation of the evidence or how it was labeled while in storage, it might no longer be credible since there is no way to prove the substance in question is the same substance that was allegedly in your possession.
- Crime lab analysis – A lab analysis is necessary to confirm that the substance is indeed illegal or prohibited. Attorneys can question the crime lab’s process for this analysis and investigate any chain of custody issues. If conflicts exist, your lawyer can challenge the evidence or have a crime lab analyst testify in court.
- Other charges – The severity of a drug charge can increase if you were charged with another offense at the time of your arrest, such as a violent crime. Investigating the big picture is essential. If your attorney can find solid defenses to lessen any other charges against you, it could reduce the severity of a drug possession charge.
Penalties for Felony Drug Possession
California has strict penalties for drug possession. You could face prison time and steep fines. You could also lose the right to own a gun or have trouble securing a job or housing. A knowledgeable drug possession lawyer can help you reduce or eliminate the possible consequences you face by mounting an effective defense. For example, your attorney might be able to obtain a dismissal or convince the court to try an alternative sentencing arrangement, such as a drug diversion program.
Speak with a Los Angeles Drug Possession Attorney
At The Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling, we know it’s frightening to be charged with any type of drug crime, especially a felony one. Get our firm on your side. Our legal team can conduct an independent investigation, look for compelling evidence, and develop a defense strategy to secure the best results possible for you.
Come tell us your side of the story. Contact us today for a free consultation with a Los Angeles drug possession attorney.