Possession of cocaine is a serious offense. Despite a trend in drug reform and sentencing reform in California, little has changed in law enforcement’s aggressive stance toward cocaine possession.
This Schedule I substance is highly addictive and dangerous and therefore carries harsh potential penalties under California laws. When you are faced with criminal charges of possession of cocaine, you need someone on your side looking out for your best interests. We can put you in touch with such an attorney today.
Simple possession of cocaine, whether powder or crack cocaine, is now considered a misdemeanor offense under California laws, after prop 47. This means you could be sent to prison for a conviction. However, your attorney may be able to help you avoid prison time.
California Cocaine Possession Penalties
For a typical conviction of possession of cocaine, the maximum sentence is up to 1 year in jail and probation or a combination of the two. Prior to the passage of Prop 47, you could be sentenced to more (16 months to 3 years) as a misdemeanor or a felony, qualifying as a “wobbler” under CA statutes. These determinations depend on the facts of your case, your criminal history, and the amount of cocaine you are charged with having.
In practice, it is uncommon to get jail time for a 1st offense cocaine possession in California, If this is your first ever drug charge or if it has been a long time since any previous offenses, you could qualify for programs under Proposition 36, a Drug Court, or a Deferred Judgment (more information below).
If you were previously charged with a felony cocaine possession charge, you may be eligible for a retroactive sentence reduction to a misdemeanor, AND be eligible for an expungement. That would take the felony off your record and notification thereof to any potential employer.
A more serious charge of possession with intent to distribute carries a more serious penalty, with up to 5 years in prison in most cases.
Sentencing Alternatives for Cocaine Possession in California
The state of California has many programs in place to help people charged with drug crimes. These are alternatives to incarceration, and many are specifically targeted at first-time offenders.
Proposition 36: Sentencing under proposition 36 involves one year of drug treatment. This could be as an inpatient, outpatient, or treatment at a halfway house. Determinations such as this are made by taking your criminal offense, history, addiction, and personal situation into account.
Drug Courts: Drug courts are located across the state and seek solely to treat drug offenders. They often include terms like traditional probation (community service, counseling, treatment, etc.) but also require regular check-ins at court and are generally more intensive.
Deferred Judgment: A deferred judgment is when you plead guilty to the offense which you are charged with and undergo a period of probation and treatment. If you successfully complete the period and remain arrest-free for a set period of time (usually one year), you are released from supervision and the case is dismissed.
Possession for Sale of Cocaine
If you are accused of selling, intent to sell, or possession for sale of Cocaine in California, you are facing a felony offense with serious consequences.
The elements of possession of sale are that you
- have a usable amount of cocaine in your possession, and;
- intend to sell it to someone else
The quantities don’t matter if the police and prosecutors believe that you sold or planned to sell this controlled substance.
The penalty for selling cocaine in California is 3-4 years in prison. There is also a school zone enhanced penalty for sale within 1000 feet of a school or educational facility, or selling to a minor. A conviction a school zone or sale to minor of cocaine will mean an additional 3-5 years in prison may be added to the sentence.
Transportation for Sale of Cocaine
Transporting cocaine for sale simply adds the element that you were moving the drugs for the purpose of selling it. It still need only be a “usable quantity” of coke. This offense is almost always charged with possession for sale also.
California Cocaine Charge Defense Strategies
A possession charge is not the same as a possession conviction. You have options and a defense attorney can help you make sense of the case. From challenging the search that led to your arrest to presenting evidence to your benefit, your attorney is your advocate when your back is against the wall.
We will fight to get any felony cocaine charge, such as possession for sale, or transportation reduced to a misdemeanor straight possession, especially if that amount is fairly small and the circumstances and facts of the charge are thins.
Contact us today to speak with a criminal defense attorney who can help with a cocaine possession charge today.