How Serious are Possession, Sales or Other Drug Offenses in California? It All Depends

Just a couple of weeks ago, a U.S. CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer who was a 25-year veteran was sentenced to more than 12 years behind bars in a federal prison after he was found guilty on several drug-related charges by a federal jury. According to reports, 52-year-old Manuel Porras Salas was convicted of one count each of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and making false statements to law enforcement.

Salas worked at Los Angeles International Airport, and previously worked as a CBP officer at Ontario International and John Wayne airports. He was tried and sentenced after authorities say he was helping move illegal drugs from Southern California to Chicago, specifically marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

With drug laws changing frequently in California, it’s hard to know how serious the charges are and what the punishment may be when someone is convicted (found guilty). How serious the penalties are also depend on other factors such as prior criminal convictions of the accused.

Possession of a controlled substance such as cocaine, crack, heroin, or ecstasy was once considered a felony, however with the passage of Proposition 47, most of these offenses are now charged as misdemeanors. This means that if convicted, the accused would be sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail and possibly face a fine of up to $1,000.

Another drug crime is the offense of “possession for sale” of controlled substances. While it doesn’t sound all that serious, a person found guilty of this drug offense may be sentenced to four years in prison. What if a person had a controlled substance in his or her possession, but wasn’t intending to sell the drug? This happens all too often – and it’s why you must work with a skilled Los Angeles drug crime defense attorney. Police officers and prosecutors take may factors into consideration when deciding whether someone possessed an illegal substance for their own personal use, or intended to sell the drug. One factor is how much of the drug the person has in his or her possession. If it seems too much for personal use, you may be charged with possession for sale.

The most serious drug offense of all is the crime of trafficking, which means manufacturing, selling, possessing, or otherwise participating in the distribution of an illegal substance such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, crack, etc. The penalties for trafficking vary depending on criminal history, amount of substance involved and other factors. In cases where the distribution of a drug involves more than 80 kilograms, 25 years can be added on to a prison term.

Whether you are suspected of possession or selling illegal substances, it is important that you consult with a defense lawyer immediately. The action you take from the onset will have a huge impact on how your case ends; a seasoned attorney will protect your legal rights and freedom. Law enforcement officials are NOT your friends, so never answer questions or provide information other than your name or identifying information. If you have been arrested or are under investigation, contact The Justice Firm right away.