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Drug and Alcohol Related Crime

Each state and the federal government have laws against the unlawful use, manufacture and distribution of drugs. The purpose of these laws is to reduce the unlawful consumption of drugs, reduce drug-related crimes and severely punish repeat offenders and major drug dealers.

Drug Schedules

Federal drug statutes establish schedules of controlled substances, defining and classifying illegal drugs. The Attorney General has the authority to delete, add, or re-schedule substances according to certain criteria. State schedules refer to, or are based upon, federal schedules. Drugs included on these schedules are referred to as "Controlled Dangerous Substances" (CDSs).


The seriousness of and ultimate punishment for drug crimes generally depends upon:

  • The quantity of the drug
  • Its classification under the schedules
  • The purpose of its possession

Producing, manufacturing, and selling illegal drugs are the most serious drug crimes. For example, a person "dealing" (selling) five or more ounces of heroin or cocaine may be imprisoned fo r more than 10 years. Possession of drugs with the intent to distribute is also a serious crime. The intent to distribute may be inferred from the quantity of the drug, without any evidence of actual distribution.

In most states, possession of drugs for personal use is a serious crime. But in some states, possession of drugs for personal use is punished less severely than distribution crimes. For example, in some states, possession of a small amount of marijuana (less than 50 grams) is decriminalized or treated as a disorderly person's offense. A person convicted of a disorderly person's offense is generally not imprisoned, but may be placed on probation or ordered to pay a fine. However, possession of a larger quantity of marijuana or other drug, even if for personal use, is treated as a serious crime.

Enhanced Punishment

Some states have enhanced penalties for drug crimes. These penalties go into effect if:

  • Minors are used to distribute the drugs
  • The drugs are delivered or sold to minors
  • The drugs are sold or distributed on school property
Enhanced punishments vary from state to state. Forfeiture of property is also used as an additional punishment to deter drug crimes. For

example, if your house is used to make and distribute drugs, the government may be able to seize your house.

Professional Drug Dealers

Special laws cover professional drug dealers. A "drug kingpin," or a person organizing, financing, or managing a business to manufacture, transport, or sell drugs commits a serious crime. Special sentences are reserved for professional drug dealers. The federal government has the death penalty for drug kingpins; some states impose 25 years imprisonment without parole for professional drug dealers.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is considered a serious crime in every state. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs may affect your ability to operate cars, boats or industrial equipment in a safe manner. It is against the law in every state to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs if you cannot safely operate the vehicle. DWI and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) refer to the same crime.

  • Any article, object, asset or property which one owns, occupies, holds or has under control.
  • The act of owning, occupying, holding or having under control an article, object, asset or property. "Constructive possession" involves property which is not immediately held, but which one has the right to hold and the means to get (such as a key to a storeroom or safe deposit box). "Criminal possession" is the holding of property which it is illegal to possess such as controlled narcotics, stolen goods or liquor by a juvenile. The old adage "possession is nine-tenths of the law" is a rule of force and not of law, since ownership requires the right to possess as well as actual or constructive possession.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Drivers detained by the police with alcohol levels in their blood or breath above the legal limit, or who refuse to take a chemical test are penalized in two ways. They are:

  1. a. Prosecuted in court for the criminal offense of DUI or refusal. Criminal penalties imposed include jail and prison, fines, treatment, probation and license suspension.
  2. b. Suspension of driver's license by the DMV for the civil offense of driving in excess of the fixed alcohol limit or refusing a chemical test.

Drivers convicted of DUI can receive:

  1. County jail or state prison
  2. Fine, penalty assessment and restitution
  3. Drinking and driving treatment
  4. Vehicle impoundment or forfeiture
  5. License restriction, suspension or revocation
  6. Ignition interlock device requirement
  7. Probation

Jail Terms may be imposed in these situations:

  1. Driving at "excessive speed" (30 mph above the lawful freeway speed or 20 mph above the lawful speed on other roadways)
  2. Refusing to take a chemical test
  3. Driving with a minor passenger (under age 14) in the vehicle. (Applies to misdemeanor DUI offenses only.)

Fines, Penalty Assessment and Restitution:

  1. Misdemeanor offense fines range from $390 to $1,000; felony offense fines from $390 to $5000.
  2. Penalty Assessments are 170% of the offense fine, that is, $17 extra for each $10 of offense fine imposed
  3. Restitution fines compensate the injuries and losses of victims. Fines range from $100 to $10,000.
  4. jail/prison terms can range from zero days to four years.
Drivers are required to submit to and complete a chemical test when requested to by a law enforcement officer. Consequences of refusing the

chemical test are severe, including:

  1. Receiving license sanctions more harsh than for those convicted of DUI. Even those found not guilty of DUI in court may receive a license suspension through the DMV.
  2. Those who refuse a chemical test and are later convicted of DUI are further punished by longer jail sentences, a higher fine, or the loss of a probation grant instead of jail.

Vehicle Impoundment and Forfeiture

The court can order that the vehicle of a convicted DUI offender be impounded if the offender is its registered owner. A judge can order that an impounded vehicle be forfeited - declared a "nuisance" and sold. Impounds can also be imposed on vehicle owners under 21 (even if not in the vehicle) if a driver or passenger of his or her vehicle is under 21 and illegally possesses alcohol.

Your License

In most cases, the person arrested for drunk driving will have his license confiscated by DMV officer if he (1) takes a breath test showing .08% blood-alcohol or higher, (2) gives a blood or urine sample which will be analyzed later, or (3) refuses to be tested. He will also be given a pink sheet of paper which serves as both a notice of suspension and a 30-day temporary license.

It is critically important to CALL THE DMV WITHIN 10 DAYS OF THE ARREST to request a hearing to contest the suspension; failure to do so will result in the suspension taking effect 30 days after the arrest. Requesting a hearing will also result in an extension of the 30-day temporary license, usually for another month or two depending upon when the hearing is held.

A first offender with a blood-alcohol level of .08% will have his license suspended for four months (enrollment in a DUI class will allow you to get a restricted license however after 30 day suspension); if there is a refusal to submit to chemical testing, the suspension is for one year. For drivers under 21, "zero tolerance" laws dictate a one-year suspension for blood-alcohol levels over .01%. Second offenders with over-.08% levels receive a one-year suspension (two years if a refusal).

Any traffic violation, accident, failure to appear, suspension or revocation stays on your driver's license record permanently. Vehicle Code section 1808 sets limits on how long these events and actions are reportable to persons requesting a copy of your record.

Overview of Procedures

Suspensions and revocations shall appear on the record for three years following termination of the action or reinstatement of the driving privile ge, except non-driving convictions taken pursuant to Sections 13202.6 and 13202.7 of the Vehicle Code or Section 256 and 11350.6 of the Welfare and Institutions Code which are shown only when the action is in effect.

  • Violations designated as two points pursuant to VC §12810 will be reported for seven years from the date of violation.
  • All other violations shall be reported for three years from the date of violation.
  • Accidents shall be reported for three years.
  • Failure to Appear (FTA) violations shall be reported for five years from the date of violation. (No changes from existing policy.)
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