No one wants to end up in the legal system. It’s not a goal someone wakes up with and no one decides they want to live their life intertwined with the criminal courts. Nevertheless, for an individual living with a substance use disorder, coming in contact with the police and criminal courts is sometimes an inevitability. This is a result of the wide variety of misdemeanor and felony charges associated with both possessing illegal substances and using while in a public setting.

Understanding which laws exist and how they can impact your loved one who is struggling with addiction is essential to helping them avoid criminal charges and even jail time. Being an advocate for a person in your life who may be too overwhelmed or distracted with their addictive impulses can provide them a lifeline when they need it most.

What Are the California Drug Possession Laws?

Like most drug possession laws around the country, California’s drug possession laws can be a bit confusing. If you can, we encourage you to take some time to research the states laws, in the case that you need to navigate the system and make legal decisions with your loved one.

Of course, we understand it can take a lot of time and energy to understand the state’s legal system. Some of the more important points you should be aware of include the following:

  • In November 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, which reduced most simple drug possession arrests from possible felony charges with state prison time to misdemeanor offenses.
  • The passage of Proposition 64 resulted in the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in California, making it legal to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use.
  • The sentence for felony drug possession increases dramatically from the misdemeanor sentence depending on a person’s criminal record and other factors, including prior criminal history, past violent incidents that resulted in arrest, and other extenuating circumstances.
  • It is important to know that possession of controlled substances with intent to sell – a separate felony drug offense charged under Cal. Health and Safety Code § 11351 – is more serious and can therefore lead to tougher sentencing.

How Drug Possession Laws in California Impact Your Addicted Loved One

The way in which the existing laws and statutes involving drug possession in the state of California impact an individual can vary. For some who have avoided the criminal courts for a majority of their adult life, receiving a possession charge can have little to no effect.

For others – who have struggled with addiction and subsequent arrests associated with their impulsive and erratic behaviors while under the influence – receiving a drug possession charge can result in both significant fines and potential jail time.

Fortunately, legislation and amendments to the law have been passed that don’t simply incarcerate a person struggling with a drug addiction. Instead, these amendments actively work to provide people with clinical help and assistance.

These include:

  • The Passing of Proposition 36
    This was developed to save the state money by actively keeping people out of prison for the most minor drug offenses. If your loved one qualifies for “Prop 36,” they will be required to participate in drug treatment rather than jail time.

This program is specifically set aside for nonviolent drug possession offenses, meaning those with past violent charges may not qualify if they have any prior violent convictions on their record.

  • The Development of Drug Courts
    These are a collaborative effort to provide clinical interventions for people charged with drug offenses in order to return them to the community as law-abiding citizens. For a possession charge in drug court, individuals are usually put under supervision for 12 months.

During this time, people are subject to rules and random drug testing while they undergo clinical treatment and counseling to address the diagnosed substance use disorder.

While these are not the only benefits to the current California drug possession laws, they do highlight the fact that the state is working to not simply incarcerate a person dealing with addiction. Instead, the state is making efforts to provide people like your loved one with clinical options to address their substance use disorder and emerge from their legal issues with improved perspective and genuine personal growth.

The Financial Consequences of Addiction

While the state has worked to move from a strictly punitive response to drug possession charges to a more clinically-driven approach, the fines associated with these charges are still very real. In most situations, simple possession is charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $1,000, community service and/or up to one year in jail.

These penalties can increase for second or subsequent offenses. For example, the $1,000 fine can double to $2,000 under Cal. Health and Safety Code § 11350, creating a situation in which a person receiving multiple drug possession charges is allowed to stay in the community, but is required to pay thousands of dollars in fines or risk going to jail.

In these situations, it is not uncommon for family members to be pulled into the situation – being asked to cover the fines in order to save their loved one from incarceration. If you find yourself in a scenario like this, it is not only important to consult with a legal professional, but to also contact a clinical treatment facility to help your loved one address their addiction.

Working with your loved one to avoid the hassles associated with the court system can help them avoid exorbitant costs and, above all, help save their life.

Ranch Creek Recovery Offers Life-Changing, Holistic Addiction Treatment

At Ranch Creek Recovery, your loved one will never be alone. We will fight right alongside them and help them reclaim control over their health and happiness. We take a holistic, non-12-step approach to drug and alcohol rehab and mental health disorders. We have raised the bar on rehabilitative services, focusing on a holistic approach within a uniquely luxurious setting in California.

Get to know us better and let us help your loved one get clean and thrive in sobriety. Contact us today to get your questions answered.