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Most drug cases that I handle are cases for possession and possession for sale, in part because of the way the system is set up. Possession means possession for personal use; larger amounts of narcotics or controlled substances can include wiretap cases, transportation cases and even cultivation when it involves marijuana. Certain cases may involve large amounts of money, firearms or other things.
Typical cases are for possession for personal use, possession for sale, transportation, or cultivation, and then there are the larger wiretap cases involving conspiracies, large amounts of money that were alleged to be the proceeds of narcotics or controlled substances sales. These are the more prominent cases, as are cases involving meth labs, which tend to be more logistically concentrated.
The drug laws in California and nationwide are constantly changing; for example, Proposition 47 recently passed, which basically, among other things, made the possession of most controlled substances for personal use a misdemeanor. The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is delineated by the amount of time the person could potentially serve in custody; a misdemeanor can bring up to one year in custody, whereas felonies bring more than a year in a state prison or the county jail.
Proposition 47 made the possession for personal use of most narcotics simply a misdemeanor rather than a felony, whereas the possession for sale, transportation and the criminal charges that were related to the distribution of illegal or controlled substances remain at a felony level, with some exceptions.
An unlawful controlled substance refers to any non-prescribed controlled substance. The government has delineated five schedules, which are schedule 1, schedule 2, schedule 3, schedule 4 and schedule 5, with regard to controlled substances, and they are based on the potential for abuse, addictiveness and the dangerousness of the drug. A prescription medication is unlawful if unlawfully possessed without a prescription because it was among those scheduled drugs and, while marijuana has been somewhat decriminalized, it still counts as a controlled substance, so someone may be in possession of it unlawfully if they did not have a medicinal marijuana card.
These types of cases are becoming quite common, both at the misdemeanor and felony levels. Prescription medication cases mentioned in the media, like the Michael Jackson case, Conrad Murray case and other high profile media cases have proliferated and educated the public that abuse of prescription medications is just as prominent as illegally possessed controlled substances.
The punishment for these cases can be very severe, in the form of felony convictions; they can also involve professional and education people, who often abuse prescription medication. I have represented these higher-income individuals more often than even the lower-income individuals who tend to be involved more with cocaine, marijuana and those types of substances. This has definitely become a large and more prominent problem nowadays.
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