Opioid-related deaths have reached epidemic levels across the country over the last few years. Opioids are extremely powerful painkillers, yet even when used responsibly, they can cause considerable complications, such as an overdose or accidental death.
Sadly, their effects make opioids perfect targets for leisure usage, and the majority of the people who get hooked on legal opioid prescriptions end up turning to illegitimate means of obtaining extra opioids to keep their addictions going and avert withdrawal symptoms.
While there is a necessity for law enforcement authorities to prevent illegal trafficking and distribution of opioids in California, it is also a fact that most people accused of nonviolent drug offenses as a result of their addictions and hopelessness require more professional care and counseling than serving time behind bars and penalties. That is why, if you or a loved one has been arrested for opioid trafficking or possession, you should hire a lawyer who will use all of their skills and resources to get your charges reduced so that you can get all of the help you need.
An Overview of California Drug Laws
California is among the country's largest and most populated states. Because of the state's multiple transit hubs and a common border with the neighboring country, Mexico, drugs pour in and out of California regularly.
Throughout the years, various statutes have been implemented to reduce drug importation into California, stop the distribution and diversions within the state, and reduce drug dependency and drug-related offenses. The following are among the different forms of drug legislation in California:
- Drug trafficking
- Possession of controlled drugs
- Prescription medication diversion
- Possession with the intent to sell, also known as distribution
- Drug manufacture, cultivation, or production
In California, penalties for drug-related offenses vary from hefty fines to jail sentences. Drug possession statutes often fail to address the root of the problem, which is drug misuse and addiction.
According to the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF), approximately 8% of people struggle with addiction. The state has several laws in place aimed at getting addicts into rehab facilities and providing treatment rather than having them face criminal charges.
The scene of drug usage, addiction, and criminal consequences is ever-changing. Understanding how to manage the regulations as they are now can be beneficial.
In 2014, Proposition 47 amended California's Uniform Controlled Substances Act. This effectively decriminalized "simple possession" of the majority of illegal drugs by converting several drug possession regulations from felonies to misdemeanors.
Generally, there are 3 categories of drug offenses: infractions, which normally do not result in jail sentences or substantial penalties, misdemeanors, which result in mild sanctions, and felonies, which result in significant time in jail and severe consequences. Possession of restricted narcotics for individual use referred to as "simple possession," is considered a misdemeanor and penalized by a maximum of one year in jail, community service, and/or a fine of at least $1,000 under Proposition 47.
California Health and Safety Code 11350 regulates controlled substances. Possession for individual use of the items below is a contravention of this statute and is regarded as a misdemeanor in California:
- Opium derivatives, heroin, and other Schedule I opioids
- Cocaine base
- Synthetic cannabis, mescaline, and peyote
- Schedule III hallucinogens
- Schedule II narcotics and opiates
- Schedule III, IV, or V controlled drugs without a proper prescription
Opioid Addiction in California
Opioids are a class of drugs that are naturally produced in the opium poppy plant and function in someone's brain to cause a range of outcomes, including pain alleviation in many cases. Opioids could be prescribed medications, like pain medications, or they could be illegal narcotics, like heroin.
Prescription opioids are commonly used to relieve moderate to acute pain by blocking pain impulses between one's brain and body. Opioids might make some users feel relaxed, euphoric, or "high" on top of treating pain, and they could be addictive. Further adverse effects may include reduced breathing, diarrhea, nausea, disorientation, and lethargy.
Opioids are commonly known as narcotics, and while they do treat pain, they are not like over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin or Ibuprofen.
The use of opioids isn't without its dangers. The use of these prescribed drugs regularly can build your tolerance and reliance, resulting in the need for stronger and more regular dosages. Longer-term use could cause addiction (also known as "opioid use disorder" in the medical world). Additionally, when used in excessive doses, opioids can impair your capability to breathe, which, when abused, can result in a lethal overdose.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put in place several efforts to combat this tragic pattern, opioids remain highly addictive and hazardous. Most individuals in California have experienced problems with opioids, ranging from opioid-related fatalities among their friends and
family members to incarcerations for drug trafficking and possession crimes.
Opioids By Name
The following are among the most commonly used opioids:
- Prescription medications like OxyContin
- Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
- Heroin, which is a controlled substance in California
Possession of Prescription Drugs in California
In the last ten years, abuse and addiction to prescription drugs have skyrocketed. Many individuals believe that California's drug policies exclusively apply to illegal street substances like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy. However, if the substance was not legitimately prescribed to the individual, he or she could be charged with possession or intent to sell. Individuals can also be charged with perpetrating prescription fraud or doctor shopping to get illegal narcotic prescriptions.
Possessing a controlled substance is unlawful under the California Health and Safety Code Section 11350. Controlled substances include illegal substances like cocaine, heroin, and LSD, as well as pain relievers like Vicodin or anti-anxiety medicines like Xanax.
Illegal Possession of Prescription Drugs
A controlled substance, according to the United States Controlled Substances Act, covers both illicit street narcotics and certain prescribed drugs obtained without a doctor's prescription. A person will only be held criminally accountable if he/she possesses the drugs in question without a legitimate prescription.
Proposition 47, which was recently enacted by California voters, lowers the penalty for this offense to a misdemeanor in most scenarios. The maximum penalties include a year in prison as well as hefty court fines. The judge may permit the accused to undergo a drug diversion program approved by Proposition 36 or California Penal Code 1000, which requires that the defendant complete a drug treatment program.
Possession of Prescription Drugs with Intent to Sell
Accused persons who are caught in possession of controlled substances, including prescribed drugs, and have the intention of distributing them face a felony charge according to California Health and Safety Code Section 11351, whereas those who distribute controlled substances face felony charges as per California Health and Safety Code Section 11352. This code doesn't relate to pharmacists who are performing their jobs or anybody else who is allowed to offer prescription drugs.
Felony Possession of Illegal Prescription Drugs
Many people who are dependent on prescription medications become addicted after receiving a legal prescription for the medication due to an accident or a certain illness. When their physician refuses to issue them with any more drugs, some people resort to prescription fraud or doctor shopping to acquire the drugs.
According to California Health and Safety Code Section 11173, it is illegal to get controlled drugs through fraud, deception, falsification, subterfuge, or concealment of material information. This may include seeing several doctors to receive more prescriptions. It can be charged as a "wobbler" charge, meaning it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. The maximum sentence for a felony offense is three years of imprisonment.
Unlawful Forging of a Prescription
A person could also be charged with illegally faking a medication or using a fake prescription sheet that looks to be genuine. Forging prescriptions to get drugs can be charged as a wobbler under California Health and Safety Code Section 11368. This is penalized by a maximum of three years in state prison.
Having a fake doctor's prescription is a crime penalized by a maximum of three years in prison under California Health and Safety Code Section 11162.5. Doctors may also face penalties if they unlawfully prescribe controlled medications to abusers or individuals who fail to undergo treatment.
A physician can be prosecuted with a felony charge when he or she prescribes, administers, dispenses, or furnishes a prohibited substance to somebody who isn't under his or her care, according to California Health and Safety Code Section 11154. Additionally, the doctor will face disciplinary proceedings from the California Medical Board, and his or her license to practice or dispense medications may be revoked.
According to California Health and Safety Code Section 11156, physicians who intentionally give prescriptions to individuals who are confirmed drug abusers can be punished with felony charges.
Possession of Fentanyl in California
The California Health and Safety Code 11055 classifies fentanyl as an opiate. It's a synthetic opioid, a category of drug that accounts for the bulk of all drug-related deaths, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overdose deaths in the United States increased by more than 600 percent over 20 years beginning in 1999.
Fentanyl could be given as a prescription by a doctor. It is primarily used to relieve "breakthrough pain" in patients with cancer. While fentanyl is comparable to morphine, it has a 100-fold higher potency. When prescribed by a physician, fentanyl can be administered by injection, using a topical patch, or as a lozenge.
Fentanyl can be sold unlawfully in a variety of forms, such as powders, sprays, and drops, and also pills that seem identical to their prescription equivalents. Illicit fentanyl is often combined with other narcotics, such as cocaine, heroin, meth, ecstasy, and molly. When mixed, fentanyl intensifies the effects of other medicines. HSC 11350 makes it illegal to possess fentanyl.
Possession of fentanyl was once a wobbler, meaning it could be punished as a felony or a misdemeanor. Simple possession, on the other hand, has been prosecuted as a misdemeanor ever since the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014, even though there are certain exceptions. Those exceptions relate to anyone who has been convicted of either one or more significant or violent crimes in the past.
These encompass sexually violent crimes; sexual relations or lewd acts with children who are below the age of 14; any homicide crimes; incitement to perpetrate murder; specific acts of violence using a machine gun on law enforcement officers or emergency responders; possessing any weapons of mass destruction; and any felony that carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Proposition 47 punishment is retroactive, allowing people who've already been charged with narcotics possession, such as fentanyl possession, to seek a charge reduction to a misdemeanor. Prop 47's advantages do not extend to actions that are more substantial than mere possession, like possession or purchase for selling, illegal distribution, furnishing, administering, or giving away the drug.
Defending Against Drug Trafficking and Opioid Possession Charges
When you are defending against trafficking or possession of drug charges that involve opioids, the alternatives usually depend on the drug in question and the facts surrounding the arrest. Drug trafficking charges that are primarily driven by a desire to make a profit usually face harsher punishments than those conducted out of despair.
A person arrested with numerous oxycodone tablets or expired prescriptions, for instance, risks facing a considerably less serious penalty, particularly if he or she shows clear evidence of opioid addiction than someone arrested with several kilograms of cocaine or illegally made fentanyl, across county and state lines.
Find a Compassionate Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or your loved one is currently facing drug possession and trafficking charges for opioids in Los Angeles, we at the Law Office of Sara L. Caplan can help. Regardless of whether you made an honest mistake and tried to make easy money by selling the drugs, or you just resorted to desperate measures due to your addiction, our law firm will establish the strongest possible defenses and prepare a compelling case for you. In certain situations, we can assist a client in pleading to reduced charges in return for agreeing to professional treatment and rehab, thereby avoiding time behind bars. Call us at 310-550-5877.