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Is Selling Drugs a Felony in Los Angeles, California?

Federal laws surrounding drug possession are constantly evolving. In states where federal and statewide regulation of controlled substances differ, the stipulations regarding prosecution for drug-related offenses vary as well. Intent to sell and personal use play heavily into the prosecution process. Knowing the law surrounding drug possession, drug use, and drug trafficking is the best way to avoid jail time. Depending on what drugs you’re carrying, as well as your intention with the drugs will determine the sentencing for your case.

What Substances Are Regulated by the State?

California’s Health and Safety Code classifies a drug as a “controlled substance,” meaning any substance with controlled use by the government. These substances, if improperly used, can lead to addiction or harm for users, making their restrictions related to public safety. Listed in HS 11999.1, the California legislature outlines these selected substances, among others, as drugs:

  • Morphine
  • Cannabis
  • Peyote
  • Psilocybin (mushrooms)
  • Fentanyl
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines
  • Oxycodone
  • N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Codeine concentrations about 200mg/mL
  • Toluene-based inhalants
  • Anabolic steroids
  • “Designer drugs,” such as MDMA

These drugs are then broken into schedules, a ranking system that divides each drug into specific categories based on how harmful they are to the user. Potential penalties depend on the schedule of the drug and whether it’s from possession, use, or distribution.

Different Schedules of Drugs

The scheduling system is used to delineate between each classified drug as a way to regulate each and prevent misuse. Starting with Schedule V, the least controlled list of substances, to Schedule I, or those with the strictest guidelines, the risk factors that go into each drug’s use are crucial for their categorization. The breakdown for each schedule is as follows:

  • Schedule I: The drugs listed in California schedule I are those that have a high likelihood of either misuse or addiction. Ecstasy, heroin, peyote, and cannabis are all considered to be Schedule I drugs. Although the legalities surrounding cannabis use in California have changed, it still falls under the national schedule I classification. Regulations surrounding cannabis use, both medical and recreational, have been put into place to regulate the use of cannabis, providing statewide regulations on use.
  • Schedule II: Schedule II drugs are typically classified as having an increased likelihood of causing addiction; however, they are recognized as having some medical uses. For example, codeine, Oxycontin, morphine, and Vicodin are all considered Schedule II drugs but can all be either prescribed or administered in a health setting. Although these substances do have a medical foundation for their use, they are highly likely to cause addiction issues if misused, and their use is highly regulated.
  • Schedule III: Schedule III substances, much like Schedule I and II, contain drugs that can become addictive when misused but are not considered as much of a threat as other drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Most of the substances found in Schedule III are steroid-based or classified as stimulants; however, other drugs, such as ketamine, are part of the wide range of substances that fall into the schedule as well.
  • Schedule IV: Schedule IV Substances are recognized as having medicinal value. However, they can result in misuse or addiction. Most of the drugs in this category are prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, such as Ativan and Xanax. Unlike other prescription substances in more severe schedules, like Ritalin or Adderall, these medications are considered less likely to cause severe addiction issues than others.
  • Schedule V: Schedule V drugs are considered the lowest risk substances and lowest likelihood of misuse if used in their intended way. One of the listed substances in Schedule V is codeine, which shows up in other higher schedules due to its likelihood of misuse if not used properly. If accompanied by a prescription, Schedule V drugs are legal to possess if used properly.

Based on the schedule of the substance you have, as well as your intended use, the sentencing can come from a possession charge. Depending on these two factors, the escalation of your charge and the subsequent outcome of your case can be properly determined.

Are Drug Charges Considered Felonies or Misdemeanors?

Drug charges in California can fall into one of two categories: felonies or misdemeanors. Either conviction primarily rests on the schedule, amount, and intended use of the drug. Schedule I drugs, due to their severity and the likelihood of causing harm, are the most heavily restricted by law, meaning that even in smaller quantities, drugs like heroin or cocaine can lead to an immediate felony conviction.

When it comes to selling drugs, the same restrictions for schedule and severity apply. However, stipulations around the unlicensed or unregulated sale of these drugs make any such charge a felony. For example, if you are convicted of selling a certain drug, the severity in terms of its listed schedule, as well as the amount you have packaged as intended for sale, can cost you thousands of dollars in fines and between three to nine years in jail. For certain drugs that are regulated on a statewide basis, such as cannabis, proper permits and business licensing are needed to legally sell cannabis to others.

When it comes to possession, Proposition 47 helps lessen the severity of charges for drug possession intended for personal use. However, if wrongly convicted of possession with intent to sell, these protections do not apply. Being able to have your case reviewed and argued on the proper grounds, especially if wrongly convicted of possession with the intent to sell, is crucial for reaching a fair verdict.

Legal Assistance for a Drug Distribution Charge

Being convicted of a drug crime, especially one as severe as intent to sell, can be very damaging to your reputation, getting you into some very difficult situations. In California, where the results of having a felony can strip you of access to housing, firearms, or certain job applications, making sure that your situation is properly handled in court is key to proving your innocence. The team at The Law Office of James E. Silverstein in Calabasas is available to help evaluate and argue your case. Contact us today for a defense attorney that is well-versed in California drug law.

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