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San Diego's Drug Crime Attorneys Assisting with Criminal Defense

Drug crimes are some of the most common types of criminal charges, but common doesn’t necessarily mean minor. While changes to the laws over the past several years decriminalized some actions, such as marijuana possession, other drug charges can be prosecuted as felonies and have very serious penalties. If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, you can find out what you need to know and how an attorney can help below.

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What Are the Different Types of Drug Crimes?

There are various drug crimes you can potentially be charged with, and most of these come down to how much of the controlled substance was found in your possession and whether there were other materials, such as for distribution or manufacture, that give authorities a reason to bring additional or more serious charges. Below are the four main categories that drug crimes fall into.


Drug possession is one of the most common drug crimes, and it means that you were found illegally possessing a controlled substance on your person or on your property, such as in your car. In some cases, you can be charged with possession for any amount of a controlled substance, while in others, you may need to be above a certain limit or not have a prescription. For example, any amount of cocaine can result in possession charges, but you can have up to 28.5 grams of marijuana for personal use without being charged.

Possession charges also aren’t limited to controlled substances. You can also be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia if you have equipment that is normally used to manufacture, distribute, or use illegal drugs. Examples of drug paraphernalia include pipes, rolling papers, bongs, baggies, scales, and syringes.

Intent To Sell or Distribute

Possession with intent to sell or distribute is an upgraded charge from simple possession. This charge can happen when you have an amount of controlled substance that is beyond what someone would usually be carrying for personal use. Possession with intent to sell drug charges can also be a result of having the substance as well as other items, such as a scale and baggies and large amounts of cash, which indicate that you are selling the drugs.

Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking charges have similar guidelines as possession with intent to sell, but they are generally considered much more serious. Drug trafficking charges can be involved if there are large quantities of the substance or you are transporting or distributing the substance across state lines.


The potential drug crimes you can be charged with include drug manufacturing. This charge relates to illegally making controlled substances — or growing them in the case of peyote and marijuana. You could be charged with this crime if you have more than the legal number of marijuana plants for personal or medicinal use or if you are found with manufacturing supplies for controlled substances, such as large amounts of cold medicine and laboratory equipment.

What Is a Controlled Substance?

A controlled substance is one that is regulated under federal law as part of the Controlled Substances Act. There are five categories under the Controlled Substances Act, and these are referred to as schedules. Substances classified as controlled substances range from illegal drugs to prescription drugs to chemicals. A drug crime involves a charge related to a controlled substance. In general, the higher the schedule number, the less danger from the drug, but this isn’t always true and is subjective in some cases. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the schedules are classified as follows:

  •  Schedule I: There is a high potential for this substance to be abused or misused, and there is no currently accepted use in medical treatment.
  •  Schedule II: There is a high potential for misuse, and abuse of the substance could cause physical or psychological dependence. These substances may have currently acceptable medical use.
  •  Schedule III: These substances are classified as having a low to moderate risk of abuse, including developing a dependence. Prescription medications often fall into this category.
  •  Schedule IV: These substances have a low potential for misuse and aren’t likely to cause physical dependence.
  •  Schedule V: These substances have the lowest potential for abuse and are often sold as over-the-counter medications.

Here are some examples of common drugs for each schedule:

  •  Schedule I: LSD, marijuana, peyote, and ecstasy
  •  Schedule II: Vicodin, OxyContin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine
  •  Schedule III: Anabolic steroids, ketamine, Tylenol with codeine, and testosterone
  •  Schedule IV: Xanax, Ambien, Ativan, and Tramadol
  •  Schedule V: Robitussin cough syrup, Lyrica, and Motofen

Not all of these substances are eligible for drug charges, but people are often surprised to find out that common prescription medications, such as painkillers and antidepressants, are controlled substances. For example, if you are found to have these pills in your possession without a valid prescription, it could lead to being charged with a drug crime.

What Is the Possible Sentence if I’m Convicted?

It’s important for any defendant to be aware that the potential penalties could be for a drug crime conviction, and it’s one of the most common questions we get at our law firm. The exact sentence depends on the drug-related crime, but penalties fall into one of the four categories below.

Jail or Prison Time

If you are convicted of drug charges, you may be sentenced to time in jail or prison. Misdemeanor drug crimes can carry a maximum jail sentence of up to 1 year, but a felony drug crime can be much longer than that. Felony convictions also usually mean that you are incarcerated in the state prison instead of the county jail.


Some drug crime convictions also require you to pay fines. For example, if you are convicted of drug possession for having more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, you could face up to $500 in fines. In general, the amount of the fine is tied to the severity of the charge. You may also have to pay court costs and other fees.

Mandatory Drug Counseling

Because many people convicted of drug crimes are dealing with substance abuse issues, some convictions include sentencing the person to a mandatory drug counseling program. The duration of these programs can depend on the charge involved, and if you leave the program early or do not successfully complete it, it may mean additional jail time or revocation of your probation terms.


If you don’t have any previous history of criminal activity or this is your first drug-related crime, your attorney may be able to get your sentence reduced to probation only. In this case, you will have a probation officer and have to check in with them regularly. You will also likely have to participate in a drug counseling or other diversion program, and you may be required to take drug tests on demand.

What Happens if I’m Convicted of a Felony?

Being convicted of a felony drug crime involving a controlled substance can have lasting effects far after you have served your sentence. Having a felony on your record can make you ineligible for certain types of jobs and can limit your housing options if you’re renting. If a job or rental involves passing a background check or having a certain level of security clearance, a felony conviction could put your goals on hold permanently.

Having a felony conviction on your record can also affect other parts of your life. While a criminal record doesn’t mean you’ll have your children taken away or not be able to see them, a felony drug conviction could be a factor that’s weighed against you if you are in a custody battle or trying to seek more time with your children after you’ve served your sentence. In many cases, you also can’t volunteer at your children’s school or chaperone field trips if you have a felony conviction on your record.

Another factor to be aware of is California’s three-strikes rule. If you already have two previous felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, a third felony conviction can mean you are sentenced to life in prison. This is one reason why it’s so important to work with a criminal defense attorney when you are facing charges of any type that could be felonies. In some cases, the attorney may be able to get the charges lowered to the misdemeanor level, which can keep you from stacking up convictions or activating excessive penalties under the three-strikes rule.

Drug Crime Lawyers: How Can One Help Me?

Drug crime lawyers are criminal defense attorneys who have a detailed understanding of California’s drug crime laws and are experienced in handling these types of cases. An attorney may be able to help you get charges dismissed or can talk with you about the possibility of working out a deal with the prosecution to get charges reduced or avoid being sentenced to jail. A lawyer will also be able to talk with you about your case and understand if any of your rights were violated and how that may affect your defense options.

If you are facing drug charges and need a skilled criminal defense attorney, contact Kersey Law at 619-432-3712 to schedule a free consultation. Our legal team has experience helping clients beat drug charges or get them reduced. Meet with an attorney who can talk to you about your case and inform you of what options you may have.

Call us today at 619-329-8385 to learn more!

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When you have been charged with a criminal offense, your future is at stake. To protect your rights and freedom, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will treat your case with compassion and dedication. You’ll get both here.

For years, we have been passionate defenders of clients charged with a variety of criminal offenses. Criminal cases are often highly technical in nature. To avoid a conviction, you need an attorney that is deeply knowledgable about the subject matter at stake in criminal trials and has the courtroom experience to mount a formidable defense. 

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Drug-Related Crime​

Our team of attorneys are experienced in defending drug crime charges throughout California.

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If you’ve been accused of a serious, violent crime, you could be facing years in prison, a life sentence, or even the death penalty. In this situation, you obviously want the best possible criminal defense lawyer on your side.

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