Possession of illegal drugs in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony, which is a more serious charge with greater consequences. Possession of a controlled substance is also known as “simple possession” or “drug possession” in legal terms. It is a misdemeanor under California Proposition 47, the current law that guides charges for possession of a controlled substance. A drug possession charge can be a misdemeanor in California, but it should never be treated lightly.
Although transporting illegal drugs is not a “violent” or “serious” crime under the Three Strikes Act, a person can be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison if he has two pre-strike convictions and if he is convicted of transporting illegal drugs at any later time. Under the United States Controlled Substances Act, a controlled substance can include both illicit drugs and legal prescription drugs. Most first-time offenders can have the charge dismissed by successfully completing a PC 1000 drug diversion program or a court. Being convicted of transporting illegal drugs can also make a person ineligible for beneficial drug diversion programs in California.
Controlled substances are generally defined as drugs whose possession and use are regulated by the federal government. Possession with intent to sell or federal drug trafficking are much more serious crimes, and a conviction can result in serious jail terms in state or federal prison. The general definition of possession of a controlled substance is having in your possession, or under your control, a drug or narcotic drug that has been declared illegal by state or federal law and for which the person does not have a valid prescription. This means that it is a legal defense for a defendant to prove that the defendant was never in constructive or actual possession of the drug.
Under California drug sentencing guidelines, most cases of simple drug possession (for personal use) are charged as misdemeanors rather than felonies. There are many variables involved in determining how long you go to jail for drug possession in California. Specifically, if the intent after conviction for a felony drug offense is to convince the court of a possible qualification for a drug diversion or treatment program. As long as possession was not enough for possession with intent to sell, then you could be eligible for a treatment program instead of imprisonment.
Every time you are charged with a crime, including possession of drugs, you have certain rights that United States law protects. To convict you on transportation charges, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you moved the illegal drugs some distance away, that you knew of the presence and nature of the drug as a controlled substance, and that there was enough of the drug present to be used as a controlled substance. As noted, if local police arrest you for allegedly committing a drug offense within California's state lines, you will most likely face state drug charges.