No matter the manner in which they might be utilized, it is illegal (as it is under all other state and federal governments) under California law to use, possess, possess with the intent to sell, sell and transport any drugs classified as "controlled substances." These substances include, but are not limited to, the following: marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and various kinds of hallucinogenic and “club drugs,” such as LSD and ecstasy. However serious a drug case may be almost entirely depends upon the amount possessed, the type of drug possessed and the reason for the possession. If you were found with only a miniscule amount of any type of drug, you are much more likely be treated lightly. On the other hand, if you were involved in a group who manufactured or distributed large amounts (i.e. pounds) of a dangerous substances such as methamphetamine or cocaine, you are much more likely to be treated in a harsh and unforgiving manner.
The least serious of all drug offenses is being found under the influence and/or in possession of small quantities. For such simple possession crimes, first-time offenders generally pay a fine, perform public work service, attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and are placed on informal probation for a period of three years. For "under the influence" crimes, first-time offenders face a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail or work furlough, as well as fines, public work service and NA meetings.
Fortunately, first-time offenders for both possession and "under the influence" crimes can participate in a drug diversion program in which the offender pleads guilty to possession and/or under the influence of drugs and participates in a three-month drug education program. If the offender successfully completes the diversion classes and does not violate any other laws in an 18-month period following the initial guilty plea, he or she will be entitled to have the charges dismissed and any arrest record erased.
Transportation of a small amount of illegal substances is unusually dealt with in the same manner as simple drug possessions and "under the influence" offenses. First time offenders are almost always given probation, no jail time, NA meeting, fines, public work service and/or offered an opportunity to participate in the drug diversion program.
Under a new law entitled Proposition 36, even if you are on probation or on parole for a non-violent felony offense, you may still qualify for probation if your present case involves a simple possession or transportation crime. Proposition 36 is an attempt to recognize drug offenders as needing help rather than punishment. It is a complicated law, but if you can fit within it's frames, you will have the chance to get help for your problem rather than spending time in custody.
How long you serve depends upon several factors, including the type of drug possessed or distributed. However, what you get also depends highly upon your role in the situation. If you are a mule (used either knowingly or unknowingly to transport someone else's substances), you will likely receive a lot less time than if you are a known ringleader of a distribution group.
Without skillful legal representation, repeat offenders are looking at lengthy state prison sentences. In most cases involving sophisticated conspiracies to traffic large quantities of drugs, prosecutors will probably want even first time offenders to serve state prison sentences.
Prosecution for transportation of a large quantity of illegal substances is as serious as the prosecution for possession with intent (to sell). Even first time offenders are likely to receive state prison sentences for large quantity drug crimes (again, without skillful legal representation).
A skilled lawyer should be able to determine rather quickly how you should approach handling the case. Many times, the prosecution's case is flawed by weak circumstantial evidence and also by illegal searches and seizures. If you have a case involving weak circumstantial evidence, or there is a potential search, you will be in a good position to bargain for something more reasonable.
Even if the evidence is strong and the search is valid, your attorney can negotiate a favorable resolution. If you have an addiction problem, your lawyer might be able to convince the judge to grant you probation and drug rehabilitation. The courts are much more interested in getting people off of drugs and into more productive lives. If you have the right attitude and the right history, your attorney may hire a psychologist to make an evaluation, showing the court that you are strongly addicted and not otherwise dedicated to a criminal lifestyle.
In serious cases involving large quantities of illegal substances, or where you are on felony probation/parole (even with strikes on your record), your attorney can negotiate. It is possible to have strikes or enhancements stricken, which will result in a lower prison sentence to run concurrent with your parole or probation violation.