Drug Possession and Distribution:
"Controlled substances" include illegal drugs like crack or powder cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and crystal meth. They also include use of prescription drugs like painkillers, (Oxycontin, Vicodin, Hydrocodone) or ADD drugs (Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta).
How the crime is charged and punished depends on several factors, including the type and quantity of the drugs involved, whether the drugs were for personal use or for sale, and whether the defendant has a criminal record, especially prior drug convictions.
These factors affect whether the drug crime will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, whether jail or prison is required, the length of incarceration, fine amounts, eligibility for sentencing alternatives (deferred entry of judgment) and enhancements.
California Health and Safety Code Sections 11350 and 11377 make possession of a controlled substance (e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, opium, opiates, LSD, PCP, hashish, vicodin) a misdemeanor, unless you have a legal written prescription. Possession of marijuana is usually charged as a misdemeanor. Possession of Marijuana (Health and Safety Code Section 11357) is also charged as a felony unless the possession was less than an ounce of marijuana—then the charge is either a misdemeanor or an infraction.
Charges can also be filed for being under the influence of a controlled substance, driving under the influence of a drug (DUI), being present where a controlled substance is being used, and possessing paraphernalia for injecting or smoking controlled substances. If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance for personal use as a felony, you could be sentenced up to a year in county jail. Most people will be eligible for alternative sentencing (Prop 36 or drug diversion) and avoid jail completely.
California law makes a distinction between drug possession for personal use and possession for sale. California Health and Safety Code 11351, 11378 and 11351.5 make it a felony to possess drugs for the purpose of selling them. The prosecution does not need to prove that you sold the drugs, but only that you had the intent to sell them. Intent can be proven with circumstantial evidence. Such as the quantity of drugs, the pachaging of the drugs, and possession of any scales.
For example, if law enforcement goes to your house and finds drugs in quantities larger than would be normally expected for personal use, this could indicate that there was intent to sell. Other indications of intent to sell drugs may include packaging, scales, cutting agents, large amounts of cash, multiple cell phones, and a fortified location (such as security bars on windows).
In Los Angeles, we have encountered many cases that are mistakenly charged as possession for sale when the drugs were for personal use. Possession for sale carries up to five years in state prison. A conviction for possession of drugs for sale is a "priorable" offense, which means that it will increase the penalties (usually by three years of state prison) for a future drug sales conviction.
For a List of Court Approved DEJ Programs: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/sapc/cjp/PC1000List010116.PDF
For Treatment of Drug Abuse: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/sapc/findtreatment.htm