How Does California Classify Different Drugs?

Given the vast array of drugs that exist, prescription and otherwise, it’s not surprising that this can be a highly complex part of criminal law. There are drugs that are illegal, while others are legal in specific circumstances, such as prescription drugs ordered by a qualified physician to treat specific issues. But prescription drugs can also be illegal if not ordered by a doctor and used for those specific issues. Overall, they’re known as controlled substances.

In California, drugs are classified by what’s known as schedules, or categories. These schedules differentiate the types of controlled substances, and how severe charges and penalties are for possessing or selling them will vary by which schedule they’re in, among other factors. Schedule I is considered the most dangerous group, with each category lessening in impact and potential consequences.

Schedule I

These are considered the most dangerous drugs. Being arrested for Schedule I crimes can lead to the harshest consequences. Most of the drugs in this schedule are hallucinogenics, opiates, or depressants. Examples include:

  • Heroine
  • PCP
  • Ecstasy
  • Mescaline
  • Cocaine base

Schedule II

Schedule II controlled substances include both prescription drugs and drugs that are rarely used in medical cases and tend to be highly addictive. These include:

  • Codeine
  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • Methamphetamine and Amphetamine, or components of either
  • OxyContin
  • Cocaine
  • Vicodin

Schedule III

Schedule III is the middle ground of drug categories, and it’s very broad, including addictive drugs that range from stimulants to steroids. Those include:

  • Pentobarbital
  • Testosterone
  • Ketamine
  • Mazindol
  • Steroids

Schedule IV

Schedule IV is largely made up of prescription drugs that have medicinal value but can be abused and sold illegally. This includes:

  • Xanax
  • Ambien
  • Tramadol
  • Ativan
  • Pemoline

Schedule V

Schedule V is the lowest category of drugs and usually leads to lesser penalties. This category includes:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Ethylmorphine
  • Difenoxin
  • Diphenoxylate

What Kinds of Consequences Can Result from Different Drug Schedule Crime Convictions?

The first thing to understand is that drug crime convictions can have wildly varying consequences because there are so many factors that the courts will consider, including whether or not this was a first-time offense, the type and quantity of the drug involved, whether the person is charged with possession or intent to sell, or if there are what California law calls aggravating circumstances.

Those circumstances include selling near a youth-based facility (such as a school) if the person charged was also carrying a firearm or was involved in a gang. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a drug crime, you should contact an experienced drug crime defense attorney as soon as possible to learn what the consequences may be for your case and what defenses might be available.

In general, a first-time offender with no other criminal history may be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony. A misdemeanor is a lesser charge than a felony, but it can still result in up to a year in jail.

However, if the person charged is a registered sex offender or has previously been convicted of a violent crime could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony and could face several years in jail.

Jail time is harsh enough, but convictions for drug charges can appear on someone’s criminal record and lead to other outcomes, including:

Immigrants in the U.S. on a green card may be deported if convicted of felony drug charges.

  • Housing: Drug charges on a criminal record can lead to landlords refusing to rent housing units to the convicted person.
  • Employers may refuse to offer jobs to those convicted of drug charges.
  • Family courts may refuse to award child custody to someone convicted of drug charges.
  • Colleges may refuse financial aid to students, or, if the convicted person is currently enrolled in a college or university, they may find themselves barred from graduation.

These are all serious, life-changing consequences. That’s why it’s vital to work with an experienced drug crime attorney who understands what’s at stake and can help you identify the best options for a defense.

What Is a Drug Diversion Program?

A first-time offender with no previous criminal history and no aggravating circumstances (see above) may be able to enter a drug diversion program rather than going to jail. This is a drug treatment program that, if the offender successfully completes it, will allow their case to be dismissed, and the charges won’t show on their criminal record.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove to Find Someone Guilty of Drug Charges?

To prove illegal possession of a controlled substance, the prosecutor has to prove several things beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • The substance the person possessed was, in fact, a controlled substance.
  • The person charged possessed the drug illegally or without a legitimate prescription.
  • The person charged knew they had the drug and knew it was a controlled substance.
  • The person charged had more than a light trace of the controlled substance, meaning the quantity they had was enough to cause various side effects or symptoms.

What Should I Do if I or a Loved One Needs Help with Drug Charges?

Call the SoCal Law Network at 949-305-7995 to set up a free consultation. Drug charges are serious and can have significant, life-altering consequences. Each case is unique, and there’s no single defense strategy that works for all or most of them. We can go through the specifics of your case to determine the best approach for you to defend you and possibly prevent jail time, depending on your circumstances.