I’ve Been Charged with Drug Crimes. What Should I Do?

There are three vitally important things to do when you’re charged with drug crimes. First of all, remain calm. Becoming angry or trying to evade law enforcement could work against you if the officer testifies that you were uncooperative during the arrests.

Second, while remaining calm, make sure you use your constitutional right to remain silent. The arresting officer should have read you your Miranda rights, which explain that you have the right not to answer any of the officer’s questions (other than identifying yourself) and that you have the right to have an attorney.

That latter right comes into play next. It’s crucial you reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible because drug crime convictions can carry severe, life-changing consequences. Drug laws are complex and multifaceted, and it’s best to work with professionals who understand them and know what the ramifications of conviction could be.

Once I’m Charged and Have an Attorney, What Happens Next?

Your attorney will go over your charges with you. There are multiple levels of drug charges, and the consequences for each vary widely, depending on the drug levels charged, if there’s prior history, if there are extenuating circumstances (such as other crime charges added on to the drug charges), etc. Understanding your specific case details is vital to preparing your defense. Your attorney will explain the possible outcomes of conviction and what defense options you may have. They’ll also explain what evidence they may seek, why they need it, and what effect it may have on your case.

There will be court hearings. It’s critical that you appear at all hearings on time, remain calm, and dress appropriately. Failure to show up for court can harm your case and could even lead to additional charges.

Will I Have to Go to Trial for My Drug Charges Case?

Not necessarily. Depending on the evidence, your attorney may try to have the charges dismissed or reduced. In other cases, it may be more advantageous to take a plea deal in order to avoid going to trial.

If it appears that going to trial is necessary, your attorney will thoroughly prepare you for what to expect. Just as at every other step of the legal process, it’s vital you remain calm, no matter how frustrated you are. It’s important to show respect in the courtroom, which means remaining calm, arriving on time, and dressing appropriately.

What Are Potential Consequences for Drug Crime Convictions in California?

Every case is unique and is based on the specifics of the drugs involved and the circumstances under which the arrest took place. Factors such as a previous criminal conviction or attempts to resist arrest can affect the charges and consequences, as do cases involving minors. The type of drugs matters too, with less addictive and dangerous drugs leading to lesser consequences than highly illegal, dangerous, and addictive drugs. The charges will reflect if you simply had the drugs, intended to manufacture or sell them, or take them across state lines. Any convictions will be on your criminal record and could have a negative impact on things like applying for jobs or housing.

First offenders, especially those with misdemeanor charges, may be able to have their case dismissed without jail time if they agree to a diversion program. That could involve drug treatment and education programs. If the person charged successfully completes the required program, their case is dismissed.

Drug charges may be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies, with felonies being the more severe charges. Here are some of the most common drug charges and potential consequences. What follows isn’t an exhaustive list, just a general overview. Your attorney should be able to give you a more specific idea of what to expect if convicted.

Primary Charges

  • Simple possession (first-time offense or small amounts): Up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 or equivalent community service time
  • Possession (with prior convictions of serious crimes): Between 16 months and three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000
  • Possession for sale: A felony charge that could (for first offenders) lead to probation or 2-4 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $20,000
  • Cocaine possession for sale: 3-5 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $20,000
  • Selling and trafficking (transporting): Felony probation or 3-5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000
  • Selling and trafficking across two or more county lines within the state: 3-9 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $20,000
  • Selling or giving away illegal drugs to minors (under 18): 3-9 years in prison. If the person convicted is at least four years older than the minor, they could have 1-3 years added to their sentence.

Any of the above consequences can have additional penalties assessed if other factors are present, such as violent crime, possessing or selling large amounts of heroin, cocaine, or cocaine base.

What Should I Do if I Believe I Have Just Been Arrested on Drug Charges?

Call the SoCal Law Network at 949-305-7995 to set up a free consultation. Drug charges can be serious, with significant consequences. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys can examine the aspects of your charges and help determine the right approach for your case.