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Drug and Alcohol Related Crimes in California

Drug and alcohol-related crimes have changed drastically in California over the past decade. California has legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational uses and there are more options to go through treatment or probation to avoid a harmful drug crime conviction. However, possession of a larger quantity of a controlled substance, selling, or trafficking in drugs is still a serious offense.

The penalties for drug crime violations can include jail time, fines, mandatory drug treatment, a suspended license, and restricted gun rights. Alcohol has been legal since Prohibition was overturned but anyone under 21 can't possess alcohol and anyone under the influence of alcohol can be arrested if they are behind the wheel of a vehicle. For more information on criminal drug and alcohol-related charges in California, see the following pages:

Drug Charges

Alcohol-Related Charges

Drug Crimes

The unlawful use or possession of a controlled substance in California is a criminal offense. This includes street drugs like heroin, as well as controlled prescription medications, like fentanyl or Vicodin. Drug crimes include:

  • Possession
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Possession with intent to sell or distribute
  • Distribution or sale
  • Cultivation or manufacturing
  • Trafficking

Drug Crime Penalties

The penalties for a drug crime conviction in California depends on a number of factors, including the defendant's criminal history, amount of the controlled substance involved, and where the drug charge violation occurred (such as at a school).

Drug crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. For example, a conviction for drug possession with intent to distribute is generally a felony, with penalties including up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. Generally, drug sales charges are not eligible for a diversion program.

After serving a prison sentence, the defendant may still be required to check in with their parole officer, maintain the parole conditions, submit to random searches, and submit to drug testing.

Diversion Programs

Diversion programs may be an option for some individuals to avoid jail time or a criminal conviction. Diversion programs available in the Bay Area include drug court and drug treatment programs that include counseling, drug testing, and avoiding other criminal charges during the period of diversion.

Prescription Fraud or Forgery

Anyone who forges, alters, issues, or provides an altered prescription may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony prescription drug offense. This includes the use of a prescription bearing a forged or fake signature for any narcotic drug. Possession of a narcotic drug obtained through use of forged or fake prescription is also a criminal offense.

Furnishing Alcohol to Minors

Under California law, anyone who sells, furnishes, or gives any alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 is guilty of a misdemeanor. It is also unlawful for an on-site licensee to knowingly allows someone under 21 years old to consume any alcoholic beverage, even if they didn't know the person was under 21 years of age.

The penalties for furnishing alcohol to a minor could include community service time, for a minimum of 24 hours, intended to be served at an alcohol or drug treatment facility, or the county coroner's office.

Public Intoxication

This violation is also known as being “drunk in public.” However, simply being drunk in a public place is not enough to constitute a criminal offense. Under California Penal Code 647(f), public intoxication involves a defendant who displays intoxication, is unable to take care of themselves or others; and interferes with the free use of streets, sidewalks or public way.

Alcohol and Drug DUI

Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol (or a combination of drugs and alcohol) is a crime in California. A DUI is one of the most common criminal charges for drivers in Alameda and Contra Costa and DUI penalties can include a suspended license, fines, and even possible jail time.

East Bay Drug and Alcohol Crime Defense Lawyer

Drug and alcohol-related crimes are some of the most common offenses in the East Bay. However, they also carry some of the most serious consequences for a conviction, including lifelong restrictions for making a one-time mistake. With more than 30 years of criminal defense experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success. If you are facing drug crime charges anywhere in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact us today.

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