All states regulate and control the possession for personal use of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for possession. California classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as controlled substances, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.
This article discusses possession of CDS for personal use only. The possession of CDS for sale or distribution carries different penalties. For more information on possession of CDS for sale or distribution, see Sale of Controlled Substances in California.
Some CDS, like codeine, a common painkiller, may be possessed legally so long as the holder has a valid prescription.
All drug possession crimes in California are classified as infractions, misdemeanors, "wobblers," or felonies. Infractions are the least serious and do not include jail time; misdemeanors can result in up to a year in jail, and felonies carry state prison sentences of a year or more (although first offenders may be eligible for probation). A "wobbler" is an offense that may be charged or sentenced as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and the decisions of the prosecutor and/or judge.
Until recently, all CDS possession crimes were either misdemeanors, wobblers, or felonies, but in November 2014, California voters passed an initiative (Proposition 47) downgrading such crimes to misdemeanors for certain offenders, as explained below. The law took effect on November 5, 2014.
California divides its CDS into six “schedules.”
If you’ve been arrested for possession for personal use of CDS, consult the statute specifying your offense, then look at the California Code that list precisely which drugs, and in what amounts, fit into each group. Those statutes are California Health and Safety Code Sections 11053 through 11057.
Possession of any amount of the following CDS is punishable by up to one year of incarceration in the county jail:
However, under Proposition 47, these reduced penalties are available only to offenders who are not registered sex offenders, or who ndo not have convictions for specified serious or violent crimes—such as murder and certain sex and gun crimes. Defendants who do not qualify for misdemeanor treatment may be charged with wobblers or felonies, depending on the drug and the amount at isue.
The unlawful possession of marijuana is punished based on the amount of the CDS involved.
For more information see Possession of Marijuana in California.
CDS convictions incur both fines and incarceration. A lawyer who practices CDS defense will review the facts of your case, explain your options, and advise you of the possible consequences.