Illicit Drug Possession
In California, drug possession may be penalized according to different
guidelines depending on the schedule of the controlled substance, the
amount of the drug, and the purpose for possession.
Under Proposition 47, possession of most Schedule I to Schedule V drugs
are punished as misdemeanors with penalties of up to 1 year in county jail.
Recreational marijuana is legal for adults 21 and over, who may purchase,
possess, and consume up to 28.5 grams of marijuana in their private residence
or in an establishment licensed for marijuana consumption. Possession
exceeding this amount is punishable by up to 6 months and/or up to $500
in fines. Individuals 18 and under who possess marijuana will face an
infraction, which includes mandatory drug education courses and community
service. Note that smoking remains illegal while driving a vehicle, anywhere
smoking tobacco is prohibited, and in all public places. Possession at
a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present
also remains illegal.
Common defenses a defendant and their attorney could pursue in the face
of a drug possession charge are:
- medical necessity;
- prescription issued by a doctor;
- unlawful search resulting in seizure of drugs;
- problem with lab analysis;
- entrapment or improper police conduct.
Visit our page on Drug Crimesfor more specific information on the sentencing guidelines.
Petty Theft and Grand Theft
When it comes to crimes of theft, California law defines theft as stealing
property by larceny, false pretense, or embezzlement with the intent to
permanently deprive the owner of the property. The state classifies theft
offenses according to the value of the property taken. Petty theft is
the theft of any property with a value of $950 or less, and petty theft
is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and/or a
fine of up to $1,000. If the property has a value of $50 or less, the
prosecutor may decide to charge the offense as an infraction (up to $250
in fines) instead if the offender does not have any other theft-related
Grand theft is the theft of property worth more than $950 or theft of a
firearm of any value. The penalty for stealing a firearm is a felony punishable
by a state prison term of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years. In all other
cases, grand theft is a wobbler offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor
or felony, where a misdemeanor sentence will carry up to 1 year in jail.
Be aware that a person who commits grand theft or petty theft during a
state of emergency, local emergency, or evacuation order is guilty of
looting, also a wobbler offense.
One of the most common defense tactics against theft charges is that the
defendant had a good-faith belief that they owned the property or were
legally entitled to possess it.
To learn more about combatting theft charges in California, visit our page on Theft Crimes.