Most drug offenses can be classified into the following three categories: simple possession, sale, and possession for sale.
Simple possession is the possession of a useable amount of a controlled substance for personal use. Some common controlled substances are methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy (MDMA). Some prescription medications are also considered controlled substances and possessing them without a valid prescription is against the law.
Simple possession of marijuana is a straight misdemeanor. The possible sentence ranges from a $100 fine up to six months in jail depending on the amount of marijuana possessed. Simple possession of methamphetamine or ecstasy can be charged either as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail or as a felony punishable by incarceration in state prison for 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years. Possession of cocaine or heroin for personal use is a straight felony punishable by 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison.
In many cases, those who have been charged with simple possession may be eligible for a drug diversion or treatment program instead of incarceration in jail or prison. Successful completion of the program can lead to the dismissal of the charges at some point. However, failure to complete the program as directed by the court may mean jail or prison time. In any event, consultation with a qualified attorney is essential to knowing all of the options available and to ensure that all of your rights are protected.
A person who has been charged with sale of a controlled substance faces greater punishment than someone charged with simple possession. Sale of cocaine or heroin is a straight felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in state prison. Sale of methamphetamine or ecstasy is a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.
A typical sale case is where a person is charged with selling narcotics to an undercover police officer. In rare instances, a person is charged with selling narcotics to a person other than an undercover officer. It is rare because these types of cases usually involve confidential informants that the police do not want to "burn" by having them testify at trial as witnesses. Therefore, most sale cases involve the selling of narcotics to an undercover police officer. In trials for selling to an undercover officer, the testimony of that officer is very important to the prosecution's case. In order to successfully defend against a sale of narcotics charge, an attorney who has enough trial experience to effectively cross-examine the officers is crucial to the outcome of the case. If you have been charged with sale of narcotics, do not hire an attorney without inquiring as to the attorney's trial experience. Make sure the attorney has done sufficient amount of trials to have gained the necessary experience to effectively defend you against the charges.
POSSESSION FOR SALE
A person who is charged with possession for sale of narcotics is accused of possessing the drugs with the intention of selling the drugs to another person or persons. Possession for sale of cocaine or heroin is a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of four years in prison. Possession for sale of methamphetamine or ecstasy carries a maximum sentence of three years.
In a typical possession for sale case, the government's evidence consists of facts that show that a person possessed narcotics, along with "indicia" that suggest that the person possessed the narcotics for the purpose of sale. Some common "indicia" that are presented by the prosecution as evidence of intent to sell are the amount of narcotics possessed and the existence of one or more of the following items: empty baggies for packaging, scales to weigh the narcotics, cell phones, pay-owe sheets listing amounts of narcotics sold and money owed, and large amounts of cash. Along with the above evidence, the prosecution, in almost all cases, presents the testimony of an "expert" to explain to the jury why the above evidence shows that the person possessed the narcotics for sale. In almost all cases, the "expert" is a police officer who has training and experience in investigating possession for sale cases. Credible testimony by the officer is crucial to the prosecution. Therefore a successful defense of the case depends heavily on the effective and aggressive cross-examination of the prosecution's "expert". Only an attorney with significant trial experience in drug cases can ensure that all of the prosecution's evidence is aggressively and competently challenged in court.
At the Law Offices of Christian Kim, our attorney, Christian Kim, has tried over 50 criminal jury trials and handled hundreds of drug cases. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Kim can see a case from the government's perspective and use it to his client's advantage. He uses his significant trial experience to aggressively and competently defend his clients who have been accused of drug offenses.