How Serious Are Drug Possession Charges?
When you have an illegal drug in your actual or constructive possession, it is considered to be possession. The charges you face and penalties you may receive depend on the amount of the drug you had in your possession, what your intent was, and the type of drug that was found. The consequences you face may range from an infraction to a felony, and you may be facing hefty fines, jail time, and drug diversion programs.
When you are charged with drug trafficking or drug possession, the one positive aspect is that you will not be convicted immediately. With a knowledgeable attorney on your side, you may be able to mount a defense by having your lawyer argue that the evidence the prosecutor has against you was obtained during an illegal search, or even that the police planted the evidence as a means of strengthening the case. Possible defense strategies include arguing that you were unaware of the drugs, or that you didn’t know that they were illegal. Depending on the drug in question, your attorney may even be able to argue that you had a valid prescription. This is not a defense in most narcotics cases, but it may be possible if the drug in question is marijuana or a medication.
Since the details of the charges are vital to your defense, and most individuals do not know how to navigate the court system on their own, it is imperative that you have a skilled attorney on your side as soon as possible after being charged with a drug crime. Time is of the essence, and your attorney will be able to start working on your defense as soon as you make the decision to hire them.
What Is an Infraction, and How Serious Is It?
Drug infractions are not very common, but they may be the case in certain circumstances. The most common example of these cases that are less serious than misdemeanors is the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. If your case is considered to be an infraction, you will only be facing fines if you are convicted, so jail time is not something to worry about. Jail time, however, is a consideration for both misdemeanors and felonies, so those types of cases are nothing to take lightly. A conviction on drug trafficking, for example, could result in as much as nine years in prison, and very high fines.
What Are the Drug Schedules in California?
It is important to understand the schedule of the drug you are facing charges on in California. This is the way the federal government categorizes drugs, based on how serious they are, and on their potential for addiction or abuse, and potential medical use.
- Schedule I. These drugs are the most serious and have the highest potential for physical or psychological dependency and have no accepted medical use under federal law. Examples include peyote, ecstasy, LSD, heroin, and marijuana.
- Schedule II. These drugs are considered to be dangerous by the federal government but are not as serious as the aforementioned. They have a high propensity for abuse, and include Ritalin, fentanyl, oxycodone, methamphetamine, Vicodin, and cocaine.
- Schedule III. The drugs in this category pose a low risk for dependency. They may include substances with less than 15 mg of hydrocodone in a single dose, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
- Schedule IV. These drugs have a low potential for abuse or dependency and are often prescription medications. This category includes Tramadol, Darvon, Soma, Ambien, Valium, and Xanax.
- Schedule V. This is the least serious category and includes drugs with a very low propensity for dependency or abuse. Examples may include Lomotil, Lyrica, and Robitussin.
It is important to understand these classifications, as the charges you may face will be more severe, depending on the severity of the schedule the drugs fall under. The consequences of selling, using, or possessing these substances in California is dependent upon the category, and how dangerous the substances are considered to be.
How Much Does Hiring a Drug Crimes Attorney Cost?
One of the most difficult questions an individual can face when they are facing a drug crimes charge is whether they can afford a drug crimes lawyer. There are several factors that can affect the cost of an attorney for your case, and it is important to look at the big picture before deciding to go it alone.
Except in cases where an attorney charges a flat hourly fee, your income may be a consideration in the legal fees you need to cover. For individuals who can’t afford a private lawyer, the courts may appoint a public defender, however these attorneys often have a full caseload, and lack the ability to truly take time to focus on your case.
The most effective way to mount a strong defense when facing a drug offense is to have a reputable private attorney on your side. Your case may require expert witnesses and in-depth investigations that your lawyer will front the money for. However, these costs will be included in the legal fees you owe. Professionals who specialize in chemical testing may be necessary in order to combat the evidence that a prosecutor has against you. These investigators may be a crucial component of your case, but they often charge as much as $300 per hour, on top of a $2,000 retainer.
Your lawyer’s fees are also going to be a part of your overall costs. Although experienced drug crimes attorneys may seem like an unnecessary expense compared to a free or low-cost public defender, the services they provide are well worth the cost when your freedom and future are at stake. You should always be wary of lawyers who charge by the hour because you never know how much time the attorney may end up putting into your case, and although a few hundred dollars per hour may not sound like much, it can add up quickly with a slow-working lawyer.
Flat-rate lawyers often start at $1,500 and add additional fees if they are necessary. For instance, a case that goes to trial may end up costing between $3,000 and $5,000. The complexity of the case is always going to be the most influential factor when you are facing drug charges. Your case has its own unique details and challenges, and you don’t want to face the prosecutors alone.
When you consider the big picture, however, the cost of protecting your future is a worthy investment.
Is the Cost of Hiring a Drug Attorney a Good Value?
For most individuals, freedom is one of the things they hold most dear, and that is impossible to place a price tag on. When it comes down to it, the cost of hiring criminal defense attorneys to help ensure the best outcome for their case pales in comparison to the alternative. Most legal professionals will work with their clients to arrange a payment plan they can reasonably handle. Although the total cost may seem overwhelming at first, it often seems less daunting when a plan for repayment is reached.
In the state of California, drug offenses can have consequences that affect an individual for their entire life, so it is essential to have an experienced attorney working to prevent the worst outcome. Most clients agree in the end that the cost was well-worth the value. Depending on the severity of your case, you may be facing the possibility of years, or even life, in prison. Other punishments and consequences may include losing your job, probation, community service, drug education courses or treatment requirements, and fines that could potentially amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
Even after completing the initial penalties for a drug crime, the effects may be with an individual for their entire life. A drug charge on one’s permanent record may affect their ability to find a place to live and can make it nearly impossible to be hired for any type of desirable employment. Many people become so overwhelmed with the possibilities that they assume they will be saddled with living as a convict for the rest of their life, but this is not necessary. With the help of a good attorney who will aggressively fight your charges, you may have a brighter future ahead than you think.
In short, the cost of hiring a private drug crimes attorney should not prevent anyone from looking out for their future. The amount of money you could save on fines alone, could be much more than the initial cost of hiring an attorney, so in the end, you may actually save money by obtaining skilled legal representation. The investment you make in your lawyer now, could protect your chances of being able to get a good job and building a great life down the road. The financial benefits over the course of your life far outweigh the immediate financial burden. When you think of the thousands of dollars you will save or have the potential to earn in the long run, the value of hiring a reputable drug crimes attorney can’t be beat.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a San Diego Drug Possession Case
At Zentz&Zentz, we know the challenges that lie ahead when you are facing criminal charges ranging from DUI and drug possession to more extreme cases such as drug trafficking. We know you need someone you can trust on your side when your freedom is at stake, and we have the track record to prove that we get results. Visit our website today
to find out more about how we can help you look out for your future.