Opioids like fentanyl and oxycontin have some medical benefits. However, the substances are highly addictive.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of opioid overdose-related deaths has increased significantly in recent years in California and the United States. Over the past two years, the number of deaths related to opioids like fentanyl has risen from 229 to 559 per 100,000 individuals in the state.

This has caused the state to implement measures to create awareness of the effects of addiction and overdose on these drugs. Additionally, strict laws exist on these substances' possession, sale, transportation, and use. California has some of the strictest drug laws in the country. Therefore, a conviction for a drug-related offense could result in lengthy prison sentences.

Additionally, the convictions can enter your criminal record, impacting your personal and professional lives. While you battle your drug charges, you must have expert legal guidance. Your choice of legal representation could make the difference between being imprisoned, acquitted, or dismissing your charges.

Understanding California Drug Laws

California has multiple transit hubs and a common border with Mexico. Due to this, drugs come in and out of the state regularly. California law has implemented various measures over the years to combat illegal possession of drugs and other drug dependency-related offenses.

Drugs or controlled substances are classified into different categories depending on their potency, and they include:

Schedule I

The drug's presence in Schedule 1 controlled substances makes it one of the most addictive and dangerous substances. These drugs do not have a medical value and are more likely to cause dependency. The drugs that fall under this category are primarily hallucinogens and opiates such as cocaine, heroin, peyote, and mescaline.

Schedule II

The substances under Schedule II have little or no known medical value and can be highly addictive. Most substances in this category are dangerous under all circumstances, while others pose a danger when abused. Some of the drugs in Schedule II include morphine, Vicodin, opium, and methamphetamines.

Schedule III

This is the midpoint of controlled substances, and the drugs in this category have some medical value. Schedule III covers a wide range of substances, including stimulants and steroids.

Schedule IV

Schedule IV-controlled substances have significant medical value but could be addictive when used for a prolonged period. Examples of Schedule IV substances include Xanax, Pemoline, and Ativan.

Schedule V

The substances are Schedule V if you have a valid prescription. The schedule includes numerous cough suppressants and substances used in other prescription drugs. These substances include difenoxin, buprenorphine, and codeine.

Whether the controlled substance is an illegal narcotic or a prescription drug obtained without a prescription, California law seeks to prosecute and punish defendants for:

  • Drug possession
  • Drug trafficking
  • Possession of controlled substances to sell
  • Manufacture and cultivation of controlled substances

A conviction for a drug-related offense attracts severe legal and collateral consequences. Penalty severity will depend on the type and quantity of the substance involved.

Opioid Addiction in California

Up to 8% of people in California fight addiction, according to the California Healthcare Foundation. Opioids are commonly abused drugs and have a high risk of addiction. Opioids are a class of medications obtained from opium plants and can cause a range of reactions in your brain. Although opioids are a component of prescription medications and can be prescribed for pain relief, they can be classified as illegal narcotics.

When used for pain relief, opioids block pain receptors in the brain and cause the user to relax. You cannot purchase opioids over the counter. Instead, you must have a valid prescription from a healthcare practitioner to obtain the substance.

Commonly used opioids include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Heroine
  • Prescription medications like oxycontin

Prolonged use of opioids can cause dependence and tolerance, which creates a need for more substantial doses and frequent use. This causes an addiction, which can lead a user to overdose. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have put measures in place to combat this tragic pattern, opioids remain hazardous and highly addictive.

Several factors could increase a person’s risk of overdosing on opioids, including:

  • Changes in drug tolerance due to taking less of the drug or not using
  • Changes in drug supply
  • Mixing opioids with alcohol and other depressants, like benzos
  • Having chronic conditions like Hepatitis C, heart disease, and HIV

The misuse, addiction, and overdose of opioids can present the following health issues:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Disorientation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Death

Prescription Drugs

Many people assume that you will only be charged with a drug crime for possessing, selling or transporting illegal narcotics, which is not the case. Prescription medications have many health benefits and are prescribed for individuals battling different disease conditions. However, they are still controlled substances, and California drug laws regulate their sale, purchase, and use.

Different statutes address offenses involving prescription medications and their potential punishment after a conviction. They include:

Illegal Possession of Prescription Medication

Possessing prescription medication is not always illegal. However, you could face arrest and criminal charges for possessing the substances without a valid prescription. With the rise of illegal possession of prescription medications in the United States, prosecutors in California are strict when prosecuting the perpetrators of this offense.

Possession of drugs like fentanyl, codeine, and Vicodin with an expired prescription or a forged prescription will cause criminal charges under California Health and Safety Code 11350. The prosecution in your case must prove these elements to secure a conviction against you:

  • You possess prescription medications.
  • You did not have a valid prescription for the controlled substance.
  • You knew that the substance was in your possession.
  • The amount you possess is usable.

If you are a first-time offender, your conviction for illegal possession of prescription medication will result in a jail sentence of up to one year and fines not exceeding $1000.

A repeat offender's violation of this statute is charged as a felony. The potential punishment for a felony conviction includes a prison sentence ranging from sixteen months to three years.

Possession of Prescription Medications for Sale

California HSC 11351 makes it a crime to possess prescription medications with the intent to sell them. The elements specific to this offense include:

  • You possess prescription medication. Possession, in this case, means you had the drugs on yourself or that you exercised control over them.
  • You intended to sell the substance. Your intent to sell the prescription medication differentiates this offense from simple possession.

The prosecution will establish your intent to sell the prescription medication by looking into how the drugs are packaged and the quantity of the substance that you possess. Illegal possession of prescription medication with the intent to sell is a felony; a conviction for the offense will see you spend up to four years in prison.

The court could also impose fines of up to $20,000. You will benefit from expert legal insight if you are charged with violating California HSC 11351.

Transportation and the Illegal Sale of Prescription Medication

California HSC 11352 makes it a crime to transport or sell prescription medication without proper licensing. Prescription medications are used to treat different illnesses. Therefore, licensed practitioners can sell the substances to individuals with valid prescriptions. Otherwise, attempts to transport or sell these substances will land you in serious legal trouble.

To obtain a conviction for transportation and sale of prescription medications, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • You gave away, sold, imported, or transported a controlled substance.
  • You knew about the presence of prescription drugs.
  • You knew that the prescription medication you possessed was a controlled substance in California.
  • You possessed a usable amount of the prescription medication.

A violation of HSC 11352 is a felony. A conviction for the offense can result in up to five years in prison. If you illegally transported the prescription medication across county lines, your prison sentence will be enhanced to a maximum of nine years. In addition to incarceration, a conviction under this statute can stain your criminal record.

Illegal Use of Prescription Medication

California law criminalizes the illegal use of prescription medications under HSC 11550. Being under the influence of prescription medications is a misdemeanor that could result in a jail sentence of up to one year.

Being intoxicated can impair your physical and mental capacity if you operate machinery or a motor vehicle while in this state, you risk a longer jail sentence and a driver’s license suspension.

Prescription Drug Fraud

California HSC 11173 criminalizes prescription medication fraud or doctor shopping. This offense occurs when you obtain prescription medications by providing false information or pretending to be another person to enable you to obtain the medications.

Another way to violate this statute is to alter drug labels to misrepresent the kinds of drugs in the packages. Prescription fraud could be charged against medical practitioners who illegally prescribe medications and individuals who misrepresent facts when obtaining medicines.

A violation of Health and Safety Code 11173 is a wobbler. The prosecution can file a felony or misdemeanor charge against you based on your specific case circumstances. As a felony, the offense is punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years. A misdemeanor conviction, on the other hand, is punishable by a year in jail.

Medical practitioners have an added risk of losing their practice license through a suspension or revocation for this crime.

Fentanyl Laws

Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid. The strength and effect of this drug are up to 100 times those of morphine. Fentanyl is used for pain management but has a high addictive potential. The increase in fentanyl-related deaths in the United States has prompted severe legislative action to combat its abuse and save lives.

California has strict laws on fentanyl possession, distribution and use. Fentanyl falls under Schedule II of controlled substances. Possession of the substance without a valid prescription could result in an arrest and criminal charges under California Health and Safety Code 11350.

Possession of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor. However, if there is evidence that you distributed or sold the substance, you can face severe felony charges. Over the past few years, California has taken several measures to address the fentanyl crisis in the state, including:

Senate Bill 1109

The passing of this bill provided a way for a better understanding of the crisis and to facilitate more responses by acquiring a report for all fentanyl-related deaths in the state.

Senate Bill 10

This law protects high school and middle school students from opioid overdoses. This is done by educating students and staff about the dangers of opioids and implementing safety plans.

Senate Bill 250

This is an expansion of Assembly Bill 472, which is about overdose fatality prevention. SB 250 states that you will not be criminally liable for an opioid overdose or help an individual who has overdosed by calling emergency medical responders. However, you must not interfere with law enforcement or medical personnel’s roles.

Senate Bill 19

The Anti-Fentanyl Abuse Task Force established this bill to collect and organize data on fentanyl abuse in California. Additionally, the bill ensures proper monitoring of the state-enacted measures for the prevention of fentanyl abuse and overdose.

Assembly Bill 701

AB 701 saw the amendment of California Health and Safety Code 11370.4 and 112372 with the introduction of harsher sentences for possession of fentanyl and substances containing the drug.

Assembly Bill 1060

As an effective way to save lives from the opioid overdose epidemic, Assembly Bill 1060n expanded access to naloxone, which helps reverse the effects of fentanyl and other opioids.

Find a Reliable Drug-Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me

Possession of prescription medication in California is legal for individuals with a valid prescription. However, possessing more than the required amount and the sale and transportation of these substances could land you in serious legal trouble. A conviction for these drug crimes will see you spend a significant amount of time behind bars and pay hefty fines.

The consequences of a conviction for illegal possession, transportation, and sale of opioids and prescription medications can be life-changing. Therefore, you will need a skilled criminal defense lawyer to guide you through building a solid defense against your case.

At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we are your best option if you seek expert legal guidance and representation to combat your drug crime charges in Sacramento, CA. Contact us at 916-779-3500 to discuss your case details.