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California’s drug laws may be extremely complex, but one thing is clear: heroin is always illegal. Since heroin has no legitimate medical usage and has a high potential for abuse, it is classified as a “Schedule 1” drug under both state and federal controlled substance laws. Not only is it illegal to possess, sell, or traffic in heroin, but also it is illegal to be under the influence of heroin or to even be present while others are using heroin in some circumstances. If you are currently under investigation for a heroin crime, or if you have recently been arrested on a heroin charge, San Bernardino and Riverside County heroin crime lawyer Gregory H. Comings can work with you to identify possible defenses to the crime with which you are charged. A drug crime lawyer may play a key role in minimizing the consequences that you are facing.
California Health & Safety Code § 11350 renders the simple possession of heroin (and several other substances) illegal. A violation of this statute may be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending largely upon the defendant’s prior criminal record. If the defendant is sentenced for a misdemeanor, they might face up to a year in the county jail, plus a considerable fine. In cases in which the possession of heroin is prosecuted as a felony, a guilty verdict might result in up to four years in state prison. Some simple possession offenders may qualify for participation in California’s drug diversion program, through which the defendant may participate in a drug treatment or rehabilitation program rather than going to prison. If the diversion program is successfully completed, the defendant’s charges may be dismissed. A heroin crime attorney in Riverside County or San Bernardino can help you advocate for diversion if it is applicable.
Just as with other controlled substances, the penalties for heroin crimes get harsher when the defendant possesses more than an amount suitable for personal consumption. Possession of heroin for sale is a felony and may result in anywhere from two years to more than two decades of imprisonment, depending upon the amount in question. Similar penalties are possible in sale of heroin and transportation of heroin cases, which are considered the most serious heroin-related crimes under California’s statutory scheme. Generally speaking, people who sell or traffic more than a kilogram of heroin face the harshest penalties, including a sentence enhancement of up to 25 years and a fine of up to $8 million. Driving under the influence of heroin is punished similarly to driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI/DWI) and may result in the suspension of the offender’s driving privileges, DUI school, jail time, a fine, or probation.
It may be possible to defeat a heroin charge or at least avoid the harshest possible penalties for a conviction by the assertion of one or more defenses. Some possible defenses are based on the federal Constitution, such as a motion to exclude evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches or seizures. Other defenses, such as entrapment or police misconduct, may be possible in some cases. The defendant may also be able to convince the jury that the State failed to prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because of the unreliable nature of some of the evidence offered against the defendant.
In California, any crime involving heroin has the potential to result in significant penalties and lifelong consequences for the defendant. If you or a loved one is facing a heroin charge, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The police and the State’s attorney will fight hard for a conviction. You need an advocate who will look out for your interests at every step of the way. To talk about your case with San Bernardino and Riverside County heroin crime attorney Gregory H. Comings, call us at 951-686-3457 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.