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Published on August 25th, 2014 | by Daniel R. Perlman


Simple Possession in California

The penalties for minor possession can vary from an infraction to the potential for a long prison sentence, depending on the substance you were found with. Whatever the charge, representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a substantial difference in the outcome.


California law imposes severe penalties including jail time for certain cases of cocaine possession. A conviction requires that a usable amount of cocaine, beyond a trace amount, is found in your possession. A conviction for simple possession of cocaine is a felony, with a potential prison sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years and a maximum fine of $20,000. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it is also possible that a conviction for simple possession of cocaine will qualify for a drug diversion program. There are much harsher penalties for possessing cocaine or cocaine base with an intent to sell it, selling cocaine, or transporting it.


As of January 1, 2011, possessing no more than one ounce or 28.5 grams of marijuana (other than concentrated cannabis) is an infraction punishable by a maximum fine of $100. Possessing marijuana residue or unusable traces of the drug isn’t sufficient to sustain a conviction and only indicates prior use. To convict for simple possession, you must possess enough marijuana so that it may be used as a drug. Simple possession of more than one ounce is a misdemeanor punishable with jail time and/or a fine of up to $500.

While a public defender may be available to those who lack sufficient financial resources, it is more than likely that the defense may not result in the best outcome. A definite advantage of hiring a private criminal defense attorney, especially if you are facing a misdemeanor, is that a private attorney can make court appearances on your behalf, thus keeping you out of court. Being represented by a public defender will require that you appear in court on every single court date.

An experienced drug violations attorney is often able to get minor drug use or possession charges dismissed outright and sales charges reduced to simple possession, with a possibility of dismissal if a drug diversion program is ordered. Depending on the facts of your case, you can benefit from an attorney familiar with community treatment and diversion programs that can protect you from criminal consequences, as well as extensive experience with strong defense presentation in court.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman

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