California: Possession of a Controlled Substance

Possession of a controlled substance, also known as “drug possession” or “simple possession” is classified as a misdemeanor offense pursuant to California’s Proposition 47. The difference between simple possession and possession for the purposes of sale is that a defendant merely had possession of a substance but had no intentions of selling it. In other words, one merely possessed it for personal use.

Although simple possession is a misdemeanor, it could have devastating consequences. A drug charge could affect one’s ability to obtain state licensing or obtain a bank/student loan, therefore it’s critical that one retain a skilled drug attorney to defeat the charges by earning a dismissal or acquittal. If one is a repeat drug offender, consequently, the penalties become harsher and make certain diversion programs unavailable.

Contact Attorney John Rogers Immediately

Los Angeles Drug Crimes Lawyer John Rogers understands that controlled substance charges can occur at any time of day which is why he makes himself available 7 days a week to consult with individuals accused of such offenses. The best approach to defeating substance cases is early criminal defense attorney intervention, contact Mr. Rogers immediately.

Elements of the Crime

In order to prove that someone is guilty of possession of a controlled substance, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Defendant was in possession of a substance
  2. Defendant knew of its presence
  3. Defendant had knowledge of its characteristic
  4. The substance was an illicit narcotic
  5. The substance was a usable amount

Common Types of Controlled Substances

  • Marijuana
  • Ecstasy
  • Concentrated Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Peyote
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Oxycodone
  • Vicodin
  • Psilocybin Mushrooms
  • Prescription Medication

What are the Legal Defenses to Possession of a Controlled Substance?

  • You were not in “possession” of a controlled substance. Note however, possession may be proven by actual or constructive possession. However, mere presence at a scene alone does not justify sufficient evidence to prove possession. Similarly, merely agreeing to buy a controlled substance does not justify possession either.
  • You had momentary or transitory possession of the substance with the intentions of disposing it. For instance, you discovered the substance on the ground and you were in the means of discarding it in a trash bin when you were detained by police officers. Additionally, this defense requires that you had no intentions of prohibiting police officers from obtaining the substance.
  • You did not have knowledge you were in possession of a controlled substance. For instance, your friend left their backpack in your case where an officer subsequently search and located the substance. Since you did not have knowledge of the substance’s presence, you would be not guilty of possession for sale of a controlled substance.
  • The substance was not illegal. Perhaps you had a valid prescription permitting you to carry the quantity of pills or marijuana.
  • The amount was not a usable quantity. The standard is whether there was enough substance to ingest but need not have any effect on the user. But mere residue will not suffice to constitute a usable amount under this section.
  • The police officers unlawfully searched and seized you in violation of the fourth amendment of the U.S. constitution.
  • The police officers are lying, fabricating, planting, or exaggerating the evidence against you.


Dan was a guest in his friend Bob’s house. While sitting on the couch watching television, police raid Bob’s home with a warrant. Police recover a bag of cocaine in one of the kitchen cabinets. Police arrest and charge Dan with possession of a narcotic substance. In this case, Dan would not be guilty of this charge because there is no evidence that Dan knew the substance was in the home. Additionally, Dan was not in possession of the substance nor had any right to exercise control over the substance.

What is the Punishment for Possession of a Controlled Substance?

  • Up to 1 year in the county jail
  • Adverse Immigration Consequences
  • Drug Counseling / Rehab & NA Meetings
  • Substantial Amount of Court Fines
  • Probation Supervision
  • Potentially Effecting State Licensing
  • Effecting Bank / Student Loans
  • Registering as a Narcotics Offender
  • Temporary Loss of Search & Seizure Rights
  • A Criminal Conviction on your Record

Avoiding Substance Possession Charges Early

Whether it be a first criminal offenses or a repeated offense, prosecutors support helping those that wish to seek treatment. After your arrest, the police officer writes a report which is immediately submitted to the district attorney’s office for review to determine whether or not to file possession charges. If you act immediately, your defense attorney can submit a package containing character letters, how you volunteered yourself in a drug counseling program, and any evidence in support of your possession in an effort to avoid the prosecutor from filing formal charges. This process requires immediate action, therefore it’s not recommend one sit and wait for charges to be filed against them but rather retain a criminal defense drug attorney immediately.

Free Los Angeles Drug Attorney Consultation

If you have been arrested or charged with possessing a narcotic, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense and Drug Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free consultation concerning your rights and defenses. Mr. Rogers has extensive experience and success in defending those accused of drug offenses. Mr. Rogers is located at 1801 Century Park East, 24th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Call (949) 625-4487 now for a free confidential consultation.

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