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What are the penalties for drug possession in California?

Illegal possession of drugs can have vastly varying consequences depending on a range of factors. In 1986, a number of guidelines for mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses were enacted under federal law. Many states have chosen to take a similar approach, but the severity of sentences differ dramatically from one state to the next. However, compared with other states, sentences for drug possession in California are some of the lightest.

According to FindLaw, these sentences can be as little as between $30 and $500 in fines, in addition to or alternatively, 15 to 180 days of jail time. However, aside from the mandatory minimum sentencing, a number of other factors can influence the severity of the penalties for possession.

These include:

  • Previous convictions - a first offense may carry a lighter sentence.
  • The type of drug found and its quantity.
  • Whether an intent to distribute or manufacture the drug is suspected.
  • Failure to appear in court when required.
  • Negotiation of a plea deal.

As we learned in a previous article, drug-related convictions can also cost you a number of rights, including permission to hold a professional license, adopt a child or even vote. So, even though California's drug sentencing guidelines are comparatively light, they are still to be taken seriously.

A drug conviction can seriously impact your life, regardless of its severity. Aside from the penalties discussed, you may experience damage to your reputation, which may affect other people's perception of you. It can put a strain on your home life and on you personally. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the severity of your sentence or avoid conviction altogether. An attorney may be able to advise you about the course of action that might best-suit your needs.

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