the State Bar of California
the San Diego Union-Tribune
The Press-Enterprise

Being Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance & Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

In California, it is illegal to be under the influence of a controlled substance pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 11550, subdivision (a), and it is also illegal to simply be in possession of drug paraphernalia pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 11364. Drug paraphernalia is broadly defined to include anything used to unlawfully inject or ingest a controlled substance, including metal spoons, pipes, syringes, tourniquets, and essentially anything else that can be used or manipulated in order to get drugs into the human body. This crime is a misdemeanor offense and subject to a maximum possible punishment of six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, plus court costs. Ironically, in some cases, a conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia may carry more severe consequences than what you would receive if convicted of possessing the drugs themselves.

Although possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor offense, it is significant to note that a conviction for this offense could have negative, collateral consequences that could affect the validity of certain professional licenses – including, but not limited to, those held by teachers, attorneys, real estate agents, certain contractors, and more. These penalties may include anything up to and including an actual suspension of your professional license. These are real consequences that can affect your ability to provide for your family and earn a livelihood!

Similarly, being under the influence of a controlled substance is also illegal pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 11550, subdivision (a). For purposes of this statute, “controlled substances” include heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and PCP, as well as some common prescription drugs including hydrocodone, morphine, or other opiates. It is significant to note that being “under the influence” for purposes of this statute differs substantially from “being under the influence” for the purpose of driving under the influence cases, where the prosecutor must prove that alcohol and/or drugs has “impaired” your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. For purposes of Health and Safety Code section 11550, subdivision (a), the prosecutor does not have to prove any sort of “impairment” for you to be convicted. If the effects of the controlled substance are detectable on you in any way whatsoever, that is enough to prove that you are “under the influence” for purposes of this statute.

As a misdemeanor, this crime is punishable by up to one year in county jail. However, if you suffer a third conviction for being under the influence of a controlled substance within a seven-year time period, then you face a much harsher, mandatory minimum sentence of six months in county jail. If this is your first offense for being under the influence of a controlled substance, you may be eligible to participate in a drug diversion program. If you are eligible to participate a program, successfully complete it, and adhere to the other requirements set forth by the court, your case will most likely be dismissed in as little as eighteen months in most instances.

If you have already been charged, or anticipate being charged, with possession of drug paraphernalia, being under the influence of a controlled substance, or any other drug related offense in the Murrieta area, contact the Law Office of Julie Ann Baldwin, APC for your free, confidential case consultation now. Your future and your freedom deserve to be taken seriously by an experienced attorney who is committed to quality representation and compassionate advocacy, every step of the way.

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