While there are many drug crimes in California, over the past decade, many charges that were once classified as felonies have been reduced by legislative efforts down to misdemeanors. These changes are the result of a rise in the drug and opioid epidemic throughout California, as well as the increase in inmate population in state prisons and county jails. However, many serious charges such as sales of drugs continue to be prosecuted as felonies and persons found guilty of such charges are punished harshly by being sent to state prison.
In determining how a drug prosecution will proceed, prosecutors will consider factors such as the age and criminal history of the person, the quantity of the illegal substance, the sophistication of the operation, the use of a firearm, the use of scales, ledgers, and individual packaging.
Prosecutions for simple possession of drugs are mostly charged as misdemeanors. However, in some cases, where the quantity of drugs is substantial, there can be a dispute whether that amount was intended for sale (which would likely be charged as a felony) vs. whether the drugs were for personal use only (likely only a misdemeanor charge).
In many drug cases, police illegally search my clients, and my office has been very successful in getting the evidence suppressed (excluded) and the case dismissed.