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Cocaine Possession in California


What is Cocaine? 

Derived from the leaves of a coca plant, cocaine is a stimulant that often comes in powder form to be inhaled (or snorted), but it is also sometimes injected or smoked. The recreational drug increases the level of dopamine in the brain and speeds up your body mentally and physically – with the high generally lasting between 15 and 30 minutes. 

After becoming popular in the 1980s and 1990s, cocaine has continued to be one of the main party drugs of choice. Although the drug has very limited accepted medical use, it is rarely used by healthcare providers in the United States. 

What Happens If I am Caught in Possession of Cocaine? 

In California, possession of cocaine for personal use is a misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. However, if a defendant has either a previous conviction for a serious felony or sex crime on their record, a first offense is a felony that carries imprisonment for up to three years. 

Fortunately, a conviction for personally possessing cocaine can make you eligible for a drug diversion program, such as drug court, Penal Code 1000 PC, or Proposition 36. Drug diversion allows defendants to participate in drug treatment in lieu of incarceration and successfully completing the program will result in having their drug charges dismissed. 

On the other hand, if a person is caught with a significant amount of cocaine or is found in possession of a scale, small individual baggies, or a large amount of cash, he/she could be charged with possession with intent to sell cocaine. A conviction is punishable by imprisonment for two, three, or four years and/or a fine of up to $20,000. 

However, if a person is charged with possession with intent to sell cocaine base, a conviction carries a prison term of three, four, or five years and/or a maximum fine of $20,000. Additionally, if the amount of cocaine or cocaine base is more than one kilogram, a person faces an additional prison term between three and 25 years, as well as a fine of up to $8 million. 

Legal Defenses to Cocaine Possession 

If you are facing a cocaine possession charge, there is a wide range of legal defenses your attorney can present on your behalf. Your lawyer can thoroughly examine your case, listen to your story, and determine the best available defenses to apply to your charges. 

The following are some of the common legal defenses against cocaine possession: 

  • The drug in question belonged to someone else 

  • Illegal search and seizure 

  • Police misconduct 

  • Entrapment 

If you have been arrested for a drug crime in Santa Barbara, call Appel & Morse at (805) 467-6060 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free consultation. Get two former prosecutors on your side! 

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