It depends on the county, but generally, it's a couple of months before it's resolved one way or the other and longer if you go to trial. Sometimes, depending on the case, you get to the arraignment, and you might be offered drug diversion. That's typically a drug court situation and involves cases that are less serious. Diversion allows a person to attend some classes and get counseling, and the case is dismissed or wiped off the record. That could be a month or two after the arrest. In cases that are diverted, people are usually released on their own recognizance if it's not a serious drug offense, or bail is set very low.
Juveniles are generally offered drug diversion so it doesn't stay on their record. If it goes to trial, then just like any other case, it could take as long as any other case.
What Are The Potential Penalties Associated With A Drug-Related Conviction?
Generally, if it's a state prison sentence, usually in California, they are 16 months, two years or three years, depending on whether you get a mitigated sentence, an aggravated sentence or the middle of the two. Some offenses carry higher penalties: if you're caught with large amounts of cocaine, the federal penalties can be as high as 20 years. There's also a lot of talk about changing those sentencing guidelines in the federal court because they're so harsh that people with non-violent drug offenses are getting long prison sentences.
California recently commuted drug-related sentences because it's just insane to sentence non-violent drug offenders to these huge sentences. There is talk in Congress about also changing those laws and giving the judges more discretion because under the federal system, their hands are tied in terms of sentencing. There's a lot of movement to give the judges more discretion in handing out sentences so they don't have to be bound by these long prison sentences.
Are Penalties Harsher If A Minor Is Somehow Involved In A Drug Case?
There are enhancements for that. These include being in a school zone when you're arrested, which can add time to a sentence as well.
How Do You Handle Drug Cases With No Viable Defense Options?
If there is no defense to it, what I would do is try and set it up for them to show that they can be rehabilitated and are trying to deal with the problem. I would show the judge that they understand they have a drug problem and are trying to deal with it by going to a residential program or an outpatient program. Other actual defense strategies generally center around the search: was it a legal search and/or was there probable cause.
Do Most Drug-Related Cases Settle Or Go To Trial?
Most cases in California don't go to trial; most of them are resolved short of trial. The rate of them going to trial probably depends on the circumstances of the case, but I would say 80% of them settle before trial.
Helpful Tips For People Charged With Drug Offenses In California
The first thing is to run to a lawyer. You have to get a lawyer to review the case and get an idea of what you are looking at and whether you have a defense or other avenues to take. The attitude towards some of these drug crimes is beginning to change about focusing more on treatment and getting people out of that cycle than putting them in jail, and one of the reasons is that jail doesn't do any good to them. It's not the end of the world to get charged with a drug offense; you just have to deal with it, and it's up to the individual. Some people will never recover from it; they'll continue to relapse, but others manage to get out of that cycle.
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