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Orange County Drug Crime Attorney

Arrested for a Drug Charge? Call (714) 530-9690

bottle of prescription pills You are facing life-changing penalties if you have been arrested for drug possession, drug distribution, drug manufacturing, or drug trafficking in Orange County. Local prosecutors often go for the harshest penalties possible for drug crimes. It's common for even first- time offenders to spend time in jail or prison.

A drug crime conviction can also lead to a number of other consequences, such as the loss of your job or a tarnished public reputation. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime, the experienced Orange County drug possession lawyers at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti can help protect your rights and explain your options. Call us at (888) 478-8999 to find out how we can help you fight these charges.

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What Are the Different Types of Drug Charges?

There are many different types of drug charges in that will put you in jail if you are convicted. The most serious drug-related offenses include drug possession for sale, drug manufacturing, and trafficking. Here are a few of the more common drug crimes in Orange County:

  • Possession: Health and Safety Code 11350 makes it a crime to possess a number of different drugs, including cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, meth, and crack cocaine. It is also illegal to possess prescription painkillers and medications, such as Vicodin or Codeine, without a doctor's prescription. Possessing a controlled substance can lead to a state prison sentence of up to three years.
  • Possession with Intent to Sell: It is a felony to sell, or simply possess illegal drugs with the intent to sell. Courts in Orange County do not have to prove that you made an exchange of drugs and money. They only need to show that you possessed the drugs for sale. It could hurt your defense if officials find weighing scales, packaging materials or a large quantity of drugs that you could not have reasonably possessed for personal use alone.
  • Transportation of Drugs: Selling, transporting, and furnishing drugs are felony crimes under Health and Safety Code 11352. Transporting drugs for sale can result in a seven-year prison sentence in California.
  • Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance: Health and Safety Code 1155 makes it a misdemeanor to "be under the influence" of a controlled substance. The list of items that fall under the definition of controlled substance in California include heroin, cocaine, meth, ecstasy, GHB, and prescription medications like Xanax or Valium. A conviction carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail.
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia: Health and Safety Code 11364 makes it a misdemeanor to possess" an opium pipe or any device, contrivance, instrument, or paraphernalia used for unlawfully injecting or smoking or controlled substance." Under California law, drug paraphernalia may include needles, pipes, bongs, and cocaine spoons. A conviction for drug paraphernalia may lead to up to six months in county jail.
  • Cultivation: Health and Safety Code 11358 makes it a felony to illegally grow, harvest, or process marijuana. The penalty for a first cultivation offense is up to three years in county jail.

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What Are Potential Penalties for Orange County Drug Crimes?

In California, drug crimes are known as a "wobbler." This means drug crimes can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Which charge you face will depend on the drug your charge involves and the amount. Whether or not a drug crime will result in felony charges will depend on a number of different circumstances. You may be able to avoid jail time if you are a first-time offender in possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use.

Other potential penalties include probation, drug counseling, drug treatment programs, jail, state prison time, community service, fines and a forfeiture of assets. Regardless of the charges and what penalties could result from a conviction, it's crucial for an OC criminal attorney to review the facts of the case to determine the best possible outcome.

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Aggravating Factors for Drug Charges

In California, there are a number of factors that come into play when dealing with sentencing on a drug charge. Someone convicted of a first offense with a small amount of cocaine is probably going to receive a very different sentence from someone convicted of a second offense in possession of a large quantity, who sold it to a minor near a church. These elements are called "aggravating factors" and they can greatly increase the sentence of someone who is convicted. Common aggravating factors for drug charges in California include:

  • Prior Convictions - Having at least one prior felony conviction for a drug crime, not including personal use, can add up to three consecutive years in jail for each prior conviction.
  • Selling to Certain Individuals - Selling or giving drugs to someone who is pregnant, previously convicted of a violent felony, or being treated for a mental health or drug problem can call for a strict sentence. While codes do not specifically indicate additional years in prison for such offenses, a judge is likely to choose the harshest penalty possible during sentencing if this type of situation occurs.
  • Trafficking Near Drug Treatment Facilities and Homeless Shelters - Sales of heroin or cocaine and cocaine-based drugs on or within 1,000 feet of a drug treatment center or homeless shelter can add up to one additional year in prison following a conviction.
  • Large Quantities - This specifically applies to heroin and cocaine, but if you are convicted of selling or transporting particularly large amounts of these drugs, then you can have additional jail time added to your initial sentence. The time added depends on the quantity: three years for more than 1 kilogram; five years for more than 4 kilograms; 10 years for more than 10 kilograms; 15 years for more than 20 kilograms; and 20 years for more than 40 kilograms.
  • Involvement of a Minor - Someone who is over the age of 18 but sells or provides drugs to a minor under 18 years of age, or who uses a minor to sell, transport, or give drugs to others can receive an increased sentence under Health and Safety Code 11353. If the person convicted is four or more years older than the minor, then a separate charge can add one to three years to the sentence.
  • Trafficking Near a School or Place of Worship - One or two years can be added to a sentence if the drugs involved heroin or cocaine, and sale or use took place at or within 1,000 feet of a school, place of worship, or other facility where minors are often found.

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Legal Drugs and Illegal Actions

While there are a number of drugs that are legal to possess and use, such as marijuana under a physician's recommendation or prescription drugs, there are certain ways in which they cannot be used. Driving under the influence of marijuana, for example, is illegal under Vehicle Code 23152, but it is not as clearly defined as driving while intoxicated by alcohol. Marijuana should, therefore, be used responsibly in order to avoid accidents and potential injury.

Possession of prescription drugs, without a prescription, is also illegal. Similarly, you cannot sell or distribute your own prescription drugs to someone else. Much like distribution of illegal drugs, an individual may face harsher punishments if the drugs are sold or given to a minor. Bringing drugs into or out of California, even marijuana, is illegal and can result in serious fines and jail time.

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Consequences for Juvenile Offenders

In general, the penalties for a juvenile committing a drug crime are less harsh than those for adults, but still have serious consequences for the future. Light offenses like possession are treated with counseling, therapy, and community service to guide the teenager away from the path of addiction. Distribution can be a slippery slope: the cases often involve local gangs who use students to peddle drugs in and around campuses, and may involve California’s anti-gang laws.

While the courts may grant a first-time offender leniency, if the juvenile has a history of crimes and seems aware of how serious his actions were, the court can level harsh penalties. Most cases are tried in juvenile courts, but felony crimes run the risk of pushing the teenager into adult court.

Even being tried at the juvenile level can impact a child’s future, in such things as college placements, job options, and scholarship opportunities.

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Beating a Drug Charge

Despite California’s seemingly loose stance on drugs, local district attorneys in Orange County seek harsh penalties for even the lightest offenses. Where other counties and cities adapted to the legalization of marijuana, for example, much of Orange County and Irvine pushed back and blocked the expansion of cannabis sales. Overall, OC is still fighting a “war on drugs,” which is why you need an equally aggressive defense.

Every case is different, but in our experience at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, the most common defenses are:

  • You were not aware you had drugs in your possession.
  • You had a legal prescription for the drugs.
  • You had no intent to use, sell, or distribute drugs.
  • The drugs were seized in an unlawful search and seizure.
  • A crime lab analysis shows that the substance you possessed was not an illegal drug.

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The Need for an Experienced Orange County Drug Crime Lawyer

If you are facing drug crime charges in Orange County, you are looking at potential long-term consequences, including losing your job or going to jail. At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, we believe in your constitutional right to a fair trial.

We will explore all possible defenses and work hard toward a positive outcome. Call our offices today to schedule your no-cost consultation and case evaluation. Take a step in the right direction. Contact us at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to find out how our team can help you.

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Frequently Asked Question About California Drug Crimes

What Is California’s Diversion Program?

Over the years, California has focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment when it comes to drug crimes. Through either Prop 36 or California Penal Code 1000, a defendant in a non-violent drug case may be able to enter a treatment program rather than face jail time. Both of these programs have specific requirements (for example, you are not eligible if you are being charged with a violent crime in conjunction with a drug crime), but there are differences. By California Penal Code 1000, a drug diversion program is only available for first-time offenders charged with possession. However, with Prop 36, a defendant can enter a treatment program if they have a maximum of one prior possession charge.

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Can I Possess Marijuana in California?

Since 2016, adults 21 and older can consume marijuana for personal or medicinal use. You must buy from a licensed dispensary (delivery from these dispensaries is also allowed) and can also possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and 8 grams of cannabis concentrate. You are also allowed to cultivate up to six plants on your own, regardless of their stage of growth. Driving while under the influence of marijuana, however, is illegal; as is having an “open container” of cannabis with you in the vehicle.

Keep in mind that marijuana possession and use is still illegal under federal laws. California state laws do not protect use of marijuana on federal lands within the state. Other states do not have similar laws and prosecute marijuana possession and use more aggressively. Be aware of any reciprocal state laws when traveling and do not possess or use marijuana on federal land.

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When Can the Police Search a Vehicle for Drugs?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure by law enforcement on a federal, state, and local level. That means that an officer must have a valid search warrant issued by a judge in order to search you or your property and seize evidence to later be used against you. With that in mind, there are a number of exceptions to warrant requirements:

  • If voluntary consent is given
  • Searches performed during a lawful arrest for weapons or criminal evidence that could otherwise be destroyed
  • Vehicle searches where police have probable cause to believe that criminal evidence exists in the vehicle
  • Searches of incriminating items in plain view
  • Inspection searches, such as at international borders
  • Emergency situations in which the search or seizure prevents physical harm, property damage, or escape by a suspect
  • Search of outer clothing of a criminal suspect while temporarily detained to look for weapons
  • Situations in which an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy

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An Undercover Officer Asked to Buy Drugs, Is That Entrapment?

Short answer: no, it is not. Police are allowed to deceive a suspect that they believe is willing to commit a crime in order to provide the opportunity for the individual to do so. Undercover officers involved in buying drugs or soliciting prostitution are not committing entrapment by approaching suspects and asking for them to do something illegal. Reasonable people are expected to not commit a crime merely when presented with an opportunity to do so.

In California, entrapment occurs if a law enforcement officer causes a normally law abiding person to commit a crime due to pressure, harassment, threats, or fraud. Entrapment can be very difficult to prove as a defense, but it does happen and can help keep a defendant from suffering excessive consequences. If you have been charged with a drug crime and believe the police used entrapment to force you to act against your will, then you need an experienced California defense attorney to represent you.

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Additional Information

Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.

(714) 530-9690

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Client Reviews

“It was strongly recommended that I call federal defense attorney Michael L. Guisti. He had several investigators look at records and such, and my federal case was dismissed. Michael Guisti does what few attorneys can do, beat the federal government, and that is why if you’re in trouble with the government you need to call Michael Guisti right away!”

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“I had everything to lose, my future, my education. Basically I did something that got me a misdemeanor, and the judge wanted to give a guilty plea. But Michael Guisti would not back down. Instead he fought for me, and now my record is clean.”

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“Back in 2003 I was facing attempted murder. My family hired Michael Guisti to represent me. He is a very good attorney. He always answered my calls, addressed my questions and concerns, and kept me updated about my case. Thank you Michael Guisti for winning my case. I highly recommend anyone facing a criminal charge to see Michael Guisti.”

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Case Results

sex crimes

Case Dropped

Young man charged and arrested for sexual battery.


Case Dropped

Man charged with assault with a deadly weapon for hitting someone in the face with a heavy metal dust pan.

drug crimes

Served Less Than 30 Days in Jail

Young man charged with selling 1000 tabs of ecstasy to undercover officer.

Attempted Murder

Reduced to Assault With Deadly Weapon

Young man knocks the eye out his victim with a metal pipe. Charged with attempted murder and aggravated mayhem. Both cases carried life sentences.

Assault & Battery

Serves 80 Days on Work Furlough

Woman arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon using scissors on a co-worker.

Vehicular Assault

Serves 80 Days on Work Furlough

Man charged with three felony counts of vehicular assault with a deadly weapon.


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