California Possession of Codeine: Charges, Penalties and Defenses

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 Is Codeine a Controlled Substance in California?

Yes, in California, codeine is considered a controlled substance. It is an opioid pain medication that is available by prescription but is subject to abuse and can lead to addiction.

What Is Controlled Substance Possession?

Controlled substance possession refers to the unlawful possession of drugs that are regulated by the state. This means having the drugs on one’s person, on one’s property, or under one’s control without a valid prescription or authorization.

What Must the Prosecutor Show to Convict Me of Possession of Codeine?

To convict you of possession of codeine in California, the prosecutor must prove several elements:

You Possessed the Drug

Possession is a fundamental element in drug-related offenses. Possession doesn’t merely mean having the drug on your immediate person, like in your hand or pocket. It can extend to having the drug in places where you exercise control, such as your house, car, or even a locker.

For instance, if codeine tablets are found in a backpack that you carry, that would indicate direct possession. Similarly, discovering tablets in the glove compartment of your car could also point towards possession, given that you have dominion over that space.

You Knew of its Presence

Awareness or knowledge of the drug’s presence is crucial to establish guilt. You cannot be rightfully convicted if you genuinely did not know the drug was in your possession. This principle ensures that people are not wrongfully convicted due to someone else’s actions, like if a friend secretly stashes codeine in the defendant’s bag.

To illustrate, if someone borrows your jacket and leaves a bottle of codeine in the pocket, and you are unaware of it, then you lack knowledge of its presence, challenging the basis for a conviction.

You Knew of the Substance’s Nature or Character as a Controlled Substance

It’s not enough for a defendant to just know they had a substance; they must also be aware of its illegal or controlled nature. This element distinguishes between innocent possession of a substance and culpable possession of an illegal drug.

For example, consider that you possess a bottle believing it contains over-the-counter pain relievers, but it actually contains codeine. In that case, you might argue you didn’t recognize the substance’s controlled nature, assuming you can provide substantial evidence of your belief.

The Controlled Substance was Codeine

For a specific charge related to codeine possession, the substance in question must be verified as codeine. It’s essential for the prosecution to provide conclusive evidence, usually through laboratory tests, to confirm the substance’s identity. This eliminates scenarios where a defendant could be wrongfully charged due to a substance that looks like codeine but isn’t. For instance, if someone has white tablets that are later identified as simple aspirin and not codeine, then the charge would be invalid.

The Controlled Substance was in a Usable Amount

The substance’s quantity is also essential. “Usable amount” means that there’s enough of the drug present for someone to use it as intended, whether that’s consumption, sale, or any other use. Typically, trivial or trace amounts that can’t be used won’t suffice for a conviction.

To illustrate, if only remnants that can’t be consumed or measured are found at the bottom of a bottle, it might be argued that it’s not a usable amount, making conviction on possession charges harder.

Why Have My Roommate and I Been Accused of Possessing Codeine?

Accusations can arise for several reasons:

Codeine in a Shared Living Space

When codeine or any other controlled substance is found in a shared living space, such as a shared apartment, house, or even a shared room, it can create a complex legal situation. The discovery might lead authorities to believe that both residents either knew about or had control over the drug, even if one of them had no involvement.

For instance, if codeine is found in the common area of an apartment, like the living room or the kitchen, it becomes challenging to pinpoint which roommate the substance belongs to. Due to the shared nature of the space, both residents might face scrutiny and potential legal consequences unless clear evidence or testimony can differentiate responsibility.

Evidence of Sharing or Jointly Obtaining Codeine

Accusations can intensify if there’s evidence or even rumors that suggest both roommates were involved in sharing or jointly acquiring the codeine. Such evidence could range from messages exchanged between the roommates discussing the drug, eyewitness accounts of them consuming it together, or financial transactions pointing to a joint purchase.

For example, assume that both roommates are seen on a security camera visiting a known drug dealer or that their bank statements show a joint payment to a suspicious source. In that case, it could bolster the belief that both were involved, thereby complicating their legal defense.

False Prescription or Fraudulent Acquisition

Utilizing a false prescription or any deceptive means to obtain codeine is illegal and can lead to serious charges beyond mere possession. If one roommate obtains codeine through such means, the other roommate could be implicated, especially if they were present during the purchase, had knowledge of the false prescription, or even if the prescription was acquired under their name without their knowledge.

For instance, if Roommate A steals Roommate B’s identity or medical paperwork to forge a prescription and the pharmacy or doctor’s office reports this, both might be investigated. Despite being a potential victim of identity theft, roommate B could face legal scrutiny if it appears they benefited from the fraudulently obtained codeine or failed to report the theft upon discovering it.

Is Having Codeine in Your System the Same as Having It in Your Possession?

No, having codeine in your system indicates consumption, but it does not equate to possession. Possession refers to physically holding or controlling the substance. However, having codeine in your system without a prescription might lead to other legal consequences or indicate a misdemeanor offense like being under the influence of a controlled substance.

What Is the Penalty for Possession of Codeine?

The possible penalties for possession of codeine in CA are:

  • Simple possession for personal use: This is usually a misdemeanor that carries up to 1 year in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. However, many cases can be dismissed without jail time if the defendant completes a drug diversion program such as Proposition 36, Penal Code 1000 PC, or California drug courts.
    • In some cases, simple possession can be charged as a felony if the defendant has certain prior convictions, such as murder, sex crimes, or gross vehicular manslaughter. The felony penalties are up to 3 years in jail and/or $10,000 in fines.
  • Possession for sale: This is always a felony that carries 2, 3, or 4 years in prison and/or $1,000 to $10,000 in fines. The prosecution will try to prove the intent to sell by showing evidence such as large quantities of codeine, packaging materials, scales, cash, or drug records.
  • Selling or transporting codeine: This is also a felony that carries 3, 4, or 5 years in prison and/or $1,000 to $10,000 in fines. If the defendant transported codeine across more than two county lines with the intent to sell, the penalties increase to 3, 6, or 9 years in prison.
  • Being under the influence of codeine: This is a misdemeanor that carries up to 1 year in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. However, most cases can be dismissed without jail time if the defendant completes a drug diversion program.
  • Driving under the influence of codeine: This is a misdemeanor that carries up to 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines for a first offense. The penalties increase for subsequent offenses or if the defendant caused injury or death to another person. The defendant may also face license suspension, probation, and DUI classes.

These are the general penalties for possession of codeine in CA. However, they may vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case. These include the amount of codeine, the criminal history of the defendant, and the impact of the offense on the victims or the community. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a local California lawyer if facing any codeine charges in CA.

What Are the Defenses for Possession of Codeine Charge?

Several defenses might be applicable:

  • Valid Prescription: If you have a lawful prescription, it’s a valid defense.
  • Lack of Knowledge: If you didn’t know you possessed the drug or didn’t know it was a controlled substance.
  • Duress: If you were forced or threatened to possess the drug against your will.
  • Illegal Search and Seizure: If the codeine was found during an unlawful search by law enforcement.

Should I Speak With an Attorney?

Absolutely. If you’ve been charged or are under investigation for possession of codeine, it’s important to understand your rights and potential defenses. A local California lawyer experienced in drug-related cases can provide valuable guidance.

Contact a California drug lawyer through LegalMatch to ensure you get the best representation possible.


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