In California, it is only legal for an individual to possess Xanax if they have a valid prescription. Possession of Xanax in the state is defined as possession of Xanax without a valid prescription.
If an individual does not have a valid prescription, Xanax becomes a controlled substance. Without a valid prescription, Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
What Is Xanax?
Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is a prescription drug. It is a short-acting benzodiazepine that is used to treat chemical imbalances in the brain often associated with anxiety and depression. It may also be used to treat individuals with panic disorders. It can also be used to wean individuals from alcohol dependence by helping with the withdrawal symptoms, which sometimes lead to seizures.
Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, have a strong potential for addiction and have resulted in thousands of overdoses in the United States yearly. Withdrawals from these medications can include seizures and death. Taking Xanax in combination with alcohol can worsen the side effects.
Xanax is a commonly prescribed medication for many individuals with anxiety issues. It can, however, be used and abused in an off-label manner. Xanax works quickly within the body and can give the user:
- A sense of euphoria;
- A sense of unreality;
- A feeling of detachment;
- Emotional numbness.
It is only legal to possess Xanax if an individual has a valid prescription. In California, Xanax possession is a crime defined as possession of Xanax without a valid prescription. Without a valid prescription, Xanax is considered a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
There are also other drug crimes involving Xanax. These may include possessing too much of the drug at one time or Xanax possession for sale.
What Is the Controlled Substances Act?
The federal government enacted the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to assist in the regulation of the manufacture, possession, dispensing, distribution, and/or use of certain drugs and dangerous substances, known as controlled substances. Criminal and civil penalties can be imposed on any individual who unlawfully violates the CSA.
The CSA includes a long list of substances divided into five categories called schedules. Substances are assigned to a schedule based on their characteristics, including:
- Medicinal value;
- Possibility of abuse;
- Safety for the public; and
- Likelihood of dependency.
By assigning substances to categories, it is easier to regulate and deregulate them as needed.
The main categories of substances included in the CSA are:
- Narcotics, including heroin, methadone, morphine, opium, and fentanyl;
- Stimulants, including cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines;
- Depressants, including GHB, rohypnol, and benzodiazepines;
- Hallucinogens, including LSD, peyote, and ecstasy; and
- Other substances such as marijuana, steroids, and inhalants which include household products such as spray paint or any other substances that give off chemical vapors that are inhaled for psychoactive effects.
The schedules are ranked I through V, from most dangerous to least dangerous, as follows:
- Schedule I substances: These have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse and/or dependency. They include heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana;
- Schedule II substances: These have some accepted medical use and a lesser potential for abuse than Schedule I. They include Vicodin, cocaine, and oxycontin;
- Schedule III substances: These have some acceptable medical use and are more dangerous than those in Schedules IV and V and carry a moderate to low risk of dependence. These include codeine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone;
- Schedule IV substances: These have a lower potential for abuse than Schedules I – III and have an accepted medical use. These include Ambien, Valium, and Xanax.; and
- Schedule V substances: These have the lowest comparative potential for abuse. They have an accepted medical usage and a low risk of dependence. These include cough medicine.
How Does California Define Xanax Possession for Personal Use Charge?
California defines the crime of Xanax possession for personal use as possessing Xanax without a valid prescription or in an amount exceeding the prescribed use. A valid prescription may be provided by a:
What if the Prescription Isn’t Currently Valid?
In California, it is illegal to possess Xanax for personal use if an individual’s prescription has expired. Trace amounts of a substance are not enough to convict an individual of possession. Should an individual have an old prescription bottle with residue in it, that likely will not be a crime.
Prescriptions are sometimes obtained through prescription fraud. In these cases, an individual illegally obtains prescription drugs for personal use or profit. This can occur when an individual forges a prescription and/or visits multiple physicians to obtain multiple prescriptions for the same ailment.
What if I Didn’t Have the Xanax on My Person at the Time of My Arrest?
A defendant can be charged with possession of Xanax even if they do not have it on their person at the time of their arrest. An individual can be arrested for constructive possession. As noted above, constructive possession may occur when the substance is in a place where an individual exercises control, such as in a home or handbag.
How Is the Usable Amount of Xanax Defined in California?
A usable amount of a substance is defined in California as an amount enough to be used. It is more than a dusting or a trace. It must be enough to consume but does not have to be enough in amount or strength to intoxicate the individual.
Is Possession of Xanax a Felony?
In California, under Health and Safety Code 11375(b)(2), possession of Xanax is a misdemeanor. Should an individual be convicted of this crime, their sentence will be determined by factors including:
- The quantity of Xanax in their possession;
- Prior history of substance abuse;
- Prior arrests;
- Criminal history; and
- Whether or not the individual is a minor.
If convicted, the penalty for illegal possession of Xanax in California is up to 364 days in a county jail. They may be eligible for alternative sentencing programs such as drug diversion programs. A local California attorney can help if there are any questions regarding possession laws.
How Much Xanax Is a Felony?
Under California Health and Safety Code 11375, it is a crime to possess, possess for sale, or sell specific prescription sedatives and benzodiazepine drugs, including Xanax. An individual may possess Xanax while selling or intending to sell it. In this case, the crime is a wobbler offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Because there is no way to directly prove an individual’s intent, the prosecution will prove intent to sell using circumstantial evidence, which may include that the defendant:
- Had more than a 30 or 90-day supply of Xanax;
- Had a large amount of cases, likely proceeds from a drug deal;
- Was carrying a gun;
- Spent time in locations known for drug dealing.
Should I Consult a Lawyer for Help Regarding My Xanax Possession Charge?
Yes, you should consult a California drug lawyer if you are facing a Xanax possession charge. An experienced attorney can review the facts of your case, determine if any defenses are available to you, and ensure you do not inadvertently waive any of your rights.
An attorney will fight for the best possible outcome in your case and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary. In addition, your attorney may be able to negotiate for a lesser charge or even a dismissal of the charges against you if the facts support it.