When it comes to drug crimes, these cases can be somewhat complex. Few people may realize that certain drug crimes are handled in state court, while others are handled in federal court. In California and elsewhere, drug possession is one offense that could be handled in either.
State and federal law both prohibit the possession of illegal materials and substances. When it comes to drug possession, the drug type and the amount in one's possession matters. This information will be used to determine how criminal charges will be filed. For example, cases known as simple possession cases -- or cases in which a person is found carrying a small quantity of a drug -- will often be taken care of at a state level; whereas, anyone found carrying a large quantity of an illegal substance may be charged at a federal level with intent to distribute.
Drug possession cases can be difficult to prosecute at times. The prosecuting attorney must be able to prove that the accused knew that he or she was carrying a controlled substance. In cases involving distribution charges, other drug paraphernalia must also be entered into evidence -- such as scales, bags and cash. A lack of evidence, or the ability to prove any accusations beyond a reasonable doubt, will only help the accused in court.
Drug possession is certainly considered a serious crime in California, particularly for those facing charges in federal court. Common penalties, if convicted, include jail or imprisonment and fines; however, in simple possession cases, alternative sentencing may be available. At the end of the day, whether one faces charges at a state or federal level, one may seek legal assistance to address the charges at hand. With the help of counsel, the best possible outcome may be sought.
Source: FindLaw, "Drug Possession Overview", Accessed on March 4, 2016