Cocaine is considered a Schedule II controlled substance in California, which means the penalties for distributing or trafficking the drug can be severe. However, most people arrested for possessing cocaine in the Golden State do not spend time behind bars. This is because California residents who voted in the 2000 election approved Proposition 36. This proposition established special drug courts that allow nonviolent narcotics offenders to receive substance abuse treatment and spend time on probation. Repeat offenders may spend up to 90 days in a county jail, but they are unlikely to be sent to a state prison.
Cocaine distribution and trafficking penalties
Individuals who are convicted of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute the drug are sentenced to between two and four years in a state prison and fined up to $20,000. The sentence for possessing distribution quantities of cocaine base, which is more commonly called crack, is between three and five years in a state prison. Selling cocaine to a minor can lead to a prison sentence of up to seven years in California, and offenders who sell the drug to school children can be sent to prison for up to nine years. Offenders convicted of trafficking cocaine in California can also spend up to nine years in prison.
Felony drug possession charges
Some individuals arrested for possessing cocaine in California face felony drug charges because they are not eligible for a diversion program. This can lead to a prison sentence of up to three years. Offenders become ineligible for a diversion program under California HS 11350 if they have been convicted of serious crimes like murder, rape or sexually assaulting a minor.
Unreasonable search and seizure
The penalties for possessing and distributing cocaine are sometimes harsh in California, but offenders only face them when prosecutors are able to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. If the police officers who discover cocaine violate rights against unreasonable search and seizure protected by the Fourth Amendment, drug possession or distribution charges may be dismissed. This happens when police officers conduct warrantless searches without probable cause or mislead judges who issue search warrants.