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Vista Drug Crime Lawyers


Arrested for a Drug Crime in Vista?

Despite changes in the criminalization of certain drugs in California, our state still has strict laws on what people can legally possess, use, distribute, and cultivate. Even possessing small amounts of illegal drugs or illegal use of prescription medication can result in steep fines, probation, jail time, mandatory drug treatment, loss of professional licenses/driver's licenses, and seizure of assets and properties. In addition, there are still federal laws that every California resident must abide by. If convicted of a drug crime, you face a long list of penalties depending on the type of drug and the quantity.

Whether you are facing charges of possession, distribution, trafficking, sale, or another related charge, contact a Vista drug crime defense attorney at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys. Attorney James N. Dicks is a board-certified criminal law expert with the credentials and experience to effectively fight your charges in state or federal court. No drug crime is too complex for our legal team to handle. Call our office at (760) 630-2000 to discuss your case in a free consultation.


He was able to ease my fears from the first meeting.

"I was faced with the potential of receiving 4 separate felony (drug-related) charges...He was able to ease my fears from the first meeting, offering both a compassionate ear and a comprehensive knowledge of the law and criminal justice system in California. (particularly Vista/North County Court)"

- Anonymous


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How Drugs Are Categorized

Since the passage of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, most drugs have been categorized as controlled substances that can only be used or possessed in specific scenarios. These controlled substances have since been categorized into five schedules based on how addictive they are and what medical uses they have. By federal law, Schedule I drugs are considered highly addictive and have no medical uses, while Schedule V drugs have a low chance of causing addiction and have medical uses. Certain drugs with medical uses can be sold, purchased, and used with prescriptions.

Examples of controlled substances include:

  • Schedule I: LSD, heroin, ecstasy
  • Schedule II: Vicodin, methamphetamine, cocaine
  • Schedule III: Codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids
  • Schedule IV: Xanax, Ambien, Valium
  • Schedule V: Cough medication that contains codeine

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California’s Drug Laws

Most states follow the federal drug schedules, but California has passed several laws that change how our courts view controlled substances. For example, it is now legal to possess marijuana without a prescription, and certain businesses can cultivate and sell marijuana within the state. However, there are still specific restrictions and regulations that residents must follow to avoid state penalties. In addition, the federal government still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I drug, although that largely applies to distribution and trafficking charges.

Despite the recent changes in California’s laws, the state still aggressively prosecutes defendants for drug crimes. The most common drug charges you can face in North County are:

  • Under the Influence: Using certain controlled substances without a prescription can result in an “under the influence” charge. Typically, this is the lightest drug charge you can receive in California, which may result in a short jail sentence, but you may be eligible for a drug diversion program.
  • Illegal Possession: Anyone who has a controlled substance in their possession or property (vehicle, home, work locker, etc.) can be charged with illegal possession. Even a small amount of certain substances can lead to a serious charge.
  • Intent to Sell: While this may vary depending on the specific drug, defendants can face intent to sell charges if they were caught with a certain quantity of drugs and the prosecution believes they intended to sell those drugs. Prosecutors can base their case on the amount of controlled substances in your possession, as well as you having large amounts of cash, loose bags of drugs, or other indicators of sales in your possession.
  • DUID: Driving under the influence of drugs, or a DUID, is just as illegal as driving under the influence of alcohol. But, unlike alcohol, there is no standard legal limit like BAC to determine if a driver has violated this law or not, meaning you may be arrested or charged at an officer’s discretion.
  • Cultivation: The act of manufacturing or cultivating drugs is a serious crime that can result in a felony charge. With marijuana in particular, CA residents are allowed to purchase and cultivate up to six plants on their property, but it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to grow marijuana.
  • Trafficking: Transporting any controlled substance outside of a licensed distributor can lead to significant charges and penalties, especially if you cross the United States-Mexico border or state lines. Even though it is legal to possess marijuana in both California and Nevada, it is still illegal to travel between states with the drug in your possession.
  • Prescription Drug Fraud: Some medications or narcotics are illegal to purchase or possess without a prescription, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Adderall. If you are caught using a falsified prescription, selling prescription medication without a license, or possess medication without a prescription, you can be charged with prescription drug fraud.

At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, we can provide strong legal representation in all of the above cases. While the punishments for these charges vary depending on the severity of the crime, our team has a thorough understanding of California’s laws and can work to have your charges reduced or dropped.

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Consequences of a Drug Crime in Vista

Facing a drug charge can be a scary prospect. Each charge brings its own penalties that can vary drastically. For one, charges such as under the influence and possession can result in a misdemeanor conviction, but courts generally allow defendants to enter drug diversion programs instead of serving jail time. However, serious charges like intent to sell or trafficking can result in lengthy prison sentences, hefty fines, and damage to your reputation.

The main punishments you can face in Vista for a drug crime include:

  • Under the Influence: Misdemeanor charge of up to one year in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine or admission into a drug diversion program.
  • Possession: Misdemeanor charge of up to one year in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine or admission into a drug diversion program.
  • Intent to Sell: Felony charge of up to two, three, or four years in a state prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
  • DUID: Same penalties as a DUI, which include between 48 hours to six months in a county jail, a $1,000 fine, and a four-month license suspension for first-time offenders.
  • Cultivation/Manufacturing: Felony charge of up to three, five, or seven years in a state prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
  • Trafficking: Felony charge of between three to nine years and/or a $20,000 fine depending on the specific controlled substance and whether you crossed county or state lines.

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Entering a Drug Diversion Program

California is one of several states that have developed alternative sentencing programs for defendants dealing with addiction or substance abuse issues. In many cases, first-time offenders who are charged with possession or under the influence may be eligible for California Penal Code 1000 PC, the state’s pretrial drug diversion programs. Under this statute, first-time offenders can enter a drug diversion program instead of facing criminal charges.

However, there are specific restrictions on who can enter these programs. Defendants may enter a drug diversion program if:

  • They have not been convicted of a drug crime within the last five years;
  • They are not currently being charged with a violent or serious crime;
  • They have not been convicted of a felony within the last five years; and
  • There is no evidence that they have committed a more serious drug crime, such as intent to sell or trafficking.

As of January 1, 2018, Penal Code 1000 PC is considered a pretrial diversion program and allows defendants to enter a plea of “not guilty” and still be eligible to enter a treatment program. After completing the program, the court will dismiss your charge and it will not appear on your record.

As beneficial as a drug diversion program may be for your case, if you work with a skilled North County defense attorney, you may not have to enter the program at all.

Former Narcotics Investigator Ready to Help

As a former narcotics investigator, Attorney James N. Dicks has seen how cases are handled from the prosecuting end. He has personally investigated drug crimes and is well-versed in law enforcement procedures. He can evaluate your charges and determine whether your rights were violated during the investigation and the arrest.

Did police officers illegally search you? Was evidence seized through a valid search? Were your rights violated? These and other important questions are critical to drug crime cases. Our lead Vista criminal defense lawyer can offer you his insight and perspective regarding your charges.

Our clients come from all over Vista and nearby North County neighborhoods. We are conveniently located right across from the North County Courthouse and are well-prepared to take on your case.

Learn more by contacting our Vista office at (760) 630-2000. We can discuss your case and explore your options.

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