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Is It A Crime For A Person To Be Under The Influence Of A Controlled Substance Or Narcotic?

By September 24, 2020 No Comments

Preventing addiction to controlled substances is of utmost concern to California legislators. California Health and Safety Code § 11554 HS states in its entirety:

The rehabilitation of persons addicted to controlled substances and the prevention of continued addiction to controlled substances is a matter of statewide concern. It is the policy of the state to encourage each county and city and county to make use, whenever applicable, of testing procedures to determine addiction to controlled substances or the absence thereof, and to foster research in means of detecting the existence of addiction to controlled substances and in medical methods and procedures for that purpose.

California law (Health and Safety Code § 11550 HS) makes it a criminal offense for a person to be under the influence of a controlled substance or narcotic. Under § 11550 HS:

“A person shall not use, or be under the influence of any controlled substance… except when administered by or under the direction of a person licensed by the state to dispense, prescribe, or administer controlled substances.”

To convict a defendant of this criminal offense under California law, it must be shown that the defendant willfully used a controlled substance or narcotic drug, and/or was willfully under the influence of this substance or drug. Thus, aside from the drug being legally administered, defenses are typically focused on whether the defendant was truly “under the influence” or “willfully used” the controlled substance. Involuntary intoxication may be a viable defense.

Someone is “under the influence of a controlled substance” if the substance has affected the person’s nervous system, brain or mental condition, or muscles or physical condition. Police commonly use drug recognition experts to assess whether an individual is under the influence of a controlled substance.

The controlled substances to which § 11550 applies are listed in California Health and Safety Code §§ 11054 and 11055. They are divided into opiates, opium derivatives, hallucinogenic substances, depressants, and stimulants. Some of the more common substances contained in §§ 11054 and 11055 include heroin, morphine, cocaine, codeine, cannabis, LSD, mescaline, peyote, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and psilocybin. While marijuana is specifically excluded, cannabis is listed under hallucinogenics.

A person who is unlawfully under the influence of cocaine, cocaine base, heroin, methamphetamine, or phencyclidine while in the immediate personal possession of a loaded, operable firearm is also guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not exceeding one year or in state prison.

The court may in the interest of justice permit a person convicted of a violation under § 11550 to complete a licensed drug rehabilitation program instead of part or all of the imprisonment in county jail. As a condition of sentencing, the court may require the offender to pay all or a portion of the drug rehabilitation program.

An offense under § 11550 may be resolved through California Penal Code § 1000 diversion programs. If you have been charged with a crime for simple possession or being under the influence of drugs or controlled substances, the resolution of your matter through the California PC § 1000 diversion program may be available as an option. John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. Call today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.

Is It A Crime For A Person To Be Under The Influence Of A Controlled Substance Or Narcotic?

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