A person in California who has been accused of illegal activities involving cocaine may want to become familiar with the state's cocaine laws. Since 2000, penalties for cocaine possession have been less severe as a result of Proposition 36. The measure has given non-violent drug offenders the option of receiving drug treatment rather than jail time. Defendants who have prior criminal records may be handed relatively short jail sentences rather than time in a state prison.
A person who is accused of unlawful activities involving cocaine will face greater penalties if they are charged with cocaine sale or trafficking. A charge for cocaine possession alone could be a misdemeanor or a felony with a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. Most cocaine possession defendants are given supervised probation if they plead guilty to the charge.
If a person is handed a charge for selling cocaine, they could go to state prison for two to four years. Longer sentences are handed to defendants who are convicted of selling cocaine to a minor or in a school zone. Sentences for trafficking cocaine are generally three to five years in prison. If a person is accused of trafficking cocaine from one county to another non-contiguous county, they could face a maximum sentence of nine years in state prison.
A criminal defense lawyer can help a defendant argue for the lightest possible sentence for cocaine possession and distribution charges. If possible, a lawyer may also attempt to have some of a defendant's charges dismissed or reduced due to a lack of evidence or via a challenge to the manner in which the evidence was obtained.