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I've been accused of a drug-related offense: What now?

Getting taken into custody for a drug-related crime in California can understandably be one of the scariest experiences you could face in life. After all, a drug conviction can have several repercussions leading to prison time and fines. In addition, a conviction can make it challenging for you to claim jobs in the future.

You could face many types of drug-related charges, depending on your particular situation, with a couple of the most serious ones involving dealing and trafficking/distributing illegal substances. Fortunately, a drug-related offense charge against you does not mean you are automatically guilty. Anyone facing criminal charges is always presumed innocent until and unless proved guilty in a court of law.

Drug dealing

One of the most serious crimes related to drugs is dealing them, or selling them. This crime typically involves a single person selling a tiny amount of drugs, so the punishment associated with it is not as severe as that for selling a large quantity.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, if you sell less than 50 grams of marijuana, you may face up to five years behind prison bars along with a $250,000 fine. Meanwhile, selling 1,000 kilograms of this substance may lead to a decade-plus behind bars.

Drug trafficking/distribution

According to laws on distribution and trafficking, it is illegal to import, sell and transport illicit controlled substances -- for instance, marijuana or cocaine. Trafficking, which typically involves transporting a large quantity of controlled substances, is more serious than simply possessing them and thus is a felony. A trafficking conviction could mean between three years and life behind bars.

What can my attorney do for me?

If someone accuses you of committing any type of drug-related offense, a knowledgeable attorney in California can examine each aspect of your unique case to determine the best manner in which to proceed before the court. In some cases, you may benefit from going to trial to fight the charge, particularly if the prosecution's evidence is weak.

In other situations, it is best to seek to negotiate a plea agreement, which may lead to a lighter sentence than what you would face if found guilty at trial. Either way, your attorney will ensure that nothing violates your rights during any stage of the criminal proceeding.

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