Prescription drugs like morphine are marketed in California with medical use in mind. Unlike some hard narcotics, like heroin or methamphetamine that lack any medicinal uses, morphine can be an important part of treatment if used as directed. But morphine is still a controlled substance; possessing the drug without a valid license or prescription is a violation of the California Health and Safety Code just like possessing cocaine or heroin.
Morphine can be easily abused, which is why state and federal government agencies seek to control its use. Possession of morphine in California can have serious consequences if you don't have a valid prescription. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help explain the extent of your legal jeopardy and work with prosecutors to get the charges against you lowered or dropped. If you have been charged in Los Angeles County with possession of morphine, drug crimes attorney William S. Kroger is ready to fight for you.
What is Morphine?
Morphine is a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States primarily prescribed as a painkiller. The drug was originally named after the Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, because of the tendency to put users to sleep. Like other opiates, morphine is derived from the poppy plant. It operates by decreasing the feeling of both acute and chronic pain.
Ironically, while morphine was initially marketed as a cure for addiction to opium and alcohol before it was ultimately determined that morphine itself was highly addictive. Morphine was first marketed for public use in 1817 by the Darmstadt drug company. It quickly spread internationally, with claims that morphine addiction was rampant among soldiers during the U.S. Civil War. It remained the most powerful addictive substance until heroin was synthesized directly from morphine.
Morphine has been regulated by the federal government since the 1914 Harrison Narcotic Tax Act.
Effects of Morphine
Abusers are drawn to morphine for the euphoric, full-body high. The drug not only limits physical pain but can also dull emotional distress and other forms of suffering. Because of the similarities to heroin, heroin users will often turn to morphine if they are unable to find heroin.
Morphine abuse has a wide range of side effects, including:
- Rapid Weight Loss
- Missed menstrual periods
- Agitation or irrational rage
- Skin rash
- Increased thirst
- Elevated blood pressure
- Pinpoint pupils
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Lowered heart rate
How Morphine is Used in California
For medical purposes, the most common use of morphine is injecting it intravenously. This method is used by medical professionals because the liver tends to greatly dilute the strength of morphine taken orally. Despite that, morphine is still regularly prescribed in pill form. The methods for abusing morphine are more diverse, however. These methods include:
Oral consumption of pills is a common way to ingest morphine. However, there are a few reasons why this method isn't favored by abusers. First, the pill comes in a time-release form meaning the drug is designed to slowly take effect over time. Abusers looking for a high prefer receiving the entire dose at once. Another issue is that the liver is very effective at absorbing morphine. Between 40 and 50 percent of the drug is absorbed when taken orally, meaning a much smaller amount of the drug ever enters the bloodstream. Abusers typically seek out more potent methods.
Smoking or snorting the drug through the nose has become the most popular form of abuse. Abusers will grind the pills into a fine powder and either snort the drug or smoke it. Smoking morphine typically involves mixing the crushed pills with a solution and heating it in tin foil. The abuser will gently swirl the solution to keep it from burning and inhale the smoke through a tube or straw. The drug enters the bloodstream much faster intranasally, and bypassing the liver allows more of the drug to enter the bloodstream.
Morphine does not only come in pill form. It can also come in the form of an injectable liquid that is commonly used by medical professionals. While it is also possible to grind the drug into a powder and inject it after mixing it with a solution, that method is less common than with some other prescription drugs.
Morphine as a California Controlled Substance
Morphine is a Schedule II drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II is the second-heaviest regulated schedule due to the highly addictive nature of the drugs in that class. California Health and Safety Code § 11350 makes it illegal to possess any scheduled drug without a valid prescription or license.
Unlawful Possession of Morphine
Under California Health and Safety Code § 11350, you will be charged with a misdemeanor for possessing morphine without a prescription. If convicted, you could serve up to a year in county jail. A conviction also carries a maximum fine of $10,000. For the most part, misdemeanor drug convictions don't lead to maximum sentences and many charged avoid jail entirely.
One way that jail is avoided is through California's deferred judgment program. If you qualify for the program, the prosecutor and judge may agree to allow you to avoid jail time by pleading guilty but not formally sentencing you. As long as you meet the requirements of the plea agreement and stay out of trouble, at a later date the judge will dismiss the case against you instead of formally entering judgment. This is good news as it would result in you having no criminal conviction on your record.
There's no guarantee that you'll be granted a deferred judgment. That's why it is highly recommended that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you through the process. The consequences are serious and handling your case on your own is a risk you may not be able to afford.
While illegal possession of morphine is typically charged as a misdemeanor, there are circumstances where you can find yourself charged with a felony. The consequences of felony possession are much higher, as you could face a prison sentence between 16 months and three years. You will be charged with felony possession if you are guilty of possessing morphine illegally and either have certain prior convictions on your record or if you are in possession of a large amount of the drug.
Prior Criminal Record
Under California law, there are two different types of prior criminal convictions that can turn your misdemeanor possession charge into a felony. The first is any prior conviction of a “serious felony” outlined in California Health and Safety Code § 1192.7. The other is any prior conviction of a crime that required registration as a sex offender in California.
While “serious felony” sounds like an ambiguous term, it is actually a list of specific crimes set out by California Health and Safety Code § 1192.7. If you have a previous criminal conviction for a crime listed by that statute, your misdemeanor possession case can be upgraded to a felony. The list of crimes includes:
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon
- Burglary in the First Degree
- Bank Robbery.
Sex Offender Charges
The second type of prior conviction that can upgrade misdemeanor possession to a felony is any sex offense crime that requires registration as a sex offender. These charges include everything from indecent exposure to incest to rape. A conviction of any of these crimes can cause your misdemeanor charge to become a felony.
Possession of Large Amounts of Morphine in LA County
Other than the previous convictions discussed above, the other way possession of morphine could become a felony in California is if prosecutors charge you with possession with the intent to sell. While it is presumed that small amounts of the drug are for personal use, prosecutors will usually imply to a jury that the only reason for possessing large amounts of a controlled substance is with the intent to sell it.
Possession with intent to sell is a serious felony that carries a prison sentence of two, three, or four years. Unlike simple possession cases, you will not be eligible for a diversionary program if you are charged with possession with the intent to sell. Proving what your intentions were can be difficult, and an experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to hold the prosecutor to their burden of proof.
Contact an L.A. Morphine Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with possession of morphine without a prescription or possession of morphine with the intent to sell in L.A. County, William S. Kroger is prepared to discuss your options with you. William S. Kroger is an experienced criminal defense attorney that has a track record of defending the constitutional rights of his clients.
William S. Kroger understands that the outcome of your criminal case can affect the rest of your life. He will use his extensive background in defending these cases in L.A. County to ensure you have the best legal defense possible. To discuss your case, contact William S. Kroger today at 323-655-5700 to schedule your free consultation.