Much has been said in recent years about the growing “opioid epidemic” across the United States. The frequency with which opioids are prescribed coupled with their highly addictive nature have led to widespread dependency issues. Opioids are a controlled substance classified as a Schedule II substance in the United States. Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11350, the possession of common opioids like Oxycontin without a valid prescription is a misdemeanor.
If you have been charged with possessing Oxycontin without a valid prescription in L.A. County, attorney William S. Kroger is ready to help. While a positive outcome is never guaranteed, an experienced defense attorney gives you your best chance to avoid a conviction and obtain the best possible outcome.
What is Oxycontin?
Oxycontin is the trade name for the powerful opioid oxycodone. Primarily prescribed as a painkiller, oxycodone was first synthesized at the University of Frankfurt in Germany in 1917. Beginning in 1939, the opioid was introduced to the United States market. The drug went largely unregulated in the United States until the early 1970s, when it was classified as a Schedule II drug.
A form of oxycodone was released in 1995 by Purdue Pharma under the trade name Oxycontin. A prescription painkiller, Oxycontin quickly became one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the country. By the early 2000s, Oxycontin abuse was rampant. A 2003 Drug Enforcement Agency investigation discovered that Purdue's aggressive marketing of the drug with the knowledge of its potential for abuse had “very much exacerbated Oxycontin's widespread abuse.” A 2012 study found that roughly three out of four heroin addicts began abusing opioids like Oxycontin.
Effects of Oxycontin
When taken as directed, the effects of Oxycontin are typically limited to a noticeable reduction in pain. While long-term use can lead to a tolerance, it is typically necessary to take Oxycotin in ways other than as described to create a euphoric high often compared to that caused by heroin use.
There are a large number of side effects related to abuse of Oxycontin with the most serious one being overdose and death. The effects include
- Dizzy spells
- Loss of Appetite
- Loss of sleep
- Physical Weakness
- Respiratory Arrest
Use of Oxycontin in California
Oxycontin is manufactured in the form of pills. The drug is designed with a controlled-release formula which is intended to slowly release the painkiller into the users' bloodstream. However, abusers that develop a tolerance to the drug find that the slow release eventually doesn't satisfy their needs. Abusers found ways to get around the controlled-release, giving them the full dosage immediately upon ingestion. Some common methods of abusing Oxycontin include taking it in the following methods.
Oral consumption is the intended use but it is still a method in which the drug can be abused. Because of the controlled-release formula, serious addicts typically prefer to ingest Oxycontin in other ways.
One of the most common ways to abuse the drug is through crushing the pills into a powder and snorting it. Snorting it in powder form allows the drug to enter the abuser's bloodstream faster.
Some abusers crush the pills into a powder, mix it with water, and inject it. This method is the most potent but it also comes with serious health risks. Injecting Oxycontin greatly increases the chance of an overdose. The use of needles also presents its own health risks like the spread of blood-borne illness, especially if those needles are shared. Injecting Oxycontin is also dangerous given that even finely-ground pills typically contain small bits of pills that can cause blockages in the bloodstream.
Some abusers also choose to smoke Oxycontin. In fact, smoking the substance is the fastest way to get the drug into your bloodstream. That rapid absorption can lead to overdoses. What's more, smoking ground-up pills cause you to inhale more than just the drug. Pills are full of binders and fillers; smoke from these substances can be carcinogenic.
Oxycontin as a Controlled Substance in California
Despite Oxycontin being legal to possess in California with a valid prescription, it is still a crime to possess the drug without a prescription or to attempt to sell it. California Health and Safety Code 11350 outlaws the possession of any controlled substance governed by the federal Controlled Substances Act. Oxycontin is a Schedule II substance under federal and state law.
Unlawful Possession of Oxycontin in LA County
According to California Health and Safety Code 11350, it is a misdemeanor to possess any controlled substance listed in the Controlled Substances Act. If convicted, you could face up to a year in county jail as well as a maximum fine of $1,000.
Thankfully, most first-time offenders are able to avoid jail time through California's deferred judgment program. If you qualify, you may be able to avoid a conviction on your record if you enter into a deferred plea agreement and meet all the requirements. The deferred judgment will often allow you to perform community service instead of serving a jail sentence. In the end, the case against you will be dismissed leaving you without a criminal conviction on your record.
You aren't guaranteed entry into a diversionary program. The process can be long and complicated as well. With so much at stake, it is recommended that you consult an attorney experienced with defending the possession of Oxycontin cases to help you in your defense.
California Oxycontin Felony Charges
There is no guarantee that you will be charged with a misdemeanor if you are arrested for illegally possessing Oxycontin. There are two circumstances in which you could face a felony charge: certain prior convictions or possessing the Oxycontin with the intent to sell it. A felony conviction for possession of Oxycontin can lead to a prison term between 16 months and three years.
Prior Criminal Record
There are two different types of prior criminal convictions that can cause your possession charge to be upgraded to a felony. They include prior convictions for “serious felonies” or convictions of a sex crime that would require registration as a sex offender.
If you have either type of prior conviction you may see a misdemeanor charge against you turn into a felony. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help explain the nature of the charges against you and answer any questions you might have about your case.
If you have been previously convicted of a serious felony, a charge of possessing Oxycontin will be treated as a felony. The term serious felony isn't ambiguous; California Health and Safety Code 1192.7 sets out a long list of felony convictions that are considered serious. Examples of serious felonies include:
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon
- Burglary in the 1st Degree
- Bank Robbery
Sex Offender Charges
In addition to serious felonies, a prior conviction for sex crimes can also turn your misdemeanor possession case into a felony charge. According to California law, a possession of Oxycontin charge is a felony if you have been previously convicted of a crime that would require you to register as a sex offender.
Possession of Large Amounts of Oxycontin in LA County
The amount of Oxycontin you possess can also lead to a felony charge. While possession of small amounts of the drug for personal use is typically charged as a misdemeanor, possessing Oxycontin with the intent to sell the drug is a felony in California. Possession with the intent to sell carries a prison term of either two, three, or four years in prison. What's more, you will not be eligible for a diversionary program under a charge of selling a controlled substance.
It can be difficult for the prosecutor to prove what you intended to do with the Oxycontin in your possession. However, if you are in possession of a large amount of Oxycontin prosecutors can use that to infer you intended to sell it. The implication made by the prosecutor is that the only reason to possess an amount of pills that is more than you can possibly use on your own is to sell them. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to convince a jury of your peers that the amount of Oxycontin you possessed was intended for personal use and that a felony conviction is not appropriate.
Aggressive, Smart Oxycontin Defense in Los Angeles
If you have been charged in L.A. County with possession of Oxycontin without a prescription or possession with the intent to sell Oxycontin, William Kroger Attorney at Law is ready to help. William Kroger is an experienced criminal defense attorney that has defended the rights of clients charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Your freedom is at stake, and William S. Kroger will help you build a strong defense against the charges raised against you. He will work closely with you to investigate every aspect of your case and raise every viable defense he is able to discover. To discuss the details of your case, contact William S. Kroger Attorney at Law today to set up your free consultation.