The concept of an "indictable offense" is implemented in countries like Canada, Ireland and Australia. The concept of indictment is not foreign in the United States, but it is treated differently than "indictable offenses" in non-U.S. countries. In other countries, this type of offense can only be tried on an indictment after the completion of a preliminary hearing. This equates to a felony charge in the United States. In many U.S. states, there is no constitutional right to indictment by a grand jury before facing prosecution for a felony offense.
A U.S. citizen may be indicted by a grand jury for a very serious offense, so drug possession for personal use will likely be kept to state court. The Sixth Amendment gives all criminally accused individuals the right to trial by jury, but this is a right that can be waived. Many individuals choose to avoid a lengthy court process and instead opt for some sort of plea bargain.
In the state of California, drug possession can either be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor (and sometimes even an infraction). For example, possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use may be charged as an infraction. Possession for sale involving any scheduled drug is a felony offense in this state, except for some types of prescription drugs according to § 11350 of the California Health and Safety Code. Sometimes, even possession for personal use can be charged as a felony depending on the circumstances such as the type of drug, the amount of the drug and any prior convictions.
If a person is granted probation after a felony drug possession conviction, the following conditions will also apply:
- Minimum fine of $1,000 or community service
- For a second or subsequent felony possession offense, minimum fine of $2,000 or community service
- Community service will only be granted if the defendant cannot afford the imposed fine
Drug possession charges, depending on their severity, could be dealt with in state or federal court. There are many courts in the state of California, including Superior Courts in 58 counties, six appellate districts for Courts of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. Indictments initiate cases that are handled in federal courts.
The formal beginning of a federal drug case will begin with an indictment for information. This is essentially an accusation of a criminal offense. Indictments are obtained when a federal prosecutor (U.S. attorney or assistant U.S. attorney) presents evidence of guilt before a federal grand jury.
If the U.S. attorney is unsuccessful in convincing the grand jury that an individual committed a crime, then an indictment will not be issued. Even if you have not yet been indicted (or charged) with drug possession, you may be under investigation. As soon as possible, contact an Orange County drug possession attorney at The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs.