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California Juvenile Drug Possession: Charges & Consequences

Juvenile drug possession in California refers to the unlawful possession of controlled substances by individuals under the age of 18. This offense is typically addressed under the state’s juvenile justice system, which focuses on rehabilitating rather than punishing minors.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Juvenile Drug Possession Laws in California

Juvenile drug possession in California can be categorized into three main types: constructive, actual, and joint possession.

  • Actual possession involves physically controlling the substance
  • Joint possession pertains to situations where there is enough substance for two or more individuals.
  • Constructive possession occurs when drugs are found in a location under the control or accessible to the individual, such as their bedroom or the glove compartment of their car.

Juvenile drug possession charges are applicable when a minor knowingly possesses a controlled or illegal substance without legal justification. This includes possessing prescription drugs without a valid prescription, which can lead to charges of minor in possession of drugs.

Despite misconceptions, marijuana possession is not legal for individuals under 21 in California. A conviction for marijuana possession can result in penalties and the loss of driving privileges for juveniles.

Penalties for Minor in Possession of Drugs in California

Minor in Possession (MIP) is classified as a misdemeanor offense in California, carrying penalties for those found guilty. Upon conviction, individuals may face a fine of $250 and are typically required to complete 24 to 32 hours of community service at a designated drug or alcohol treatment center, or even a county coroner’s office.

For repeat offenders, the consequences become more severe. A second or subsequent violation of MIP can result in an increased fine of $500 and a heightened community service requirement of up to 48 hours.

Also Read: California Prescription Drugs Without Script?

California Juvenile Drug Courts Overview

Juvenile drug court programs offer specialized judicial intervention and intensive community supervision for juveniles grappling with substance abuse issues, a level of support not typically available through traditional juvenile court proceedings.

The juvenile drug court model aims to bridge this gap by providing immediate and ongoing court oversight for youths struggling with drug use or entangled in family dynamics marked by substance addiction.

This intervention involves mandating the juvenile, and often their family as well, to commence treatment, undergo regular drug testing, attend frequent court hearings, and adhere to other court-imposed conditions aimed at fostering accountability, rehabilitation, sustained sobriety, and cessation of criminal behavior.

Alcohol, Marijuana, and Tobacco Use Among California Adolescents

The following three tables outline the statistics of substance abuse among secondary school students between the ages of 12-17.

The California Health Care Foundation reported that:

Lifetime use of substances for various grades
Grade 7 Grade 9 Grade 11
Alcohol 13.3% 32.3% 51.7%
Cough/Cold Medicine 43.6% 43.5%
Marijuana 7.9% 23.1% 37.9%
Cocaine 3.7% 6.4%
Prescription Pain Medications 16.8% 21.8%
Percentage of 11th-grade public school students that used a specific substance at least four times to get high
Alcohol 33.0%
Cold/Cough Medicines 31.2%
Marijuana 25.1%
Prescription Pain Medications 8.2%
Ecstasy 3.4%
Inhalants 3.6%
Cocaine 3.0%

Source: The Pathway Program [1].

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