Law Office of David P. Shapiro - San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney




2550 Fifth Ave Suite 1050, San Diego, CA 92103

Defending Against Drug Charges in San Diego

Arrested for a Drug Crime in San Diego?

If you have been arrested for, or accused of, a drug crime in San Diego you are not alone.  Each day everyday people are arrested for drug crimes ranging from the use, possession, or transport of drugs, narcotics, or paraphernalia.

If the term “drug crimes” sounds broad it’s because it is.  The only thing necessary for a crime to be considered a drug crime is that drugs were, in some way, alleged to be involved.  This means that you may be prosecuted for a drug crime under many different circumstances.

To present a skillful defense against drug charges you need to know:

  • What types of drug crimes you are charged with
  • How to defend against drug charges

Types of Drug Crimes

The Drug Crimes category is used to prosecute many different criminal cases which all share one common component: drugs are alleged to be involved.  With many remarkably different cases under one category of crimes, presenting a tailored defense requires in-depth knowledge of the constantly changing drug laws in California.  At the basic level, drug crimes typically fall into one of the following categories:


Possession of a controlled substance is the simplest form of drug crime.  Possession charges can result from possessing illicit drugs, or possessing prescription drugs without dentist valid prescription.

For example, under California Health and Safety Code Section 11350 possessing a handful of Vicodin pills without a prescription is a drug crime.  Under California Health Code Section 11377 it is illegal to possess methamphetamine (meth) in any amount, regardless of the circumstances.

The amount, type, and packaging of the controlled substance will be considered when filing possession charges, but typically simple possession cases are misdemeanor offenses.

Under the Influence

The typical result of possessing drugs is their use.  You can be found guilty of a drug crime if you are discovered to be under the influence of a controlled substance – even if you have no illegal drugs in your possession.  People are most commonly charged with this drug crime if the prosecution believes they can prove you are or were under the influence of:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy

Assuming the prosecution meets their high burden to merit a conviction, you will face a minimum ninety (90) days in county jail according to California Health and Safety Code 11550(a), along with other potential penalties.  In cases involving the operation of a motor vehicle, DUI charges can be filed as well.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute is a more-serious charge than simple drug possession.  The circumstances of your arrest, the quantity of narcotics present, and how they were packaged will all be taken into consideration when the prosecutor determines what charges will be filed.  Regardless of true intent, persons suspected of possessing a controlled substance with the intention of selling or distributing it face more serious penalties, if convicted.  Such offenses are non-reducible felonies; penalties go up significantly when there are prior possession for sales’ charges involved.


Transportation of narcotics charges may result in cases of possession where the drugs are alleged to have been transported for the primary purpose of sales.  Transportation charges are to be taken seriously as they are non-reducible felonies.


Possession of drug paraphernalia is a common charge in San Diego, resulting from any situation where a device, instrument, or tool enabling drug use is discovered.  Drug paraphernalia comes in many shapes and sizes but the most common types are:

  • Hypodermic needles
  • Pipes
  • Bongs
  • Torches
  • Spoons
  • Syringes

Paraphernalia charges are commonly brought in conjunction with other drug crimes charges (most notably possession and under the influence), but it is possible to be arrested for paraphernalia even if it is not yours and even if you are not under the influence.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence (DUI) of a controlled substance is a very serious offense and can result in very serious penalties if convicted.  While drug DUI cases share many similarities with alcohol-related DUIs, there are two significant differences you need to know:

  1. You can be charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance even if you were using drugs legally prescribed to you. Surprising to some, prescription drugs can have serious effects on one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  DUI cases resulting from the legitimate use of prescription drugs are common in San Diego with Xanax and Zoloft as common examples.
  2. Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are often filed alongside other drug and criminal charges, such as possession, under the influence, and/or paraphernalia charges, complicating the case and increasing the potential penalties you may be facing.

Drug crimes laws are numerous and ever-changing.  When facing drug charges, it is essential to hire an experienced law firm that is current with the law and defense strategies, as well as connected with the treatment community. We are all of that and more.


Defending Against Drug Charges in San Diego

A great defense attorney knows there is more to each case than the four corners of the police report. Just because you have been arrested does not mean you are guilty. Possible defenses against drug charges include:

Lawful Possession: You may have a prescription for a narcotic even if you cannot prove it at the time of your arrest.

Entrapment: If you were persuaded to commit a drug crime you were otherwise not predisposed to commit, entrapment may be a valid, if not your only, defense to the charge.

Unlawful Search and Seizure: You are protected by the Fourth Amendment’s provision against unreasonable searches and seizures. Key evidence can be kept out of evidence, thus not allowed to be used against you, if it was unlawfully obtained.

Lack of Evidence: Sometimes it is just an outright weak case against you, but that doesn’t mean you can beat it. You still require the assistance of a highly skilled defense attorney to best maximize the chances of your case’s success.

At the Law Office of David P. Shapiro, we know drug crimes law. We keep up on the law by attending seminars and by handling drug crimes offenses in court week in and week out. We also know that very often drug use has deeper causes the court is not likely to take into effect unless those factors in mitigation are uncovered and brought to its attention. If you have been accused of a drug crime in San Diego contact us today to schedule a consultation. Assuming the case cannot be beaten outright, alternative sentencing for drug crimes may be available. Call today: 619-295-3555.

Client Reviews

Real Clients Share Their Experience

“I found myself in an unfortunate encounter with law enforcement. Despite very obvious evidence supporting my innocence, I suddenly found myself facing very serious charges, something that had never happened to me before. I was scared, stressed, and depressed about my future. However, I knew I could fight with an attorney. After interviewing several attorneys I settled on Mr. Shapiro for several reasons: 1.) he has an excellent track record (nearly every single yelp, avvo, and google review he has is positive, which is not the case for many attorneys) 2.) He and his staff are non-judgmental. Despite not having all the facts, some attorneys I met with regarding my case were very dismissive and condescending, which undermined my confidence in their ability to represent me effectively. However, Mr. Shapiro (and David M), were focused on how to defend my case, reserving judgment until they had the facts in place. 3.) fair pricing- some attorneys quoted me more than $1000 what Mr. Shapiro quoted. 4.) Most importantly he gets results. No charges were filed in my case and I never had to go to court! In summary, I would highly recommend Mr. Shapiro. From my experience he is a quality attorney who tries to obtain the most favorable results for his clients. He was always very responsive to my inquiries (never took more than a day to respond) and he is a straight shooter that will not make promises he cannot keep. I highly recommend Mr. Shapiro for any criminal defense matters. He saved my life and I am confident he can save yours too.”

—Avvo Review