According to a recent study, people in their twenties accounted for nearly half of all heroin-related E.R. admissions involving Ventura County residents during 2016. With heroin abuse on the rise among young people, this demographic is also starting to account for greater and greater numbers of heroin-related arrests in California. Fortunately, Ventura County Superior Court operates an Adult Drug Court program, which is designed to help convicted offenders age 18 or older get treatment instead of being incarcerated. If your son or daughter was arrested for a serious heroin offense in Ventura County, our Ventura drug possession lawyers may be able to help them avoid jail time by working for admission into a Drug Court program, which can eventually result in a dismissal of their charges.
Statistics: Half of Ventura Heroin E.R. Admissions Are People in Their Twenties
With the nation in the midst of a heroin epidemic, heroin arrests are increasingly common. Unfortunately, California is no exception. According to statistics published by the California Department of Justice, nearly 160,000 people – more than the population of Ventura – were arrested for drug-related offenses in 2005 alone. While a small number were attributable to marijuana, the majority of these arrests – nearly 147,000 cases – were related to narcotics and other dangerous drugs, including heroin. Nearly 56,000 of the arrests involved people aged 20 to 29: more than any other age group.
If health statistics are any indicator, these numbers are only going to increase in the future. According to data maintained by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, more than 90 residents of Ventura County were hospitalized and treated for heroin overdoses by the end of September 2016. More than 40 of these victims were people between the ages of 20 and 29, followed by another 18 victims aged 30 to 39. This corresponds with the high number of arrests observed in the same age group.
Despite small fluctuations in the annual statistics, healthcare workers are alarmed by the general trend.
“I think it’s getting worse,” said Ventura County Medical Center E.R. director Dr. Martin Ehrlich, adding, “I just see this constant drumbeat of people coming in the emergency room. A lot of them are new.”
Criminal Penalties for Heroin Possession and Distribution in California
As heroin becomes more accessible, more and more people will become entangled – not only in the struggle of addiction, but also, the extremely serious legal problems that can arise from its possession, use, sale, or even intended sale.
California Health and Safety Code § 11350, which pertains to the possession of controlled substances, makes it a misdemeanor to possess heroin in California, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Under a related statute, Cal. HSC § 11352, it’s an even more serious crime to sell, give away, or otherwise distribute heroin or other controlled substances. If the defendant is convicted of this offense – which, unlike personal (“simple”) possession, is a felony – he or she may be sentenced to three, four, or five years in prison. If the offense involves transporting heroin or other drugs across county lines, the sentence could even be as long as nine years.
Additionally, heroin possession with intent to sell or distribute is a felony under Cal. HSC § 11351, punishable by a sentence of two, three, or four years in prison.
While drug-related sentencing can be harsh, the judiciary also recognizes the fact that most drug offenders need help, not punishment, which is one of the reasons why Ventura County Superior Court runs an Adult Drug Court program. Generally speaking, non-violent felony offenders are eligible to participate. If the participant can complete the program successfully – a process which involves mandatory drug testing, counseling, probation, and meeting other requirements – his or her heroin charges will be dismissed.
Can a Drug Dealer Be Charged with Manslaughter for a Fatal Overdose?
While most heroin-related charges involve allegations like possession or distribution, there is also potential for defendants to be charged with even more serious offenses. In 2016, four defendants were charged with manslaughter by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office in connection with fatal overdoses. Just two years earlier, in 2014, two defendants were convicted of manslaughter for the same reason.
In the words of Deputy District Attorney Tom Steele, “These cases are no longer being viewed as just another overdose… and now we are actually getting the evidence we need to prosecute people…. From an investigative standpoint, we are now getting a better picture of what really happened and in many cases, we’re able to trace it back to the actual dealer.”
Call a Ventura Criminal Defense Attorney Handling Heroin Sales and Possession
If your son or daughter was arrested for a heroin-related felony, he or she may be eligible for Drug Court, which can allow your child to avoid prison while simultaneously providing treatment and creating an opportunity to have the charges dismissed. In other situations, it may be possible to have the case dismissed outright due to illegal search and seizure or other examples of misconduct or procedural errors by law enforcement. However, it is critical that you act quickly to start building your defense with an experienced California heroin charges lawyer.
Contact The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC immediately at (805) 585-5056 to set up a free legal consultation. We will keep your information confidential. Our legal team includes criminal defense lawyers who represent adult defendants and juvenile defense attorneys who represent defendants under the age of 18.