What Is California’s Law on Benzodiazepines?

It is illegal to possess, use, or be under the influence of a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax, in California if you do not have a valid prescription. Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are federally classified in the United States as Schedule IV drugs, meaning they are under strict regulation.

If you or someone you care about has been arrested for illegally selling, using, or possessing benzodiazepines in California, your lifestyle and freedom are on the line. At Aron Law Firm, we have extensive experience protecting people accused of various drug crimes in California. Our client-centered approach means your Santa Barbara criminal lawyer will give your drug crime case the personalized attention it deserves.

What You Should Know About Benzodiazepine Drugs in California

Benzodiazepines are the most frequently abused type of prescription medication in the United States. These drugs raise the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, levels in the brain in order to calm or sedate a person. These drugs are minor tranquilizers and are often prescribed to treat ailments such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol

There are 15 different kinds of benzodiazepine drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The following prescription drugs are some of the most commonly abused benzodiazepines in California:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)

Some others you might have heard of include Serax, Centrax, and Halcion.

California Laws Regarding Benzodiazepines, Such as Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax

In California, being under the influence of any type of benzodiazepine drug without a valid prescription is a violation of HS 11550. This State statute governs the use of narcotic drugs and other controlled substances. An offense under HS 11550 is a misdemeanor crime in California, and if convicted, you could be sentenced to serious penalties, such as:

  • Imprisonment for up to a year in the county jail
  • Completion of a licensed drug rehabilitation program
  • Hefty fines
  • Probation for up to five years
  • Community service

Unlawful possession of a benzodiazepine drug in California violates HS 11375 and is classified as a wobbler crime. Wobbler crimes can either be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances surrounding the specific case. Either charge has the capability of putting a person in prison for up to a year or even more.

Defendants can raise a legal defense if they have been accused of a crime involving a benzodiazepine under HSC 11550 or 11375. If the defense is successful, the defendant may have their charge reduced or dismissed altogether.

If you have been accused of a crime involving benzodiazepines in California, your criminal defense attorney could argue that you:

  • Were not under the influence
  • Possessed a valid prescription for the drug
  • Did not, by legal definition, “possess” the drug
  • Had no intent to sell the drug

It is highly recommended to avoid bringing up any of these defenses outside of meeting with a lawyer.

Fight a Criminal Charge for Benzodiazepines With an Experienced California Defense Attorney

The use, sale, or possession of benzodiazepines without a valid prescription is a criminal offense in California that could come with severe penalties. Whether you have been arrested for benzodiazepines or another controlled substance, an Aron Law Firm criminal defense attorney will have what it takes to defend your rights.

Our goal is to ultimately see your charges dismissed entirely, but if that is not possible, we will fight to have your charges reduced as much as possible. For thoughtful, intelligent representation in California, call our office at (805) 618-1768 or complete our contact form for more information about how we can work to protect you during this stressful time. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.