HS 11350 – California Possession of a Controlled Substance

In California, those who are found in possession of a controlled substance are charged with violating California Health and Safety Code 11350 HS. Controlled substances include heroin, opiates, peyote, and several others regulated under the Controlled Substances Act. Not all controlled substances are illegal. Those found in possession of controlled substances that require a prescription must have a prescription or they will be charged with violating HS 11350.

Health and Safety Code 11350 is only applied to possession charges, for which there are three different types. Those arrested for possession of a controlled substance must determine whether their possession was actual, constructive, or joint. The differences can greatly affect a person’s available options moving forward.

Types of Possession


Actual possession occurs when a person has physical control over the substance. Usually meaning that the substance was found on the defendant.


Constructive possession occurs when a person is found with a controlled substance, but it is not physically on them. This can occur when drugs are found within a person’s private property while that person is not physically there.


Joint possession occurs when more than one person is in control or owns the area in which the controlled substance has been found. Three people who share an apartment may be charged with joint possession if a controlled substance is found in a common area.

Penalties for Possession Violations

Possession of controlled substance convictions can be charged as misdemeanor or felony offenses. If charged with a misdemeanor, offenders face up to a year in county jail. If convicted of a felony, offenders face up to three years in state prison. Whether a controlled substance charge is a misdemeanor or a felony is based upon the type of controlled substance and the circumstances of each individual case.

Misdemeanor offenders may be able to take advantage of alternative sentencing programs known as drug diversion. These include PC 1000, Proposition 36, and California drug court.

Defense Strategies for HS 11350 Violations

Defense strategies for controlled substance possession cases can and will vary widely depending on each alleged violation. A valid prescription can exonerate a defendant if the substances found in his or her possession are the ones that he or she has been prescribed, but not always. If the defendant is found with additional illegal substances, or the substance in question exceeds the defendant’s maximum prescription amounts, prosecutors may be able to obtain a conviction anyways.

The following defense strategies have been utilized in the past to help avoid a criminal conviction for HS 11350:

–          A prescription that validates possession of the substance

–          Lack of knowledge that the controlled substance was a drug, or that it was in the defendant’s possession

–          Illegal search and seizure performed by arresting officers

Legal Defense for HS 11350 Violations

Those facing charges for HS 11350 violations, or possession of a controlled substance, are encouraged to contact a skilled drug crime attorney. California’s laws concerning drugs and law enforcement’s role in policing drug use and abuse is changing and drug crime cases require experienced legal assistance now more than ever. Many attorneys offer free case evaluations and information for recent offenders. Contact a California drug crime attorney as soon as possible to avoid costly mistakes and hefty penalties.