Southern California Drug Possession Attorney
Helping Clients Build a Strong Legal Defense
Thanks to Proposition 47, possession of a controlled substance in California is usually a misdemeanor that carries the possibility of a 1 year jail sentence. It can, however, be charged as a felony when the accused has a prior conviction for certain crimes or is required to register as a sex offender. Possession is also a felony if the accused possessed a loaded firearm together with the drug.
Proposition 47 reclassified some drug crimes, but it did not change the mentality of prosecutors and police officers who believe that the criminal justice system is the best way to address illicit drug use. More than 92,000 people were arrested for misdemeanor drug offenses in California during 2014. Most of those arrests were for possession offenses.
The consequences of a misdemeanor possession conviction can be severe. Drug convictions can lead to the loss or denial of employment and can have an impact on professional licenses (such as teacher’s licenses). Drug convictions can also affect immigration status.
If you have been arrested for or charged with a possession offense in Southern California, an aggressive defense can help you avoid the disastrous consequences of a drug conviction. Law Office of Randy Collins is available to evaluate your case and help you plan a defense strategy that will meet your needs.
California’s Two Drug Possession Laws
California Health & Safety Code 11350 HS makes it a crime to possess certain controlled substances without a valid prescription. A similar law, California Health & Safety Code 11377 HS, criminalizes the possession of methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy), and some anabolic steroids, among other drugs.
“Possession for sale” is a more serious crime. The misdemeanor of simple possession applies to possession for personal use. In some cases, the police or prosecution will decide that the quantity possessed was too large for personal use and will treat the offense as possession for sale. In those cases, evidence that the accused has a serious drug habit might persuade a prosecutor or jury that the drugs were purchased in bulk to save money or to avoid the risk of making repeated buys.
Defending Against Illegal Drug Sale Charges
Section 11352 of California’s Health and Safety Code imposes criminal penalties for the unlawful sale of the following drugs, among others:
The maximum sentence for violating 11352 HS is usually 5 years of imprisonment. That maximum can be increased, however, if the crime involves distribution to a minor or if it occurs in certain places (like playgrounds, schools, and public swimming pools) where minors or vulnerable people are likely to gather. A defendant’s prior record can also affect the maximum sentence.
A similar law, section 11379 of California’s Health and Safety Code, applies to the following drugs, among others:
- Certain anabolic steroids
The maximum sentence for violating 11379 HS is 4 years of imprisonment. The same factors that can increase a sentence under 11352 HS can also increase a sentence for selling drugs that are governed by 11379 HS.
The “sale” of a drug under these laws includes any transfer of possession of the drug, whether money changes hands. It is just as illegal to give the drug away as it is to sell it. “Delivery” and “distribution” are other words that describe a “sale” of drugs under California law.
Transporting a drug to sell it carries the same penalties as selling the drug. “Transporting” just means moving the drug from one place to another. Transporting the drug across more than two counties, however, increases the maximum sentence to 9 years of imprisonment.
Defending Against ‘Possession of Drugs for Sale’ Charges
It is illegal to possess heroin, cocaine, and the other drugs that are included in 11352 HS for the purpose of selling them. The maximum sentence for possessing those drugs for sale is usually 4 years. It is also illegal to possess methamphetamine and the other drugs included in 11379 HS for the purpose of selling them. The maximum sentence for possessing methamphetamine for sale is usually 3 years.
Possession for sale means that the accused possessed the drugs with the intent to sell or distribute them. Possessing drugs with the intention of selling them is governed by California health and safety code 11351.
Prosecutors sometimes try to prove that the accused intended to sell the drugs by introducing evidence of past drug sales or by having witnesses testify to incriminating statements that the accused supposedly made. When that evidence comes from the mouths of drug addicts who have an incentive to lie so that they can get a reduced sentence or protect their dealer, their credibility can be attacked during a trial.
In other cases, prosecutors ask juries to assume the accused intended to sell the drugs because the quantities are larger than a typical user would keep on hand for personal use. In those cases, evidence of a heavy drug habit or a desire to minimize risk or save money by marking one large purchase instead of many small purchases can lead to a “not guilty” verdict.
Drug Dealing Defense Strategies
One defense to a charge of “possession for sale” is that the drugs were possessed for personal use.
Other defenses to charges of selling and possession for sale include:
- The accused did not know about the drugs.
- The accused was hanging out with drug dealers but was not involved in drug dealing.
- The person who accused the defendant of being a drug dealer is making a false accusation.
- The drugs were planted.
- The defendant was entrapped.
- The drugs were seized illegally and cannot be used as evidence.
Other defenses may also be available, depending on the facts of the case. Asserting the right defense can lead to dismissal of the charges, acquittal at trial, or a favorable plea bargain that avoids potentially disastrous consequences.
Selecting the right defense takes knowledge and experience. Asserting that defense successfully takes skill, hard work, and a willingness to fight.