DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES IN CALIFORNIA
Drug trafficking in California is high level drug dealing. Although California statutes in general do not draw a distinction between trafficking and dealing, judges, prosecutors and the police send signals that when a drug crime is described as “trafficking” that it most likely will be dealt with in a harsh manner.
Usually drug trafficking involves more than simply hand-to-hand drugs for money exchanges. In addition to drug trafficking involving sales of large quantities of drugs, it might also involve other criminal accusations, including drug manufacturing, money laundering and smuggling drugs over borders.
Whenever transportation of drugs are involved in a drug operation where they are coming into California from another country; where there are large quantities of drugs; or there are organized dealer networks, multiple law enforcement agencies will combine forces and make headline-grabbing drug seizures and arrests.
Local, state and federal authorities have four counties that have been designated – San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles – as the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDA). Imperial and San Diego Counties are the Southwest Border of HIDTA. “Drug gangs” are focused on in both of these areas by drug agents, along with drugs carried by “mules” into California, on meth labs, and on drugs that move throughout the state on highways (“drug corridors” or “drug pipelines”).
Transportation and Importation
Importing drugs from other countries like Mexico, or crossing state borders carrying drugs, are viewed as serious crimes, especially when it involves large quantities of drugs. A majority of federal charges for these crimes have minimum sentences of 10 years at least. A maximum life imprisonment sentence might be triggered by large quantities.
Under California law, transporting drugs from one place to the next, is a felony. Even when drugs are transported only from one house over to another house, there is still a potential five year prison sentence for the crime. A defendant accused of carrying drugs over more than two counties in California will face up to 9 years in prison.
Selling Large Quantities of Drugs
Selling any amount of hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin or cocaine along with numerous other “hard” drugs under California law may be punished by up to a 5 year prison term. Selling drugs and methamphetamine such as ketamine and GBH may be punished by up to 4 year sentences.
When drug traffickers are selling large quantities of heroin, cocaine base (crack) or powder cocaine California takes a much harsher stance. The maximum sentence under the California Health and Safety Code 11352 HS increases by 3 years for distributing more than one kilogram of any of these drugs. As the weights increase, the maximum sentence keeps increasing, until it eventually reaches an additional 25 years for distributing over 80 kilograms.
The maximum sentence is also enhanced by California for sales that involves large amounts of PCP and methamphetamine. These enhancements start at an extra 3 years when more than 1 kilogram is sold and incrementally increase up to an extra 15 years for selling over 20 kilograms of these substances.
A drug conspiracy in California is an agreement (not always a spoken agreement) for participating with one other person at least in the transportation, distribution or sale of an illicit drug, combined with any action that any conspirator takes in furthering the crime. With Federal law it differs in that the agreement isn’t sufficient for proving the conspiracy even when no action was taken to advance the drug conspiracy.
The enhanced penalties from California for large drug sales apply as well to convictions for conspiring to sell these drugs. Although proof of minor involvement sufficient for obtaining a conspiracy conviction, these enhanced penalties apply only to conspirators who involved substantially in financing, executing, directing or planning the drug crime.