Drug offenses are serious crimes under California law, and California state has strict laws to prosecute them. The typical punishment for a drug crime includes hefty fines, imprisonment, or probation. If you or your loved one faces drug charges, you need a reliable criminal defense attorney to help you create a strong defense to fight your charges. If you need reliable legal representation, you can count on the Chula Vista Criminal Attorney.
Common Drug Crimes Under California Law
The typical drug crimes under California law are:
Possession of A Drug Or A Controlled Substance
According to California HS 11350(a), it is a misdemeanor offense to be in unlawful possession of a drug. Illicit street drugs, as well as specific prescriptions on medication, qualify as controlled substances. You may face charges under this law if you possess a drug or a narcotic that is illegal under state or federal law. You may also face charges under HS 11350(a) if you possess a legal prescription drug as long as you do not have a valid prescription for the drug.
You can only face these charges if you were aware of the presence of the drug and its nature as a controlled substance. You must also have possessed a usable amount of the controlled substance. A drug qualifies as a controlled substance as long as its use, possession, and manufacture are regulated under the U.S controlled substances Act. This law applies to the following controlled substances:
The law also applies to certain prescription drugs like:
as long as you do not have a valid prescription for these drugs.
The violation of HS 11350(a) is a misdemeanor crime punishable by a jail time of up to one year in county jail. The judge may also require you to pay a fine that does not exceed $1,000. In some circumstances, the possession of a controlled substance might be charged as a felony. If you have a previous conviction for a serious felony or sex crime, possessing a controlled substance will attract felony charges. If you perform a non-violent drug possession crime, you may qualify for a drug diversion program instead of jail time. You can use several defenses to fight charges under HS 11350(a):
- You can fight the charges by stating that you did not possess a drug or narcotic.
- If you had a valid, written prescription for the drug, you could use it as a defense to fight your charges.
- The police subjected you to an unlawful search or seizure.
Depending on the facts of your case, the violation of HS 11350(a) could have negative immigration consequences. The possible immigration consequences include deportation or being rendered inadmissible into the United States. A conviction under HS 11350(a) could also affect your gun rights, especially if the judge prosecutes the crime as a felony.
It is essential to have an experienced attorney to help fight for your rights.
Possession Of A Drug Or Controlled Substance For Sale
It is a crime to possess a drug for sale, as explained by the California HS 11351. You should not possess drugs or narcotics like heroin, LSD, cocaine with the intent of selling them. It is also a crime under HS 11351 to possess common prescription drugs like hydrocodone, Vicodin, oxycodone, and codeine with the intention of selling them. The prosecutor will consider the following factors to determine if you possess a drug for sale:
- The quantities of the narcotic or controlled substance — Large amounts indicate that the drug is for sale.
- The prosecutor will also consider the drug's packaging — The drug is likely to be for sale if it is packaged in separate bags or bi
- If you have a lot of money, divided into small denominations, it is an indication that you possess drugs for sale.
- The prosecutor may also assume that you possess drugs for sale if many people are coming in and out of your place — These could be customers coming to purchase drugs.
The possession could be of three forms: direct possession, constructive possession, or joint possession. It should be evident that you knew that the substance you possessed was a controlled substance. You could face charges even if you did not know the exact name of the substance, its chemical composition, or the effects it may have on the body after consumption. You only need to know that the substance is illegal and regulated under the U.S controlled substances Act. The possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell is a felony offense. The potential consequences for this offense include:
- Probation and a jail time of up to one year in county jail
- A jail time of two, three, or four years
- A fine of up to $20,000
You could face distinct penalties for each intended sale if the prosecutor proves that you intended to make multiple sales of the controlled substance. If you are a legal alien or immigrant, the violation of HS 11351 could lead to deportation. You could face a jail time of three, four, or five years in county jail if you purchase or possess a cocaine base, intending to sell it. You could also be subject to a fine of up to $20,000. If you violate HS 11351 and the substance involved is cocaine base, heroin, or cocaine, you could face additional penalties as follows:
- If the substance exceeds the weight of 1 kilogram, you could face an additional jail time of three years.
- If the substance exceeds four kilograms, you could face additional five years.
- An additional jail time of 10 years if the substance exceeds ten kilograms
- If the drug exceeds 20 kilograms, an addition of fifteen years
- If the substance weighs more than 40 kilograms, an addition of 20 years
- If the substance weighs more than 80 kilograms, an addition of twenty-five years
You could also face fines of up to $8,000,000 if you face any of the penalty enhancements outlined above. If you have at least one previous felony conviction and commit the crime of possession of a controlled substance for sale, you could face an additional and consecutive three-year jail time for every prior felony conviction. If you violate HS 11351, you will not be eligible for a drug diversion program because the program is not available for drug sales offenses. However, if the prosecutor decides to reduce your charges to simple possession of a controlled substance, you will be eligible for a drug diversion program. Some of the defenses that you can use to fight charges under HS 11351 are:
- You did not have a controlled substance
- The drug did not belong to you
- You possessed the substance for your personal use
- You were not aware of the presence of the narcotics
- The police used false evidence against you
- The police used illegal search and seizure to obtain evidence against you
It is common for many innocent people to face arrests and charges for drug crimes that they did not commit. You should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately after learning that you are undergoing an investigation for a drug crime.
Possession Of Marijuana For Sale
According to California HS 11359, it is a crime to possess marijuana for sale. The recreational use of marijuana became legal in California on January 1, 2018, meaning that you can’t face charges for possessing marijuana for personal use as long as you do not exceed the allowable limits. However, the law prohibits the possession of marijuana for sale. The prosecutor must prove the following to show that you are guilty of violating HS 11359:
- You possessed marijuana
- You knew of the marijuana's presence.
- You knew of the substance’s nature as a controlled substance
- You intended to sell the marijuana illegally
How can the police or the prosecutor prove that you knew that you possessed a controlled substance? If you appear to be extremely frightened as the police interrogate you, this could be a sign that you knew you possessed a controlled substance. Selling marijuana means that you intended to give the marijuana to another person in exchange for:
- Other drugs
The police might have direct evidence against you at times, indicating that you possess marijuana for sale. Under California law, the following qualify as marijuana:
- The leaves
- A resin obtained from any part of the marijuana plant
- Any manufacture, compound, derivative, salt, mixture, or preparation of marijuana plant and its seeds
The police will have direct evidence against you if they hear you say that you have marijuana for sale. The police will also have direct evidence against you if they see you exchanging marijuana for something of value. The police may also rely on circumstantial evidence to prove that you possess marijuana for sale. Circumstantial evidence may include:
- You possessed more than a few ounces of marijuana
- You possessed specific equipment alongside the marijuana, including weighing scales and baggies
- The police found the drug on you in an area where marijuana sales usually take place
- You had packaged the marijuana in different containers, each container with an equal amount of the drug
- The police discovered cash and weapons alongside the marijuana
- The presence of expert opinion stating that marijuana is for sale
You can't face charges for possessing marijuana for sale if the drug you possessed wasn't marijuana. You must also have a usable or significant amount of the drug for the charges to apply. This means that marijuana should be adequate to be used as a controlled substance. For most defendants, the possession of marijuana for sale is a misdemeanor crime. The crime is punishable with a penalty not exceeding $500 and a jail time not more than six months. However, the possession of marijuana for sale will attract felony penalties if the following apply:
- You have a prior conviction for a serious felony or a sex offense requiring registration as a sex offender.
- You have two or more previous convictions for the possession of marijuana for sale.
- You possessed the drug for sale as well as selling the marijuana to a person below 18 years.
If any of the three factors outlined above is true, the punishment will be a jail time of six months, two years, or three years in county jail. If you possess marijuana with intent to sell, you will not be eligible for a drug diversion program. The drug diversion program is only available for the simple possession of an excess amount of marijuana or cultivating more than six marijuana plants.
The judge may grant you probation in lieu of jail time. However, while on probation, you will have to adhere to the set probation conditions.
Some of the applicable defenses for possession of marijuana for sale are:
- You did not know about the presence of marijuana
- The marijuana was for personal use
- You are a primary caregiver to a marijuana patient, and the marijuana you possessed belonged to them.
- You intended to share the marijuana with your friends and not sell it on a black market.
- You intended to dispose of the marijuana.
- The police discovered the marijuana during an unlawful search and seizure
Cultivation Of Marijuana
After the passage of proposition 64, it is legal to grow marijuana for recreational use. However, the grower should be aged 21 years and above and should not grow more than six marijuana plants. Certain restrictions apply when cultivating marijuana. The grower must adhere to all the applicable local ordinances. There should be no more than six marijuana plants in a single private residence. If you are partners or a couple, you should only cultivate six marijuana plants instead of six marijuana plants each. The following also applies regarding the cultivation of marijuana:
- You should only cultivate marijuana indoors or within your private premises
- The cultivation should be in a locked space
- The plants should not be visible to the public
The penalties for the unlawful cultivation of marijuana will vary depending on several factors, including the defendant’s age. If the defendant is between 18 and 20 years, the illegal cultivation of marijuana is an infraction. The crime is punishable with a fine not exceeding $100. The crime becomes a misdemeanor if the perpetrator is above 21 years. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties for the crime are:
- A jail time not exceeding six months in a county jail
- A fine that does not exceed $500
Under certain circumstances, you might face felony charges if you cultivate more than six marijuana plants:
- If you have a prior violent felony conviction on your record
- You are a registered sex offender
- You have two or more previous convictions for the unlawful cultivation of marijuana.
- During your cultivation activities, you violated several environmental laws.
If the prosecutor charges the unlawful cultivation of marijuana as a felony, the penalties will include:
- A jail time of up to three years in a county jail
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
After a conviction of unlawful cultivation of marijuana, the court may postpone your sentence and recommend a drug treatment instead. This arrangement is known as DEJ (deferred entry of judgment). The court may recommend a DEJ if you are a first-time or second-time non-violent offender.
Some of the defenses that you can use to fight unlawful cultivation of marijuana charges include:
- The marijuana belonged to another person
- You did not cultivate marijuana
- The police subjected you to unlawful search and seizure
Under The Influence Of A Controlled Substance
According to California HS 11350, it is unlawful to be under the influence of a narcotic or a controlled substance for which you have no lawful prescription. The prosecutor will have to prove several factors to prosecute you under HS 11550:
- It should be evident that you intentionally used a narcotic or a controlled substance.
- You were willingly or intentionally under the influence of the controlled substance.
This statute applies to the following controlled substances, among others:
This statute does not include marijuana because recreational use of marijuana is legal in California. According to the law, you are under the influence of a drug if the drug has affected your:
- Mental condition or brain
- Nervous system
- Physical condition and muscles
The prosecutor does not need to prove misconduct or impairment to charge you with this offense. However, you could face charges for being under the influence if you have a detectable amount of the drug in your system.
The crime of being under the influence of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by jail time not exceeding one year in county jail. At times, you may qualify for a drug diversion program that entails undergoing drug counseling and rehabilitation instead of jail time. A conviction of being under the influence of a controlled substance may have adverse immigration consequences, including deportation or being marked as inadmissible into the United States.
After a conviction of being under the influence of a controlled substance, you will be eligible for an expungement if you complete your probation or jail time, whichever applies. Even if you violate some of the probation terms, you could still have your conviction expunged, but this will depend on the judge’s discretion.
Some of the typical defenses that you can use to fight charges under HS 11550 are:
- You were not under the influence of a controlled substance
- The controlled substance was illegally administered
- You can also cite involuntary intoxication
Operating Or Maintaining A Drug House
According to California HS 11366, it is unlawful to maintain or operate any place to give away, illegally sell, or use a controlled substance. The prosecutor will have to prove several elements to accuse you of the crime of operating a drug house:
- You maintained or opened a place.
- You did so intending to give away, sell, or allow people to use drugs in the place continuously.
A place could mean an apartment, a house, or any other structure. For example, a hotel room could qualify as a place under this statute. The violation of HS 11366 is a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecutor may charge the offense as a felony or misdemeanor. If the prosecutor charges the crime as a misdemeanor, the penalties include:
- Imprisonment of up to one year in a California county jail
- A fine that does not exceed $1,000
If the prosecutor charges the offense as a felony, the crime is punishable by:
- Confinement of up to three years in a state prison in California
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
In addition to the penalties outlined above, the police may also confiscate the property where you operated the drug house. You can use several defenses to fight charges under HS 11366:
- You can point out that the drugs in question were for your personal use
- You can also point out that the police subjected you to an illegal search and seizure
- You can also defend yourself by pointing out that the operation of the drug house was not a repeated or continuous conduct
Laundering Of Drug Money
According to the California HS 11370.9, it is a crime to launder the proceeds of an illegal drug sale; Laundering means disguising or hiding the source of the drug money. The prosecutor has to prove the following elements to accuse you of this crime:
- You acquired, received, or engaged in a transaction that involved money or property that you knew was obtained from a controlled substances crime, such as the sale of drugs.
- You did so because you intended to disguise or conceal the ownership, source, or control of the money.
- The total money laundered within thirty days was more than $25,000
Laundering of drug money is a wobbler offense, chargeable as a misdemeanor or felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties for the crime include:
- Imprisonment of up to one year in county jail
- A fine that does not exceed $1,000
If the prosecutor charges the offense as a felony, the penalties will include:
- Confinement in state prison for up to four years
- A fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of money laundered, whichever is higher
For both the misdemeanor and felony conviction, the judge can award the defendant probation instead of jail time.
Other Drug Crimes
Other typical drug crimes under California law are:
- Transportation or sale of methamphetamine – HS 11379
- Sale or transportation of a controlled substance – HS 11352
- Sale or transport of drugs involving minors – HS 11353
- Sale or transportation of marijuana – HS 11360
- Sale of synthetic / designer drugs – HS 11357.5 and HS 11375.5
- Sale of imitation drugs – HS 10975 and HS 11355
Find A Chula Vista Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you face charges for any drug crime under California law, the potential consequences could be detrimental. It is advisable to contact an attorney when you learn that you are being investigated for a drug crime. Contact Chula Vista Criminal Attorney at 619-877-6894 and speak to one of our attorneys for reliable legal representation.