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Overview of Drug Crimes in California

Do You need a Drug Crimes Attorney?

Drug crimes are serious offenses in California. A possible jail sentence and a criminal record may only be the beginning of your troubles. A drug crime conviction can have a negative impact on your employment, finances, and personal life. There, it is important to have an experienced drug attorney who will fight for you.

Type of Drug Crimes

With the passing of Proposition 47 in California, simple drug possession can now only be charged as an infraction or misdemeanor depending on the type and amount of drugs that you possess. When possession is tied with the sale or cultivation of drugs or other criminal intentions (possession with intent to distribute), the penalties are much harsher and are categorized as felony drug crimes.

Possession of a Controlled Substance – HS 11350

Possession of controlled substances is regulated under California Health and Safety Code Section 11350, which makes it illegal to possess a controlled substance without a valid prescription. The list of controlled substances pursuant to HS 11350 includes, but is not limited to, opiates, heroin, cocaine, and prescription drugs.

To be convicted of a possession of a controlled substance charge under Health and Safety Code Section 11350, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You unlawfully possessed a controlled substance;

  • You knew of its presence;

  • You knew of the substance’s nature or character as a controlled substance; and

  • There was a useable amount of the controlled substance.

Possession of Cocaine and Heroin with Intent to Sell – HS 11351

Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11351, it is a felony to possess certain controlled substances, such as cocaine and heroin, with intent to sell them.

To be convicted of possession of cocaine or heroid with intent to sell under California Health and Safety Code Section 11351, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You unlawfully possessed cocaine or heroin;

  • You knew that you were in possession of cocaine or heroin;

  • You knew of its nature as a controlled substance;

  • You possessed enough of it to sell for use as a controlled substance; and

  • You possess cocaine or heroin with the specific intent to sell it.

There is a significant difference between simple possession of cocaine or heroin and possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to sell. If you are prosecuted and convicted of this offense, you are not legally eligible for any drug diversion program. However, an experience criminal defense attorney may be able to convince the prosecution and the court to reduce the charge to simple possession. If that effort is successful, then you could be eligible for drug diversion. Successful completion of a drug diversion program can lead to a dismissal of all charges and no criminal record.

However, if you are found guilty of possession of cocaine or heroin with intent to sell under California Health and Safety Code Section 11351, you face up to four years in county jail and a $20,000 fine. You face up to five years in county jail and a $20,000 fine if you were convicted of possession of cocaine base (crack cocaine) with intent to sell under California Health and Safety Code Section 11351.5.

Transportation for Sale of a Controlled Substance – HS 11352

Transportation for sale of a controlled substance is regulated under California Health and Safety Code Section 11352, which makes it illegal to sell, furnish, administer, give away, or transport a controlled substance in the state of California.

To be convicted of a transportation of a controlled substance charge under California Health and Safety Code Section 11352, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You sold, furnished, administered, gave away, transported, or imported a controlled substance into California;

  • You knew of its presence;

  • You knew of the substance’s nature or character as a controlled substance; and

  • The controlled substance was in a useable amount.

Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11352, the transportation for sale of a controlled substance is a felony punishable by three, four, or five years in state prison and a maximum fine of $20,000. The punishment can increase dramatically if:

  • You transported the controlled substance across two county lines;

  • You knowingly operated a business engaged in dispensing or furnishing a controlled substance; or

  • The controlled substance was heroin.

Possession of Marijuana – HS 11357

Possession of marijuana is a drug crime regulated under California Health and Safety Code Section 11357. Under Health and Safety Code Section 11357, possession of 28.5 grams or less of marijuana is an infraction that is punishable by a fine of up to $100. However, possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana can result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to six months in county jail and a $500 fine.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – HS 11364

Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11364, it is illegal to possess any device, instrument, or paraphernalia used for unlawfully injecting or smoking a controlled substance.

The term “paraphernalia” refers to any object or device used to inhale, smoke, ingest, inject, or consume a controlled substance. Items such as pipes or spoons can be considered paraphernalia if they are used for illegal drug use.

To be convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia under California Health and Safety Code Section 11364, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You were in unlawful possession of an object used for unlawfully injecting or smoking a controlled substance;

  • You knew of the object’s presence; and

  • You knew the object was to be used for unlawfully injecting or smoking a controlled substance.

Possession of Methamphetamine – HS 11377(a)

Possession of methamphetamine is regulated under California Health and Safety Code Section 11377(a). To be convicted of a possession of methamphetamine charge under California Health and Safety Code Section 11377(a), the prosecution must prove:

  • You unlawfully possessed a controlled substance;

  • You knew of its presence;

  • You knew of the substance’s nature or character as a controlled substance; and

  • The controlled substance was methamphetamine and the controlled substance was in a useable amount.

Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11377(a), the possession of methamphetamine is a misdemeanor drug crime. A misdemeanor possession of meth conviction can result in up to a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.

Drug Diversion Programs – PC 1000

Under California Penal Code Section 1000, nonviolent, first-time drug offenders charged with simple possession may be eligible for drug diversion programs as an alternative to jail time.

Under a Deferred Entry of Judgement, a defendant pleads guilty to a simple drug possession charge. However, drug crimes sentencing will be delayed pending the defendant’s completion of an 18-month drug treatment program. If the treatment program is successfully completed, the charge is dismissed. If the defendant fails to complete the program, the defendant will be sentenced on the drug possession charge and face a lengthy jail sentence.