A conviction of a drug crime in California results in substantial fines, lengthy incarceration periods, and other collateral consequences. You may be able to avoid a conviction and, in turn, avoid these consequences by retaining a skilled drug crimes defense lawyer to fight for you. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm in Pasadena, we boast expert and knowledgeable lawyers who can help you fight any drug crime charge against you. We’ll build a solid defense strategy that will obtain you the best possible outcome. Call us now, and let’s start working on proving your innocence.

Overview of Drug Crimes

In California State, the use, manufacturing, distribution, cultivation, transportation, sale, or possession of drugs and controlled substances is regulated under both federal and state drug laws. Doing anything contrary to what drug laws require could subject you to drug crime charges. Examples of drugs and controlled substances referred to under the law include cocaine, marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, LSD, and methamphetamine.

Anyone can face a drug crime charge. It could be a single individual with only a small amount of cocaine or a group of people in joint possession of heroin. It could also be a college/high school student selling LSD or an elderly trafficking significant amounts of methamphetamine. Since drug crime laws cover a broad spectrum of crimes, virtually nobody can avoid the possibility of a conviction, whether they’re a career criminal or upstanding citizen.

As implied earlier, drug offenses can also be charged against children. In this case, they’re considered juvenile offenses and are generally handled in juvenile courts. Unluckily, minors could easily be influenced by their peers and end up engaging in the unlawful sale or consumption of illicit drugs. How the prosecution handles the juvenile’s case depends on their age, the kind of drug crime they’re accused of committing, and their past criminal record if any.

You can be charged and convicted of any kind of crime related to illicit drugs. Possessing just a little drug amount for own use, growing one or several marijuana plants, or possessing drug paraphernalia are all unlawful acts. Almost all types of activities associated with controlled substances are criminalized and could be penalized to the full extent of the law.

Drug offenses vary in severity. For instance, possessing a small marijuana amount for own use is a less severe offense, while running a large-scale drug trafficking syndicate is a much more severe crime. These offenses can be felonies or misdemeanors based on several factors such as intent, amount, and type of drug. The judge and prosecution will also consider your past criminal history and examine the facts and circumstances of your case. Penalties too vary based on the drug crime charges you face.

Typical Drug Crimes Prosecuted Under California Law

Most California drug crimes involve the possession, sale, and manufacturing of drugs. They include:

  • Simple controlled substance possession.
  • Possessing a drug intending to sell.
  • Under the influence.
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Selling and transporting controlled substances.
  • Manufacturing of controlled substances.

Simple Controlled Substance Possession – HSC 11350(a)

Health and Safety Code (HSC) 11350(a) is the state’s law that criminalizes possessing various controlled substances when you have no legal prescription. Possessing a controlled substance means having it under your control. It could either be personally or through someone else. You need not actually touch or hold the narcotic to possess it. For instance, the law considers it possession if the drug is in your closet, storage unit, or bag (regardless of whether it’s in a car trunk or locker. This is known as constructive possession. Also, more than one person can possess a drug simultaneously (joint possession) per this law. However, it’s worth noting that just because you agree to buy a drug doesn’t by itself mean you have control over it.

For you to be found guilty of controlled substance possession, the prosecution has to demonstrate five facts beyond any reasonable doubt. These include:

  • You had a drug.
  • The drug wasn’t legally prescribed to you.
  • You knew you had the drug.
  • You were aware the drug is a controlled substance.
  • The substance was in a usable quantity.

This law applies to controlled substances such as heroin, cocaine, LSD, peyote, and prescription drugs that haven’t been legally prescribed to you, like codeine, Xanax, Valium, ketamine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.

Marijuana and stimulants aren’t covered under this law. Marijuana possession is covered under HSC 11357, while possession of stimulants such as methamphetamines is covered under HSC 11377.

Simple possession is mostly a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000 and a 12-month jail sentence. But in some instances, this crime can be considered a felony. These instances are if you have a prior for any sex offense or serious felony. If convicted of a felony, you’ll face a prison sentence that doesn’t exceed three years. 

With the help of your lawyer, you can raise several legal defenses to try and beat the controlled substance charges against you. These include you didn’t possess the drugs, had a legal prescription for it, and illegal search and seizure.

Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance – HSC 11351

Purchasing/possessing given narcotics and controlled substances intending to sell or resell them will lead to criminal charges under this statute. However, before the judge can find you guilty of this crime, the prosecution must show you:

  • Purchased/possessed the narcotic.
  • You were aware you possessed/purchased it.
  • You were aware the drug was a controlled substance.
  • You had enough drug quantity to sell or use.
  • You purchased/possessed the substance intending to sell or resell it.

The definition of possession is as we described above. It could be actual, joint, or constructive possession. And as concerns knowledge that the drug was a controlled substance, you need not know the actual name of the controlled substance, its chemical composition, or the kinds of anticipated effects it has. What matters is the fact that you knew the drug was a controlled substance.

Violating HSC 11351 is considered a felony punished by four, three, or two years in prison or probation, one year in jail, and a fine not exceeding $20,000. If the prosecutor can show you aimed to conduct more than one sale, the judge might impose a sentence concerning every intended sale.

Various aggravating factors could enhance your sentence. For instance, if you’re found guilty of purchasing/possessing cocaine base intending to sell, you’ll face a fine not exceeding $20,000 and five, four, or three years in prison. Additionally, if you’re convicted of HSC 11351, and the drug is cocaine base, cocaine, or heroin, you’ll be subject to an additional:

  • Twenty-five years in prison if the drug is beyond 80kg.
  • Twenty years prison time if the controlled substance weighs over 40kg.
  • Fifteen years incarceration if the narcotic weighs beyond 20kg.
  • Ten years in prison if it’s more than 10kg.
  • Five years prison term if the drug exceeds 4kg.
  • Three years if the drug weighs beyond 1kg.

Should you face an additional incarceration period under any of the above weight enhancements, you’ll also face a fine not exceeding eight million dollars. If you’re found guilty of purchasing/possessing illicit drugs intending to sell and have at least a prior felony conviction for another drug offense involving more than simple personal use, you’ll be subject to an additional, consecutive three years in prison for each of those priors.

Your attorney can assert various legal defenses on your behalf in an attempt to prove that you’re innocent of the charges against you.  The most common ones include unlawful search and seizure, you had no intention to sell the drug, you didn’t possess the drug in the first place, and you didn’t know you had the drug or that it was a controlled substance.

Controlled Substance Sale and Transportation – HSC 11352

HSC 11352 is the law that prohibits the transportation or sale of controlled substances.  The law, however, doesn’t apply to the transportation and sale of methamphetamine and marijuana. The sale and transportation of these drugs is covered under HSC 11379 and HSC 11360, respectively. Other controlled substances not covered under this law include GHB, ecstasy, PCP, and ketamine.

Specifically, this law prohibits doing, offering to do, or trying to do any of these: selling, furnishing, administering, giving away, transporting for sale, or importing into the state any controlled substance.

For you to be convicted of HSC 11352 violation, the prosecutor must show that you did one of the above and;

  • You knew you had the drug.
  • You knew the narcotic was a controlled drug.
  • The drug was enough for use if you’re accused of transportation for sale.

Any transportation means count under this law. You could transport the drugs by riding a bicycle or walking or using other means such as a plane or car. Also, the distance you moved the drugs doesn’t matter. However short the distance is, it’s enough to sustain a conviction. You also need not physically possess the controlled substance to be prosecuted under this law. Having control over where and how the drug moves is sufficient to sustain a conviction.

Violating HSC 11352 is prosecuted as a felony offense. Upon conviction as a first-time offender, penalties include felony probation, $20,000 in fines, and five, four, or three years served in jail under the realignment program. If you transported the drugs for sale across more than one county line within California, you’d face a nine, six, or three-year prison sentence.

And various aggravating factors can lead to you facing more severe punishments. These are:

  • Trafficking drugs near homeless shelters or drug treatment facilities.
  • Selling or transporting for sale of significant quantities of cocaine or heroin.
  • Prior convictions.
  • Furnishing or selling drugs to specific people, for instance, a pregnant woman, an individual with a prior conviction of a violent felony, or a person being treated for a drug-related problem or mental disorder.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses to charges under HSC 11352 that an experienced criminal defense lawyer could argue on your behalf to try and have you acquitted. These include police misconduct, unlawful search and seizure, entrapment, lack of intent, and absence of knowledge.

Controlled Substance Manufacturing – HSC 11379.6

HSC 11379.6 is the law that criminalizes the manufacturing of controlled substances. To be guilty under this law, the DA must prove that:

  • You manufactured, prepared, produced, or compounded, converted, derived, processed a drug indirectly or directly.
  • When you did so, you knew the drug was a controlled substance.

HSC 11379.6 violation is a felony punishable by up to $50,000 in fines and a prison sentence of seven, five, or three years in prison. Note that if you’re accused of producing significant volumes of a controlled substance, you’ll be subject to a lengthier prison sentence. The incarceration period will also increase if you have any prior conviction or based on where the manufacturing occurred, such as near a drug treatment facility or school.

Your lawyer can help you fight controlled substance manufacturing charges and avoid the harsh penalties by arguing that:

  • You only took preparatory acts in the manufacturing process.
  • You were accused after an entrapment.
  • You were arrested after an illegal search and seizure.

Possessing Drug Paraphernalia – HSC 11364

HSC 11364 is the law that illegalizes possessing drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia is any instrument or device used for illegally smoking or injecting a drug. Prevalent drug paraphernalia includes cocaine spoons and methamphetamine pipes. To be guilty of this crime, the prosecutor has to show:

  • You had constructive possession or exercised control over drug paraphernalia.
  • You were aware you had the paraphernalia.
  • You were aware it was drug paraphernalia.

There are specific groups of people exempt from charges under this law. They include:

  • Law enforcement officers or anybody who works under their immediate supervision or direction.
  • Pharmacy Board-licensed doctors, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, podiatrists, manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers who transfer, sell or prescribe hypodermic needles, syringes, or any other object intended to inject/administer drugs into the body.

Violating HSC 11364 is considered a misdemeanor offense. Possible penalties upon conviction are a six-month jail term and up to $1,000 in fines. Being convicted under this statute could also result in professional consequences if you hold any professional license. For instance, if you are a teacher, you may be placed on an immediate leave of absence pending the resolution of your case.

For you to fight charges under HSC 11364, there are several legal defenses you can argue with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, including:

  • The police discovered the paraphernalia during an unlawful search and seizure.
  • You did not know you had the paraphernalia.
  • You weren’t aware the instrument was paraphernalia.
  • The object was not drug paraphernalia.
  • You did not have any control over the paraphernalia.

Under the Influence – HSC 11550

Not only is it an offense to possess a controlled substance, but you can also be charged for being under the influence of one. Under HSC 11550, it’s against the law to use or be intoxicated with a drug. For the prosecution to prove you’re guilty of being intoxicated/using a drug, it must establish that you willfully and illegally used a drug shortly before your arrest or were under the influence of a drug when you were arrested.

You’re considered to be intoxicated with a drug if you’ve used or consumed a drug that has significantly impacted your nervous system, muscles, or brain or created a detectable abnormal physical or mental condition. This intoxication standard is much lower than how being intoxicated is taken in a DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) or public intoxication charge. This law only necessitates that an individual is intoxicated in any noticeable manner. Impairment and other misconduct aren’t necessary to sustain a conviction. You also wouldn’t be found guilty of this crime if you had a legal prescription for the drug in question. Note that marijuana isn’t classified as a controlled substance for this law.

There’s no clear answer concerning the amount of time allowed to elapse between when a controlled substance has been consumed and when a person can be criminally liable for this crime. Courts have held that drug consumption within forty-eight hours is enough to sustain a conviction.

HSC 11550 violation is prosecuted as a misdemeanor crime. A conviction carries up to a year in jail. If you have two priors for this crime within seven years, you’ll have to spend a mandatory minimum of 180 days in jail. Legal defenses for fighting under the influence charges include the drug was lawfully administered, involuntary intoxication, and you weren’t intoxicated in the first place.

Immigration Consequences of a Drug Crime

A drug crime conviction may have adverse immigration consequences. Per the U.S immigration statute, certain criminal convictions may result in the deportation of a non-U.S citizen.  Some convictions may also render an alien inadmissible. Inadmissible or deportable offenses include particular drug crimes. This means that based on the facts surrounding the specific case, violating any drug law may result in damaging immigration effects.

The Effect of a Drug Crime Conviction on Firearm Rights

A drug crime conviction may adversely affect your gun rights. Per California law, any convicted felon is prohibited from possessing or owning a firearm. Remember that some drug crimes are prosecuted as felonies. Thus, if you are accused and convicted of a felony drug crime, you would lose your California firearm rights.

Drug Diversion

Drug diversion allows various drug offenders to serve their sentences in drug treatment programs instead of prison or jail. Law enforcement departments avail the programs to divert these offenders from falling into a drug abuse pattern and save the state finances by deflecting jail/prison. In every case, the DA has the discretion to offer a diversion program as punishment. If you complete the program, your drug charges will be dismissed.

Drug diversion usually involves regular drug tests and substance abuse classes. You’ll be given counseling sessions or a list of classes to complete. When the program ends, you’ll be given a completion certificate, which you’ll take to the judge. The court’s role in diversion programs is mediating the defense lawyer and prosecutor’s initial agreement.

There are two kinds of drug diversion programs— Prop. 36 and PC 1000. PC 1000 diversion is known as DEJ (deferred entry of judgment). Here, you plead guilty to the charges against you, and the judge delays or puts on hold sentencing/judgment of a finding of guilt for eighteen months while you finish your diversion program.  Once you complete the program, your case will be dismissed. And if you fail to complete the program, your case will continue, and you’ll face the usual penalties upon a conviction. 

Under Prop. 36, you’ll be required to enroll in a rehabilitation and treatment program instead of serving a jail/prison sentence. For you to qualify for a diversion program under Prop. 36, you have first to plead guilty to the drug charges against you. The judge determines beforehand if you’re eligible for Proposition 36 after pleading guilty. The court will then give you a rehabilitation and treatment program to complete. Once you complete the program, your drug charges will be dismissed. The rehabilitation and treatment can include:

  • Residential or outpatient treatment.
  • Drug School.
  • Detoxification procedures.
  • Follow-up services.

PC 1000 is only for first-time offenders of simple possession, while Proposition 36 is for repeat offenders or offenders who didn’t complete PC 1000. Proposition 36 is an option only for offenders who haven’t been found guilty of a serious or violent felony per the Three Strikes law. You’ll not be eligible if you’ve been convicted of a serious or violent felony in the past five years, your drug crime involved the use of a gun, or you declined to undergo treatment. 

Contact a Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we have successfully defended clients facing drug crime charges in Pasadena and the surrounding areas for several years. We possess the courtroom expertise and legal experience to guarantee your case will be fought on an even playing field. We are also conversant with drug crime laws and have the skill to build a solid defense strategy that will achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us at 626-628-0564 for a free, confidential consultation to learn more on how we can help you.