Drug dealing crimes can carry with it serious charges. Health and Safety Code 11351 governs drug sale offenses in California. Specifically it outlaws the possession of illegal drugs for the purpose of selling them. HS 11351 is a more serious crime than simply possessing narcotics, and can result in harsh penalties and fines. In addition, those charged with violating this penal code are automatically disqualified from taking advantage of alternative sentencing programs, specifically PC 1000 and Proposition 36.
What These Charges Mean
When facing a drug crime in California, it is also important to note that California law makes it a felony crime to possess certain illicit drugs or controlled substances in order to sell them. These substances include cocaine, heroine and LSD as well as prescription drugs such as oxycodone, codeine and hydrocodone. When prosecutors look to charge individuals under California Health and Safety Code 11351 HS, they are specifically looking for details that point to sale as opposed to simple possession such as large quantities of drugs, packaging of the drugs in separate baggies, scales and large amounts of cash. Those who have been accused of such charges are well advised to consult with a criminal attorney.
Under this law, anyone convicted of violating California Health and Safety Code 11351 HS could face up to four years in county jail and/our up to $20,000 in fines. An experienced drug crime defense lawyer may be able to get these charges reduced so you can become eligible for drug diversion programs and avoid jail time.
Personal Use Versus Possession for Sale
When it comes to “possession for sale,” the prosecutor must prove that you possessed the controlled substance with the intent to sell them. In other words, the prosecutor must prove “intent,” which can be rather challenging. When the defendant does not confess to commit a crime, prosecutors rely on circumstantial evidence to prove intent to sell.
So, what are some of the factors that distinguish simple possession from possession with intent to sell? The primary focus of such an investigation will usually be on the quantity of drugs the defendant possessed when he or she was arrested. If the quantity of drugs is larger than what an average person would reasonably consume, the prosecutor might allege that you possessed the drugs with the intent to sell them.
Prosecutors typically don’t account for the fact that a person who is using drugs can stock up on them if he or she has the money to buy a larger quantity of drugs. So, your attorney may be able to show that the fact that you possess a larger quantity of drugs does not automatically mean that you intended to sell them.
Another crucial aspect in such cases is how the drugs are packaged. If the drugs are systematically packaged in baggies, bundles or balloons, prosecutors will likely use that as evidence to show that the drugs are meant for sale rather than personal use. You may also face these charges if authorities find a large quantity of drugs and a number of baggies or other packaging material, even though they may not be bagged or bundled and ready for sale. In such cases, the presence of paraphernalia could also play an important role. Police will look for items such as weighing scales, measuring instruments and other tools used by drug manufacturers and sellers.
Key Legal Defenses
There are a number of legal defenses to possessing drugs for sale. Here are some of the most common and effective defenses a California drug crime defense lawyer may be able to argue on your behalf:
Illegal search and seizure: If a police officer or law enforcement official violates California’s search and seizure laws on conducting a search of your person, property or vehicle without a proper warrant, then the evidence obtained through such a search must not be considered. Also, if police stopped you without probable cause, they cannot use anything they found on your person or vehicle as evidence. In such cases, your attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence obtained through illegal search and seizure under Penal Code 1538.5 PC.
Lack of intent: If you possessed the drugs in question but did not intend to sell them, then, you cannot be convicted of intent to sell. Possessing a drug for personal use is a far less serious offense compared to possession for sale. In addition, you may still be eligible to participate in drug diversion programs if you are convicted of simple possession. You may lose that option if you are convicted of possession for sale.
Lack of possession: If you did not actually possess the drugs in question, you cannot be convicted of possession of drugs for sale. In other words, to prove possession, the substance must have been found on your person or in an area over which you exercise control such as your home, your room or vehicle. It is important to note here that just having access to the drugs or being near them when they are found are not enough to prove possession.
Lack of knowledge: If you did not know about the drug’s presence or its illicit nature, you cannot be convicted under this law. This type of legal defense may be particularly effective if the defendant has no prior history of drug use or drug crime conviction. In such cases, defendants may be able to convince a judge or jury that they genuinely had no knowledge that substances in questions were narcotics or illicit drugs. This defense might be more challenging for a habitual drug user to pull off.
Valid prescription: When it comes to prescription drugs, if you have a valid, written prescription for the substance from a physician licensed to practice in California, you cannot be convicted. The prosecutor in such cases has the burden of proof and must show that you did not have a valid prescription. But, if you possess an amount that is significantly more than your personal medical needs, the prosecution may use this evidence to prove intent to sell.
An Experienced Lawyer Can Help
When you have an experienced drug defense lawyer in California on your side, you have a better chance of getting your drug charges reduced or even dismissed. It is important that you contact a knowledgeable defense attorney who will fight for your rights and help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.