When most people think of drug sales or transportation, the image that often comes to mind involves the kind of large-scale trafficking operations with drugs being smuggled in secret compartments of a vehicle to avoid detection by police. But in California, you can be charged with sale or transporting controlled substance for something as simple as walking across the street with drugs in your pocket or backpack.
Unlike personal possession of drugs which is considered a minor infraction, being charged with sale or transportation of a controlled substance is a much more serious crime. If convicted, you face felony penalties and that may include significant fines and months or years in jail. You face a permanent record as a criminal drug offender and that could adversely impact your ability to find a place to live, secure meaningful employment, get financial aid for college, or your immigration status if you are not a U.S citizen. Working with a drug crimes attorney from Long Beach Criminal Lawyer can help you avoid some of the serious, potentially lifelong consequences of a conviction for sale or transportation of controlled substances.
Legal Definitions of Selling or Transporting Controlled Substances
Under California HS 11352, selling or transporting controlled substances is legally defined as follows:
- You did one of the following things with a controlled substance: sold it, furnished it, gave it away, administered it, imported it into California, transported it for sale, or offered to do any of the aforementioned.
- You were aware of the drug’s presence,
- You knew of its character or nature as a controlled substance, and
- The drug you was in “usable amount” especially if you are accused of transportation for sale.
To have a better understanding of these elements, let’s take a better look at them.
A Controlled Substance
Under California Health & Safety Code 11352 HS, it is a crime to sell or even transport the following common controlled substances:
- Opiates and opiate derivatives,
- Cocaine (including cocaine base),
- Certain prescription drugs such as codeine and hydrocodone (“Vicodin”), and
- Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (“GHB”).
Transporting Controlled Substances
Transporting drugs simply means carrying or moving drugs from one destination to another, irrespective of the distance variance. Drugs can be transported either by walking, riding or by use of transportation means such as motor vehicles or planes. It’s important to note that you are only guilty of transporting narcotics if your intent was to have the drugs sold eventually. You can still be charged with simple possession under HS 11350 if you transport drugs other than for sale. Also, you are considered guilty if found to have transported a “usable amount”. As such, drug residue and trace amounts don’t count. However, “usable amounts” only apply to transporting drugs and not selling them.
Offering to Furnish, Sell or Transport Controlled Substances
You can also be charged for offering to transport, sell, furnish/give away/administer controlled substances. Nevertheless, you can only be guilty of offering to sell or transport a controlled substance if you in fact intended to follow through on the offer when you made it.
As already mentioned, you are not guilty of selling or transporting a drug unless you knew of the drug’s presence, and of its nature as a controlled substance.
It’s worth noting that you can be found guilty of trafficking drugs even if you never handled or touched the controlled substances. All that is required is that you have the control over the narcotics, either in person or through another individual. This is referred to as “constructive possession” and differs from actual possession.
Penalties for Sale or Transportation of Drugs
Under California Health and Safety Code 11352 HS, selling or transporting a controlled substance is a felony. Potential penalties a first-time offender is likely to face include:
- 3,4, or 5 years served in county jail under California’s realignment program or 3, 6, or 9 years in jail if found to have transported narcotics for sale across two or more county lines within California,
- Felony (formal) probation, and/or
- A maximum fine of $20,000.
In addition, if any of the following is true, you’ll not be eligible for a sentence to felony probation:
- You have one or more prior convictions for either HS 11351 or HS 11352 of controlled substances for sale and are convicted of violating HS 11352,
- You are convicted of violating HS 11352 for selling or offering to sell a substance containing heroin and weighing at 14.25 grams or more, or
- You are convicted of HS 11352 for either selling or offering to sell methamphetamine, cocaine, or cocaine base, and you one or more prior convictions of violating HS 11352.
Sentence Enhancements for Drug Sales or Transport
In addition to the basic penalties described above, there are other numerous scenarios in which you can be subjected to far more severe penalties for selling or transporting controlled substances. These include:
- Sales or transportation of large quantities of cocaine or heroin
If convicted of sale or transportation of a controlled substance and the narcotic involved is or contains cocaine, cocaine base, or heroin, you are subjected to an additional jail sentence of:
- 3 years if the involved weighs more than 1kg
- 5 years if it weighs more than 4kg
- 10 years if it weighs more than 10kg
- 15 years if the substance weighs more than 20kg
- 20 years if the drug weighs more than 40kg, and
- 25 years if the substance exceeds 80kg
When you receive an additional sentence for violating Health and Safety Code 11352 HS under one of the above weight enhancements, you’ll also face an additional fine ranging from one million to up to eight million dollars.
- Drug trafficking near homeless shelters or drug treatment facilities
You may face an additional one year in jail for drug sale or transportation conviction if:
- The trafficking occurred upon the grounds or within 1000 feet of a homeless shelter, a “detox” facility, a drug treatment center; and
- The controlled substance involved was cocaine, cocaine base, or heroin.
- Prior convictions
If convicted for HS 11352 violation, and you have at least one priorable felony conviction for a drug crime (other than for personal use) on your criminal history, you face an additional and consecutive 3 years in jail for each of the prior convictions.
- Selling or furnishing drugs to certain individuals
The judge handling your case is likely to impose the most severe of the possible prison or jail terms for the violation of California Health and Safety Code 11352 if you knew or reasonably should have known that you were selling, giving away, administering, or furnishing controlled substances to a person who:
- Had previously been convicted of a violent felony;
- Was pregnant; or
- Was being treated for a drug problem or mental health disorder.
There’s need to be concerned about a conviction for sale or transport of a controlled substance, especially if you are non-US-citizen. Like with other drug-related crimes, sale or transportation of a controlled substance is a “deportable crime” under federal immigration law. For this reason, one may be deported at any given time- even if the immigration status was otherwise perfectly legal- if they plead guilty to or are convicted of HS 11352.
Sale or Transport of Drugs Involving Minors
In California, sale or transportation of narcotics involving minors is a distinctive offense covered under Health and Safety Code 11353.
You are only guilty of this offense if you are an adult (18 years or older) and you either:
- Sell, give away, administer, furnish, or give away or offer to sell, give away, administer, furnish, or give away any controlled substance to a minor, or
- Hire, or use a minor (under 18 years) to sell, give away, transport, peddle the controlled substance, or prepare for sale.
If found guilty, you may face 3, 6, or 9 years in state prison. Additionally, you may be subjected to one or two years in prison if:
- The illegal activity occurred at or within 1000 feet of a place of worship, school, or basically any facility where minors are present on a regular basis, and
- The controlled substances involved were heroin, cocaine base, or cocaine.
Furthermore, if the defendant is at least four years older than the minor involved, you may face a separate and additional one, two, or three-year state prison sentence.
Possible Legal Defenses
There are several legal defenses to charges of selling or transporting narcotics that a skilled Long Beach Criminal Lawyer could present on your behalf. These include:
Investigations involving drug sale or transportation routinely involve sting operations where attempts to catch those committing crimes are often done through deceptive means. Some arrests come about as a result of police gaining information from confidential informants. The informants may be working in exchange for leniency in their own drug case and many times, they tend to give the police false or misleading information. If an informant played a role in your case, you and your drug crime attorney may want to make a motion in court to reveal the identity of the informant. The prosecutor’s assertion can then be challenged to see if their source is reliable.
Another way is gathering evidence is through observation or surveillance posts, often near a suspect’s business, home, or in an area where sales take place. Police sometimes make arrests using undercover “controlled buys” with the officer hoping to lure a target behavior that can support a HS 11352 arrest.
Some of the most common police misconduct in a sale or transportation of a controlled substance cases include:
- Planting evidence that is, placing drugs on a person or in his or her car or apartment, in order to make an arrest
- Falsifying the probable cause that resulted to the arrest,
- Lying about where they found the drugs, or
- Using excessive force to obtain a confession or other evidence.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Many arrests for sale or transportation of a controlled substance in California result from illegal search and seizure like:
- Exceeding the scope of a search warrant, for instance, searching your car when the warrant only authorized a search on your office,
- Searching you or your property without a valid California search warrant, or
- Illegally searching and detaining you without probable cause.
If you are a victim of illegal search and seizure and were charged with HS 11352 violation, your criminal defense attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence. If successful, the prosecutor will only have the option of dismissing the charges against you.
Lack of Knowledge
You should be acquitted of sale or transportation of controlled substances if you did not know about the presence of the controlled substance, or did not know that the item you transported or sold was a narcotic.
This serves as a legal defense if you can demonstrate that you only violated HS 11352 after being lured or coerced by a law enforcement officer. This happens when an officer harasses, coerces, or entices an otherwise innocent person into committing a crime. For this defense to apply, the officer’s conduct must be more than just an offer or suggestion. In other words, the conduct must basically rise to a level that would be difficult for any reasonable person to refuse.
Lack of intent
Lack of intent can also serve as a legal defense if accused of offering to sell, furnish, or transport a controlled substance. Without the specific intent to execute your offer, you are not guilty of this offense.
Contact Us for Help
If you've been charged with the crime of drug sales or transportation in Long Beach or Torrance, you are facing one of the most severe drug charges on the books and can’t risk to be without top-tier drug crimes attorney. At Long Beach Criminal Lawyer, we’ve been successfully defending clients against all manner of drug crimes for decades. When you retain us, we’ll thoroughly examine your case, listen to your side of the story, and develop a defense strategy designed to obtain the best possible results. This may comprise taking your case to trial and trying to convince a jury to acquit you, working to convince the judge or prosecuting attorney to allow for a diversion program, or negotiating a reduction in your charge. Contact our Long Beach criminal lawyer any time 24/7/365 at 562-304-5121 for a free, no-obligation consultation.