the State Bar of California
the San Diego Union-Tribune
CNN
TV ONE
The Press-Enterprise

Possession of Controlled Substances for the Purpose of Sales

Although the passage of Proposition 47 in California has heavily shifted the focus of drug-related crimes toward treatment and rehabilitation, and away from incarceration as a form of punishment, possession of drugs for the purpose of sales remains a serious criminal offense.

Health and Safety Code section 11351 makes it an irreducible felony to possess certain controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin, and others as well as prescription drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and other specified painkillers for the purpose of selling them. Although some of these substances may be legally possessed if you have a valid prescription, it is never legal to sell them to another person. If convicted of this offense, you could face a maximum of four years in county jail pursuant to Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (h), and/or a maximum fine of $20,000. A conviction for this offense may also have adverse immigration consequences. And unlike most cases involving simple possession of a controlled substance, a charge for possessing a controlled substance for the purpose of sales makes you ineligible for drug diversion pursuant to Penal Code section 1000.

Similarly, Health and Safety Code section 11378 also pertains to the possession of controlled substances for the purpose of sales. This charge is also an irreducible felony, and specifically addresses possession of methamphetamine, ecstasy (E), ketamine (special K), gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), phencyclidine (PCP), and anabolic steroids for the purpose of sales. If convicted of this offense, you could have a maximum of three years in county jail pursuant to Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (h). A conviction for this offense may also have adverse immigration consequences. And unlike most cases involving simple possession of a controlled substance, a charge of possession of drugs for the purpose of sales makes you ineligible for drug diversion pursuant to Penal Code section 1000.

Much like cases of involving simple possession of narcotics, it is not necessary that law enforcement catch you “red-handed,” or physically engaged in the business of selling drugs in order to charge you with a drug sales offense. If the evidence is such that the prosecution believes they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you specifically intended to sell the drugs in question, they will likely file a possession for the purpose of sales charge against you.

Intent and mental state can be sometimes be challenging for the prosecution to prove. Absent a confession, prosecutors typically rely on circumstantial evidence in order to prove that the possession of drugs was for the specific purpose of sales. In some cases, prosecutors will file possession for sales charges simply based on the fact a large quantity of drugs was found. Sadly, this theory of possession for the purpose of sales fails to consider how those who are addicted to controlled substances think and behave. Many people who are heavily addicted to controlled substances will tend to “stockpile” narcotics when they have the means available to so, such that when they are out of money and resources, they will still have product available to feed their addiction. The simple fact that a large quantity of narcotics was found, without more, does not necessarily prove that a person possessed the drugs in order to sell them.

In some cases, prosecutors may rely on evidence related to how narcotics are packaged in order to prove the specific intent to sell. For example, in cases where drugs are found packaged in small, separate bindles, baggies or balloons, or scales are found near the drugs themselves, prosecutors will likely use that evidence to argue that the drugs were possessed for the purpose of sales. This is especially true in situations where are there are large sums of cash in small denominations are present, and in cases where there is a lot of foot traffic coming in and out of a certain location, but only for very brief periods of time.

At the Law Office of Julie Ann Baldwin, APC, it is our mission to ensure that your constitutional and statutory rights are protected at every turn. We know that in many instances, the outcomes in drug-related cases such as these hinge heavily upon whether law enforcement agents complied with applicable search and seizure law under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution during their investigation. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. This means that the police need to obtain a valid search warrant from a judge prior to searching your person or property, unless you consent to the search, or another valid and legally recognized exception to the search warrant requirement exists. Even in instances where a search warrant was lawfully obtained, a search that exceeds the scope of the warrant authorized by the judge may be problematic for the prosecution and beneficial to you.

If evidence was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, or if you were illegally detained when drugs were found, a skilled attorney will be able to quickly identify these issues and will promptly file a motion to suppress any illegally obtained evidence pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5. If the motion is granted, this means the court agrees that the evidence was illegally obtained and as such, it is excluded from consideration. In many cases, a favorable ruling for the defense in a 1538.5 motion can be completely dispositive of the entire case. If the prosecution can no longer prove their case due to the exclusion of evidence necessary to establish all elements of the crime, your case should be dismissed entirely. Even in cases where a 1538.5 motion is not entirely dispositive, winning the motion can still be a huge benefit in the negotiation process, and could likely result in a more favorable outcome in your case.

If you have already been charged, or anticipate being charged, with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of sales, or any other drug related offense in the Murrieta area, contact the Law Office of Julie Ann Baldwin, APC for your free, confidential case consultation now. Your future and your freedom deserve to be taken seriously by an experienced attorney who is committed to quality representation and compassionate advocacy, every step of the way.