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Sale or Transportation of a Controlled Substance in Los Angeles

Sale or Transportation of Controlled Substances in Los Angeles

Selling or transporting illegal drugs, also known as controlled substances, is a serious crime in Los Angeles that can lead to years in prison. Controlled substances like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and prescription pills like oxycodone are heavily regulated under both state and federal law.

While using drugs is generally treated as a misdemeanor in California, the sale or transportation of drugs often results in felony charges. Prosecutors tend to pursue these cases aggressively, seeking lengthy prison sentences.

But these laws are also complex, covering a wide range of activities with different penalties. And there are viable defenses in many drug transportation and sales cases.

This article provides an overview of controlled substance laws in LA, potential charges, sentencing, and legal defenses to fight the allegations.

Controlled Substance Laws in California

California divides controlled substances into five schedules – I, II, III, IV, and V – based on their potential for abuse and accepted medical use. Schedule I drugs like heroin and LSD have no accepted medical use and high abuse potential. Schedule V drugs have lower abuse potential and accepted medical uses like prescription cough medicine with codeine.[1]

Possession, transportation, sales, manufacturing, and other drug offenses typically carry higher penalties for Schedule I and II substances. Charges also depend on the type and quantity of drugs involved.

The main California laws covering drug sales and transportation include:

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Christine Twomey
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Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
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  • Health & Safety Code 11352 – Transportation, sale, or distribution of controlled substances
  • Health & Safety Code 11351 – Possession or purchase for sale
  • Health & Safety Code 11379 – Transportation, sale, or distribution of methamphetamine
  • Health & Safety Code 11378 – Possession for sale of methamphetamine

Prosecutors often stack multiple charges for a single incident. For example, a defendant caught transporting a large quantity of cocaine may face charges for transportation, possession for sale, and simple possession.

Penalties for Drug Sales and Transportation in Los Angeles

Penalties vary based on the type and amount of drugs, prior criminal history, and other factors. But possible sentences for the most common drug sales and transportation charges include:

  • HS 11352 – 2 to 5 years in state prison
  • HS 11351 – 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison
  • HS 11379 – 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison
  • HS 11378 – 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison

Those with a previous conviction for HS 11352 face 3, 6, or 9 years in prison if convicted again. Prior convictions for HS 11351 can lead to 3, 4, or 5 years in prison.

Sentences are also longer when larger quantities are involved. For example, transporting heroin over one kilogram boosts the potential sentence for HS 11352 up to 6 years.

Prosecutors can pursue enhanced penalties in Los Angeles under the Three Strikes Law if the defendant has a prior serious or violent felony. In such cases, a third strike leads to 25 years to life in prison.

Common Defenses to Drug Transportation and Sales Charges

Several legal defenses may apply in California drug sales and transportation cases:

  • Lack of possession – The defendant didn’t actually or constructively possess the drugs.
  • No intent to sell – The defendant possessed the drugs for personal use only.
  • Entrapment – The drugs were obtained through entrapment by law enforcement.
  • Illegal search – The drugs were discovered through an unlawful search and seizure.

The lack of possession defense challenges the prosecution’s ability to prove the defendant knowingly transported or possessed the drugs. There may be evidence the drugs actually belonged to someone else.

Many drug transportation and sales charges require prosecutors to establish intent to sell the drugs to others. The personal use defense asserts the defendant planned to use the drugs themselves and had no intent to sell. Factors like the quantity of drugs and lack of sales paraphernalia (baggies, scales, cash, pay-owe sheets, etc.) can support the defense.

An entrapment defense claims the defendant only obtained or transported the drugs due to pressure and inducement by an undercover officer or confidential informant. If police use unlawful tactics to push someone into committing a crime, entrapment may apply.

Finally, an illegal search and seizure defense seeks to suppress any evidence obtained through a violation of the defendant’s 4th Amendment rights. If the original traffic stop, search warrant, or arrest was unlawful, any resulting evidence could be excluded.

Federal Charges for Drug Trafficking

Large-scale drug sales and transportation activities may also lead to federal charges for drug trafficking. Common federal statutes include:

  • 21 USC 841 – Drug trafficking, manufacturing, and distribution
  • 21 USC 846 – Drug trafficking conspiracy
  • 21 USC 848 – Continuing criminal enterprise

Penalties at the federal level are based on the quantity of drugs involved. Even small amounts can lead to a minimum of 5 years in federal prison under 21 USC 841. Transporting larger quantities can result in 10 years to life imprisonment.

Those convicted in federal court also face massive fines up to $10 million for individuals and $50 million for organizations. And there is no parole in the federal system – defendants must serve a minimum of 85% of their sentence.

Finding the Right Los Angeles Drug Crimes Attorney

Facing drug sales and transportation charges in LA can be overwhelming. But an experienced criminal defense lawyer can thoroughly evaluate the allegations and build a strong defense.

Be sure to work with an attorney who has extensive experience fighting these types of drug cases in Los Angeles courts. They will know how local prosecutors operate and the best defenses. An LA drug crimes lawyer can also negotiate firmly for a better outcome, whether that involves reduced charges or a favorable plea bargain.

Don’t leave your fate in the hands of the justice system alone. Hire a trusted attorney to protect your rights and future.


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