VISTA and San Diego Drug LAWYER
I am San Diego and Vista drug attorney Peter M. Liss. I can help you if you have been accused of any drug charge involving the use, possession, transportation, or sale of any controlled substance. I have personally defended hundreds of individuals in San Diego County arrested and charged with drug offenses, including drug possession, possession with intent to sell (drug sales), drug manufacturing and cultivation, drug trafficking, driving under the influence of drugs, doctor shopping (prescription fraud), and paraphernalia possession.
Please call my law office today if you need a drug offense lawyer for any illegal activity involving controlled substances, such as:
I guarantee all my clients will receive top-quality representation for a reasonable fee, and I accept all major credit cards. Call today for a free consultation.
San Diego Drug Crimes Facts
Depending on the specifics of the crime, drug-related charges in California may be felonies or misdemeanors. Factors that affect the charges and severity of sentencing include the type of drug, the quantity, your criminal record and the actual circumstances involved in the incident.
For example, suppose you had a loaded gun while you were in possession of cocaine. In that case, you could face a felony charge for possessing the firearm while in possession of drugs and criminal charges related to the cocaine itself.
Drug Possession Charges in San Diego
In most cases, simple possession of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor drug crime, charged under California Health and Safety Code 11350 (HS). The other simple possession misdemeanor charge for drugs is HS 11377 (typically for meth); and small amounts of marijuana are entirely legal for adults to possess. These are recent changes, so those with a prior felony conviction for possession can have their charges reduced to misdemeanors. Many people with prior convictions related to marijuana can have the charges dropped from their criminal record.
Penalties for Drug Offenses
Penalties for California drug crimes may include fines, county jail or state prison, seizure of your assets (including cars and cash) under the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws, registration on the state’s narcotics offender list, loss of driver’s license and probation. An experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney may be able to ensure you receive an alternative sentence such as a diversion program or community service rather than being incarcerated.
In many cases, offenders may also face gang crime enhancements if the crime was performed on behalf of an organized crime syndicate. Many people also face child endangerment charges if children were present when the crime occurred or somehow involved with the offense.
Health and Safety Code 11351 (HS): Possession With Intent to Sell
In California drug sales cases, the most crucial aspect is the intention of the person arrested. As any San Diego drug sales attorney will tell you, California law doesn’t define a specific amount of drugs necessary for a possession offense to become possession with intent to sell. You should only face standard drug possession charges under California Health and Safety Code section 11350 (HS) (or 11378 (HD) for possession for sale of meth), not sales charges, if you are in possession of any quantity of drugs meant for personal use.
Possession for Personal Use Vs. With Intent to Sell
One of the most common defenses for those accused of possession for sale, 11351 (HS) is the argument that you purchased the drugs not intending to redistribute them but get a bulk discount to make your drug habit more affordable. Claiming you did not intend to sell drugs but had them for personal use is beneficial because California drug possession laws allow those accused of simple possession to enter a drug diversion program, allowing them to keep the charge off their criminal record. On the other hand, those charged with drug sales under 11351 (HS) usually face felony charges.
While this defense sounds pretty basic, this strategy will become more if the prosecution has evidence indicating you must have had the intent to sell because:
- The quantity is too much for personal use
- You were seen selling a controlled substance to someone else
- You have a previous drug sales conviction on your record
- You possessed scales, packaging material, large amounts of unaccounted-for cash, unregistered firearms or documents that show how much buyers owe
There are many reasonable explanations for many of these types of evidence. For example, you might need a scale if you buy personal quantities of controlled substances regularly or frequently ship items for work. This is why the best
Anyone accused of this crime should immediately contact a skilled San Diego drug sales defense attorney. A lawyer will always encourage you to remain silent when facing 11351 (HS) charges to ensure you do not say anything that may later hurt your defense.
Guns and Drugs Don’t Mix
It’s worth noting that carrying a gun and any amount of drugs in public is a distinct crime under the law, punishable by up to four years in prison. It doesn’t matter if the controlled substances were for sale, only that you had cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, PCP or a chemically similar drug such as crack.
Penalties for Drug Sales: 11351 (HS)
If you were caught in the process of selling or transporting a drug, you will almost always face felony charges under 11351 (HS), punishable by lengthy stays in state prison. The sentence may be increased in cases involving a notably high quantity of drugs —and the larger the quantity, the harder it is to argue that you had no intent to sell the substance. The penalties for drug sales with prior convictions for the same crime are particularly harsh and can result in lengthy prison terms.
While specific penalties vary based on the actual drug in question and the quantity, you will generally face a four-year prison sentence if you are convicted of drug possession for sale. Aside from being required to serve a prison sentence, fines and probation period, it’s worth noting that any cash or property seized related to these types of drug crimes will also be subject to forfeiture.
Drug Cultivation and Manufacturing: 11278 (HS) and 11379.6 (HS)
One of the most serious drug crimes is the production or cultivation of drugs, covered by the California Health and Safety Codes 11278 (HS) and 11379.6 (HS). That’s because these crimes involve creating drugs to sell on the market, many of which are dangerous to use and to produce due to toxic ingredients that are often potentially explosive substances. These charges are always felonies, so anyone accused of these crimes should contact a top San Diego drug manufacturing lawyer as soon as possible.
What is Drug Manufacturing?
The making of a controlled substance is known as drug manufacturing. The best-known type of drug creation involves using a laboratory to create crystal meth; but this crime also covers synthesizing heroin, ecstasy, PCP, crack, LSD and even some marijuana concentrates, such as wax, if the production utilizes toxic chemicals such as butane. You can be accused of making drugs if you were involved in any part of the process, including sourcing and collecting ingredients, producing the product or packaging it.
What is Cultivation?
Cultivation is similar, but it involves growing an illegal drug, which may include opium poppies and “magic” mushrooms. Growing large amounts of marijuana is also considered cultivation, but this is a lesser crime since California legalized marijuana in 2018.
Penalties for Manufacturing in CA
Manufacturing is one of the most serious drug crimes in California as it not only adds drugs to the streets but also often involves dangerous and volatile chemicals that threaten the health and safety of the public. In addition, this crime also often brings violence to areas where it occurs because it is frequently controlled by dangerous drug cartels and gangs.
These criminal charges carry a prison sentence of up to 7 years and a maximum fine of up to $50,000. While there is no diversion program for these charges that can keep these charges off of your record (like there is for drug possession charges), you may be sentenced to probation instead of prison.
When drug production involves marijuana concentrates or plants, the charges will generally be misdemeanors since this drug is legal under state law. But it is important to remember that you can still be charged at a federal level and that if any toxic chemicals were used in the production of concentrates, you can still face felony charges even in California. It’s worth mentioning that the courts take marijuana butane wax labs seriously because of the risk of the lab exploding.
“Doctor Shopping” and Prescription Fraud: 11173 (HS)
America’s opioid drug epidemic still shows no signs of stopping, and it probably won’t as long as addicts can so effortlessly go to the doctor and get pills to feed their addiction. That’s why there is a major drive for police and prosecutors to work together to end prescription drug crimes such as “doctor shopping.” If you have been accused of a prescription drug crime, charged under California Health and Safety Code section 11173 (HS), speak with a San Diego prescription fraud attorney as soon as possible.
Prescription Drug Crimes by Addicts
This type of fraud can be committed by patients who are addicts or by doctors. Patients can commit prescription fraud many ways. They may steal a drug pad and forge fraudulent prescriptions. They may fraudulently tell a doctor about a condition they do not have or that is not as bad as they make it out to be to get a prescription. Or they may visit multiple doctors to obtain more than one authorization for their drug of choice.
Some of the most common drugs involved in prescription fraud cases are opiates (including Vicodin, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Codeine, Percocet, Fentanyl and morphine), tranquilizers (including Valium, Ketamine, Klonopin and Xanax) and stimulants (including Adderall and Ritalin). When it comes to these charges, it does not matter which drug the addict seeks out, although possession of certain substances can result in additional drug charges.
Prescription Fraud by Doctors
When it comes to doctors committing fraud, this usually happens when a doctor willingly prescribes drugs to addicts with no valid medical needs in exchange for drugs or other payment, such as sexual favors. Sometimes doctors even get a reputation for offering this service and become known as a pill mill that addicts seek out to feed their addiction.
Penalties for Prescription Fraud
Whether a doctor or a patient commits it, prescription fraud can be a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, whereas a felony charge can carry a prison sentence of up to 3 years. Doctors convicted of this crime may also lose their medical license, which makes it even more critical for health care professionals accused of this crime to fight the charge.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Laws in California: 11364(a) (HS)
One of the ways California works to keep illegal drugs off the streets is not only to illegalize the substances themselves but also to make it unlawful to own items used with controlled substances. Possession of drug paraphernalia is illegal under California Health and Safety Code 11364(a) (HS). This crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by to up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Unfortunately, this law is quite complex because few items are used exclusively with controlled substances. Anything from a pipe to a syringe to a spoon can be considered paraphernalia in a particular context. Anyone accused of possessing paraphernalia in California should immediately contact an attorney before answering any police questions.
Drug Paraphernalia Laws in Depend on Circumstances
Anyone who has ever entered a smoke shop in California knows that these stores often have signs warning that you cannot use language related to the use of marijuana or you may be asked to leave the store. For example, if you call a tobacco water pipe a “bong,” you may get in trouble. That is because while most people buying items from these stores are buying them for use with marijuana, the stores cannot legally sell drug paraphernalia. Rules relating to marijuana products have become less strict over the last decade now that California has legalized marijuana use. However, because paraphernalia related to marijuana use is still illegal nationally, many stores still try to protect themselves.
Similarly, you can be arrested and charged for possessing something as innocent as a spoon or a belt if police believe you used it to shoot heroin. Obviously, you can’t just be charged for owning a spoon or belt, so these cases can get rather complex, which is why you should always fight such accusations with the help of a San Diego paraphernalia lawyer.
Defenses to Drug Crimes in San Diego
Your best defense to a drug crime allegation will vary dramatically based on the type of offense and your specific situation. As your attorney, I will help you determine the most robust defense for your situation, which may include your innocence, illegal search and seizure, circumstantial evidence, insufficient evidence, having a valid prescription, lack of knowledge or intent, and more.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Like any other type of crime involving the search and seizure of personal property, it is sometimes possible to fight this charge by arguing that the law enforcement officers who searched your property violated your 4th Amendment rights. In this case, your defense lawyer might argue that prosecutors cannot use evidence related to the illegal search against you, making it nearly impossible for the district attorney to secure a drug sales conviction against you.
In many San Diego drug crimes cases, the available evidence is largely circumstantial, and the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove the charges. For example, it is common for those suspected of drug production to be caught with chemicals used to create a substance such as methamphetamine, but no other evidence indicates that they intended to make drugs. When this happens, the prosecution may be unable to prove that the suspect was going to make a controlled substance.
This defense requires a good San Diego drug manufacturing lawyer because it is easy to say something that may harm your case. Similarly, if any of these ingredients are illegal to own without a valid license, you could be charged with possessing these substances. For example, it is unlawful to have large quantities of pseudoephedrine, which is used to make meth.
It is up to the prosecution to be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the DA doesn’t have enough evidence, then you should be able to win your case.
For example, in a drug paraphernalia case, the prosecution must show that you were in control of the paraphernalia, that you knew it was in your possession, and that it was intended to be used with drugs. If you gave someone a ride and they left a spoon covered in heroin residue in your car without your knowledge, you cannot be convicted of this crime. Similarly, if someone gave you an opium pipe and thought it was for use with tobacco, you cannot be convicted of possessing paraphernalia. Even if you own a shop that sells “rose tubes,” which are often used for smoking crack, you cannot be convicted unless the prosecution can show that you knew you were selling the item to persons who intended to use them for that purpose.
You Had a Valid Prescription
If the drug in question was prescribed to you as a valid medication, then you should be cleared of any possession charges, though you can still be charged with sales charges even with a valid prescription. Drugs that may be legally prescribed by a doctor, psychiatrist or dentist include substances such as Fentanyl, Ritalin, and even cocaine (though prescriptions for this drug are rare).
This defense can work in doctor shopping cases if you can show it was written for a legitimate purpose, although this does not apply in all situations. For example, if you went to five different doctors on the same day to obtain five different scripts, even if your condition was legitimate, you still committed fraud by getting multiple prescriptions. Unfortunately, it can be very easy to say something to the police that may harm your case, which is why it is critical that you do not say anything without your drug lawyer present.
Lack of Knowledge or Intent
Most drug crimes require the prosecution to prove you knew about the substance, and many also require they establish your intent, for example, in sales or trafficking charges. It can serve as strong criminal defense to claim you’re an unwitting accomplice. As an example, if you are roommates with someone who sells drugs and you didn’t know it, you are not guilty of sales or possession.
Negotiating a Plea Bargain
If the charges can’t be fully fought or dropped, your lawyer may negotiate a plea bargain so you can be charged with a lesser crime such as possession. Reduced charges may even leave you eligible to participate in a diversion program so you will end up with a clean criminal record.
Criminal Defenses That Will Not Work
Attorneys often advise the public not to speak to the police without their attorneys present. That is because the law is very complex, and when people attempt to defend themselves, they frequently say something that harms their case.
As an example, you cannot defend yourself against drug sales charges by arguing that you were only going to sell someone fake drugs because this is a drug crime under 11355 (HS). While this is a less severe charge than selling real drugs under 11351 (HS), you still shouldn’t say anything without speaking to a San Diego drug sales attorney first.
Similarly, while marijuana is now legal to possess and use in California, it is illegal to sell outside of a licensed dispensary. Selling marijuana to an adult is a misdemeanor. If you sell it, or even give it for free, to someone under 21, you will face felony charges punishable by up to four years in prison or even longer if the buyer was under 14.
On the other hand, it is legal to share and freely give marijuana to adults over 21, making this a strong defense against criminal charges if there is no evidence that the person receiving the marijuana paid for it or was underage. You can be charged with a felony for giving away other drugs for free, which is why it’s best to speak to police only with a San Diego drug sales lawyer present.