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Can You be Charged with Sale of Controlled Substance if You Give the Drug Away?

Can You be Charged with Sale of Controlled Substance if You Give the Drug Away?

A female college student in Los Angeles County recently had surgery. To get through the pain after the surgery, her doctor prescribed her an opioid drug. After a few days, the young woman no longer needs the medicine prescribed by her doctor. 

One day while in class, a friend next to her says he’s suffering from a bad backache. The young woman pulls out the leftover opioid pills from her backpack and hands two to the young man. Their teacher observes the young woman handing the pills to the young man. She notifies campus police, who are waiting for the young woman when she goes to leave at the end of class. 

Due to witness testimony and evidence found on her, the young woman finds herself charged under California Health and Safety Code 11351 HS — Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance — and needing an LA criminal lawyer. 

What is Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance? 

A conviction under 11351 HSC says you illegally possess a "controlled substance" with the intention of selling it to others. While "selling" normally means offering it in exchange for money, under 11351 HSC "selling" can also mean: 

  • Giving the controlled substance away to someone else completely for free
  • Providing the controlled substance to someone in trade for something else
  • Delivering the controlled substance to another person
  • Exchanging one controlled substance for another

In our example, because the young woman gave the young man a controlled substance he did not have a valid doctor's prescription for, police charged her under 11351 HSC. 

It is also important to point out 11351 HSC covers just the offer of doing any of the above — an actual transaction never has to take place for a conviction. So if in our example the young woman had offered to give the young man the opioid pills but never physically did, she could still be charged under 11351 HSC if someone had overheard her make the offer and reported it to police. 

What is a Controlled Substance? 

In California, controlled substances are certain drugs or chemicals to make these drugs listed under the United States Controlled Substances Act. Because these drugs have a high probability of being abused and a high rate of addiction, they’re placed on this list. 

Controlled substances include both illegal drugs and prescription drugs. California classifies controlled substances into five “schedules,” with the top tier being the most dangerous and the fifth level the least addictive: 

  • Schedule V: Prescription drugs such as cough suppressants with low doses of codeine. 
  • Schedule IV: Prescription drugs with higher addiction risks, such as Xanax and Ambien.
  • Schedule III: Steroids, testosterone, and stimulants.  
  • Schedule II: Cocaine, morphine, OxyContin, and methamphetamines.
  • Schedule I: Cocaine base, heroin, PCP, and Ecstasy.

How Can You Be Convicted Under 11351 HSC?

To be charged and convicted under 11351 HSC, a prosecutor would need to show the following: 

  • You possessed the controlled substance either:
  • Physically — such as in your pocket or purse
  • Constructively — it is in a place easy to access for you, such as your car or home
  • Jointly — you possessed the controlled substance in tandem with someone else
  • You knew it was an illegal or prescription-only drug and what it could do; 
  • You possessed a large enough quantity of the controlled substance to sell it; 
  • Police found evidence you were selling the drugs, such as weighing devices and baggies. 

Those convicted under 11351 HSC face felony penalties including: 

  • Up to four years in a California state prison
  • One year in state prison plus probation
  • Fines of up to $20,000

A conviction of 11351 HSC Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance is no laughing matter. In addition to being a felony and putting you behind bars for possibly four years, 11351 HSC falls under California’s Three Strikes Law — if you have two previous violent felony convictions or certain other convictions, you’ll receive an automatic sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. 

The Los Angeles criminal lawyers at the H Law Group have been serving the good people of Los Angeles, Irvine, Temecula, San Diego, San Jose,  Encino, and Orange County for the past 10 years. Call us at (213) 370-0404 for a free consultation on your defense options. 

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