What Are the Penalties if Convicted of Sale of a Controlled Substance?

What Are the Penalties if Convicted of Sale of a Controlled Substance?

Unless you are a licensed pharmacist filling a doctor’s prescription, selling a controlled substance in California is illegal. A conviction of possessing a controlled substance with the intention of selling it can land you felony penalties of state jail time and large fines. 

Let’s take a look at what a conviction for selling a controlled substance is and the possible penalties surrounding it. 

What is the Legal Definition of a Controlled Substance? 

In California, “controlled substances” are certain prescription and illegal drugs with a high percentage of addiction and dependency.

California organizes these controlled substances into different “schedules” or tiers based on their danger level and potency. For example, cough suppressants that contain a bit of codeine are on the lowest level, while illegal drugs with no medicinal value like heroin and PCP are listed on the top tier. 

Some other common drugs found on the controlled substances list include: 

  • Cocaine and cocaine base
  • Ecstasy
  • Morphine
  • Oxycontin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Xanax
  • Ambien

What is Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance?

Under California law, Health and Safety Code 11351 HS says it is illegal for anyone to retain any controlled substance with the intent of selling it. And “selling” includes giving it away, trading it for something else, or exchanging it for another controlled substance. 

Additionally, a transaction does not have to physically take place for an arrest under 11351 HS. Just the offer to “sell” a controlled substance in any of the ways listed above is a crime. 

How Does a Conviction Under 11351 HS Happen?

For a conviction under California 11351 HS, the prosecutor needs to show:  

  • You possessed a controlled substance; 
  • You knew it was a controlled substance; 
  • You had a large enough amount of the controlled substance to sell it; 
  • There were signs you were selling the controlled substance, such as scales, baggies, and large amounts of cash on your person. 

In California, there are three types of “possession”: 

  • Actual possession where the drug was on you, either in a pocket, purse, or backpack.
  • Constructive possession where the drug was not in your immediate vicinity but was easy for you to access, such as in a car or bedroom of a house you rented or owned. 
  • Joint possession where you and another person or persons had control over the controlled substance. 

What Are the Penalties for 11351 HS?

A California 11351 HS conviction is a felony with possible penalties including:

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

These are starting penalties as there are ways a prosecutor or judge could increase these penalties even further: 

  • If you are found guilty of multiple drug sales, the incurred penalties could be for each sale and added together for a larger sentence. 
  • Arrest and conviction with heroin, cocaine base, or cocaine can incur additional years on your sentence — up to as many as 25 years — and additional fines depending on the quantity of the drug you possessed. 
  • If you have two previous violent felonies or certain misdemeanors on your record, you may be hit with California’s Three Strikes Law, which has an automatic sentence of 25 years to life for your third felony conviction. 


How Can an LA Lawyer Reduce My 11351 HS Conviction? 

There are a few ways in which an LA attorney could defend your case for a reduction in penalties or possibly have the case thrown out entirely. 

The most common defense is proving there was no intent to sell the controlled substance. If a criminal defense attorney proves you only possessed the controlled substance but did not have the means or intention to sell them, your charge reduces to California Health and Safety Code 11350 HS — possession of a controlled substance. This is normally a misdemeanor charge with penalties of up to one year in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

Other possible defense a criminal defense attorney uses include: 

  • Police found the controlled substance during an illegal search and seizure the police had no warrant for. 
  • You actually never had possession of the controlled substance. For example, police found a baggie of heroin in a car you were borrowing from a friend during a routine traffic stop. 
  • You did not know the controlled substance was an illegal or prescription drug. For example, you thought the pill someone handed you was over-the-counter aspirin and not a prescription drug. 

If police charge you or a family member under California 11351 HS, your first action should be to call an LA attorney with years of experience in defending these types of allegations. The attorneys at H Law Group have been serving the people of Los Angeles, Irvine, Temecula, San Diego, San Jose,  Encino, and Orange County for more than a decade. Schedule your free consultation online or by calling us at (213) 370-0404.






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