What Does California Law Consider a Controlled Substance?

What Does California Law Consider a Controlled Substance?

In California, it is illegal to possess “controlled substances.” California classifies “controlled substances” as specific illegal drugs, as well as certain prescription drugs without a valid prescription from your doctor.

There are a few crimes related to possessing a controlled substance in California, including Health and Safety Code 11351 HS, otherwise known as Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance. 

What is a Controlled Substance in California? 

Controlled substances include a certain set of illegal drugs and prescription drugs listed under the United States Controlled Substances Act. The prescription drugs on the list are "controlled" because if not used under the direction of a doctor, they could lead to someone becoming addicted and potentially abuse them.

In addition to the drugs themselves, the chemicals used to make certain illegal drugs are also on the controlled substance list. So if you possess the chemicals needed to make an illegal drug but not the drug itself, police can still charge you with possession of a controlled substance in California. 

Some drugs and chemicals considered controlled substances include: 

  • Hallucinogens, such as LSD and mushrooms
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy

And prescription drugs  

In California, these illegal controlled substances are organized into five "schedules." The schedules rank the drugs in order of highest potential of abuse to the lowest. 

  • Schedule I: The most dangerous of controlled substances that lack any medical use, including heroin, PCP, Ecstasy, and cocaine base.
  • Schedule II: Drugs with a significant dependency risk, including morphine, OxyContin, methamphetamine, cocaine and Ritalin.
  • Schedule III: Includes a wide variety of drugs including steroids, testosterone, pentobarbital, and other stimulants.  
  • Schedule IV: Prescription drugs with a higher addiction risk than those in Schedule V, like Xanax, Tramadol and Ambien.
  • Schedule V: Prescription drugs with the lowest addiction risk, such as low doses of codeine used in cough suppressants. 

Although it has many of the same properties as the drugs listed here, alcohol is not considered a controlled substance under the United States Controlled Substances Act.

What Are the Potential Penalties for Possessing a Controlled Substance? 

Under California Health and Safety Code 11350 HS, possession of a controlled substance is most times a misdemeanor charge. That means you would face up to one year in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

However, if you have previous possession convictions on your record, a judge may decide to up your new conviction to a felony. A felony drug possession carries a potential sentence of as much as three years in state prison. 

What is California 11351 HS? 

Another potential felony is arrest and conviction under California Health and Safety Code 11351 HS for Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance. Under this law, not only did you possess a controlled substance, but you planned to sell it to others. 

In order to be convicted under California 11351 HS, a prosecutor would need to prove the following: 

  • You possessed a controlled substance either physically, within easy access, or jointly with another person; 
  • You knew it was a controlled substance and what it was capable of; 
  • 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. 

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

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

Additional sentences could be added depending on which type of controlled substance you had. For instance, cocaine base and heroin carry heavier sentences depending on the quantity of the drug you possessed. For instance, having more than 80 kilograms of cocaine base or heroin may add 25 more years to your prison sentence. 

And if you have two previous violent felonies on your record, you may find yourself facing California’s Three Strikes Law, where you receive an automatic sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. 

Whether you are facing a misdemeanor possession charge under 11350 HS or a felony possession with the intent to sell charge under 11351 HS, both are potentially life-changing convictions that can leave a permanent stain on your record. Call the knowledgeable attorneys at the H Law Group at (213) 370-0404 for a free consultation on how they can defend your case. 








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