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Criminal Defense

Drug Sales and Transportation Laws in Los Angeles County

By October 23, 2023May 19th, 2024No Comments
A man in handcuffs holding hand | Drug Charges Lawyer | Wegman & Levin

Like most states, California takes drug crimes seriously. Although some states, including Oregon, Washington, and California, have taken steps to ease penalties for drug possession, they continue to prosecute more severe drug-related crimes aggressively, such as drug sales and transportation offenses. Selling, transporting, furnishing, administering, and importing a controlled substance are all considered felony offenses, punishable by several years in prison and considerable fines. Additionally, a conviction for one of these crimes will likely limit your future in several ways, even long after you’ve fulfilled the terms of your sentences. Having a drug sales or transportation conviction on your criminal record may restrict your employment and housing options, and this incident could negatively impact your parental and custodial rights. If you are facing drug charges in Los Angeles County, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and anxious about your suddenly uncertain future. Before your mind assumes the worst, contact an experienced and trusted criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case. Your attorney will help you identify the most strategic path forward to keep your future as bright as possible. Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect when facing drug sales and transportation charges in Southern California and how working with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.

Understanding Drug Sale and Transportation Laws in California

California’s Health and Safety Code clarifies drug-related offenses and their penalties. Chapter 6, Section 11352.1 of California’s Health and Safety Code sets forth the purpose of these laws, stating that “the Legislature hereby declares that the dispensing and furnishing of prescription drugs, controlled substances, and dangerous drugs or dangerous devices without a license poses a significant threat to the health, safety, and welfare of all persons residing in the state. It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this provision to enhance the penalties attached to this illicit and dangerous conduct.” Essentially, California prosecutes drug sales and transportation offenses aggressively in an attempt to protect the health, safety, and well-being of its residents. Below are just a few factors that determine the nature and extent of the criminal charges a defendant could face.

The Classification of the Controlled Substance

Generally, the more addictive and “dangerous” a controlled substance may be, the more serious the criminal penalties will be. For example, crimes involving highly addictive substances like fentanyl and heroin carry weightier penalties than those involving substances that are less prone to addiction and misuse, such as certain prescription medications distributed without a valid prescription (i.e., Adderal, Vicodin). The controlled substances addressed by Health & Safety Code 11352 include opiates, opiate derivatives, cocaine, heroin, peyote, and certain prescription drugs (like codeine and hydrocodone), among other drugs.

Defining the Term “Transporting”

The legal definition of the term “transporting” refers to the carrying or movement of a controlled substance from one location to another for the purpose of distribution. While many drug transportation offenses apply to situations in which someone moves a controlled substance from one county to another (or, in some cases, from one state to another), you can still face drug transportation charges for moving a controlled substance across a short distance. Moreover, transportation does not always occur by car or truck; transportation can occur by walking, riding a bicycle, or using a motorcycle. However, you must transport a “usable amount” of the controlled substance in order for prosecutors to pursue drug transportation charges. Trace amounts of a drug, like residue or powder found on clothing or an object, are not enough to warrant this type of criminal charge.

Potential Penalties for Drug Sales and Transportation Crimes

Under California state law, selling or transporting controlled substances constitutes a felony offense. If convicted, first-time offenders will likely face felony probation, a jail sentence lasting between three to five years (under California’s realignment program), and a fine of up to $20,000. However, if the court finds you guilty of transporting controlled substances across two or more county lines with the intention of selling them, you could face a jail sentence lasting between three to nine years. Aggravating factors, such as committing drug trafficking near drug treatment facilities or selling or transporting large quantities of heroin or cocaine, may lead to enhanced sentences. Defendants with at least one prior felony drug-related conviction on their criminal record (other than simple possession) may face an additional and consecutive three years in jail for each previous conviction. Enhanced penalties also apply to offenses involving the employment or use of minors to sell or transport controlled substances.

Defensive Strategies Against Drug Sales Charges

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and intimidated when law enforcement arrests you for drug sales or drug transportation offenses, especially if this is your first encounter with the California criminal court system. However, it’s essential to recognize that you do not have to go through this stressful experience on your own. Contact a skilled and experienced Los Angeles County drug crime defense lawyer as soon as possible to get started preparing your legal defense. Your attorney will assess the details of your case to identify the most strategic path forward. If your lawyer finds that law enforcement violated your legal rights at any point, like subjecting you to an illegal search and seizure or failing to inform you of your Miranda rights at the time of your arrest, they will point out these failures and violations while advocating for your best interests. Since prosecutors must prove that you intentionally and knowingly transported controlled substances to sell to others in order to secure a conviction, your defense lawyer can use evidence to demonstrate that you were unaware of the presence of the drugs and that you had no intention to sell or distribute them. Whatever the unique circumstances of your case may be, you can trust that your criminal defense attorney will determine the most strategic path forward to protect your future and safeguard your freedom.

California prosecutes drug-related offenses aggressively. If you are facing drug charges in Los Angeles County, call Wegman & Levin at (818) 980-4000 as soon as possible to schedule your free consultation with a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin is an experienced attorney who has been in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years. He has conducted numerous jury trials in cases ranging from DUI to capital murder. Read More

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