California law imposes severe penalties including jail time for certain cases of cocaine possession, and even harsher penalties for possessing cocaine or cocaine base with an intent to sell it, selling cocaine, or transporting it.
At the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg, we use our experience and local knowledge of how different District Attorney’s offices and courthouses in Los Angeles County work to aggressively defend every cocaine-related charge.
Possession of Cocaine
California Health and Safety Code Section 11350 makes it a crime to possess cocaine, unless the cocaine was obtained in connection with a valid prescription.
To be convicted of possession of cocaine, the prosecutor must prove each of the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you had cocaine in your possession; either on your body or that you had the right to control the methamphetamine
- That you knew you possessed cocaine
- There was a usable amount of cocaine (beyond a trace amount)
A conviction for simple possession of cocaine in California is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. Possession of cocaine can be charged as a felony if the person charged has certain qualifying prior prison commitments, a “super strike”, or is to register as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it is also possible that a conviction for simple possession of cocaine will qualify for California’s Drug Diversion Program. That Program allows someone convicted of simple possession of cocaine to avoid jail time. In addition, once the Program is completed, the cocaine charges are dismissed.
Possession of Cocaine For Sale
California Health and Safety Code Section 11351 makes it a felony to possess cocaine with the intent to sell it to another person or entity. The penalties for possession with an intent to sell are more serious than for simple possession. Specifically, someone convicted of violating Section 11351 can be fined up to $20,000 and sent to prison for 2, 3, or 4 years.
Additional penalties may apply if the possession of cocaine with intent to sell it took place on or close to a school, homeless shelter, or drug treatment facility. Likewise, a conviction for possessing or purchasing cocaine base for sale, if the amount of cocaine base exceeds 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs.), is subject to an additional fine and prison sentence of between 3 and 25 years.
The distinction between a charge of cocaine and cocaine base possession and possession with an intent to sell is critical. The police and the District Attorney’s Office are more likely to push for jail time in a case involving an intent to sell. To determine possession for sale, police will look at whether there is evidence of sales. Examples of this commonly include:
- Separately packaged
- Scales or other measuring equipment
- Multiple cell phones
- Sales records (commonly called “pay and owes”)
Transporting or Selling Cocaine
Section 11352 of the Health and Safety Code makes it a felony to transport or sell cocaine. Convictions are punishable by a prison sentence of 3, 4, or 5 years. A prison sentence as long as 9 years will be imposed for people who are convicted of transporting cocaine across more than two counties within the State of California. In addition, if the amount of cocaine or cocaine base exceeds 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs.), an additional prison sentence of between 3 and 25 years can be imposed.
Defending Cocaine Charges
Prosecutors have the burden of proving every element of a cocaine-related charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Defending a cocaine case therefore involves challenging the evidence that police and prosecutors rely on. The most common defenses to cocaine-related charges include but are not limited to:
- Challenging whether the substance that was found is actually cocaine
- In a case of cocaine possession, interviewing witnesses and otherwise undermining the claim that our client had possession of the cocaine
- Reviewing search warrants and the manner in which the cocaine was seized by the police to determine whether evidence of cocaine possession, sale, or transport can be excluded from trial because the police violated the constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures.
- In cases of simple possession of cocaine, negotiating with the District Attorney’s office and attempting to convince the prosecutor assigned to our client’s case that the charges should be filed as a misdemeanor rather than as a felony, or that that client should be sent to the Drug Diversion Program rather than to prison.
- In cases involving charges of possession with an intent to sell, challenging the evidence of intent.
A successful defense of a cocaine case does not just magically happen. It requires examining every aspect of the prosecution case and identifying holes in that case.
An Experienced California Cocaine Defense Lawyer Can Help
In Los Angeles County, prosecutors in every courthouse have different priorities and policies when it comes to cocaine-related crimes. You will benefit from our insider knowledge of how each courthouse deals with these cases.
Fast action is critical in cocaine cases. If you are charged with cocaine possession, cocaine possession for sale, transportation of cocaine or a related criminal drug offense, call Los Angeles cocaine defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg at (323) 633-3423 for a free and confidential consultation or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.