It is generally illegal in California to possess heroin. California law imposes severe penalties including jail time for certain cases of Heroin possession, and even harsher penalties for possessing heroin with an intent to sell it, selling heroin, 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 heroin-related charge.
Possession of Heroin
California Health and Safety Code Section 11350 makes it a crime to possess heroin, unless the narcotic drug was obtained in connection with a valid prescription.
To be convicted of possession of heroin, the prosecutor must prove each of the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you had heroin in your possession; either on your body or that you had the right to control the heroin
- That you knew you possessed heroin
- There was a usable amount of heroin (beyond a trace amount)
A conviction for simple possession of heroin is a misdemeanor in California with a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail. Possession of heroin can be charged as a felony if the person charged has certain qualifying prior offenses or is required to register as a sex offender. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it is also possible that a conviction for simple possession of heroin will qualify for California’s Drug Diversion Program. That Program allows someone convicted of simple possession of heroin to avoid jail time. In addition, once the Program is completed, the heroin charges are dismissed.
Possession of Heroin for Sale
California Health and Safety Code Section 11351 makes it a felony to possess heroin 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 sent to prison for 2, 3, or 4 years.
Additional penalties may apply if the possession of heroin with intent to sell it took place on or close to a school, homeless shelter, or drug treatment facility. If the amount of heroin weighs more than one kilogram (2.2 lbs.), an additional prison sentence of between 3 and 25 years can be imposed.
The distinction between a charge of heroin 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 Heroin
Section 11352 of the Health and Safety Code makes it a felony to transport or sell heroin. 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 heroin across more than two counties within the State of California. In addition, if the amount of heroin exceeds 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs.), an additional prison sentence of between 3 and 25 years can be imposed.
Defending Heroin Charges
Prosecutors have the burden of proving every element of a heroin-related charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Defending a heroin case therefore involves challenging the evidence that police and prosecutors rely on. The most common defenses to heroin-related charges include but are not limited to:
- Challenging whether the substance that was found is actually heroin
- In a case of heroin possession, interviewing witnesses and otherwise undermining the claim that our client had possession of the heroin
- Reviewing search warrants and the manner in which the heroin was seized by the police to determine whether evidence of heroin 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 heroin, 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 heroin case does not just magically happen. It requires examining every aspect of the prosecution case and identifying holes in that case.
How a Heroin Defense Attorney Can Help
Every Los Angeles County courthouse treats heroin differently. Prosecutors in every courthouse have different priorities and policies when it comes to heroin-related crimes. You will benefit from our insider knowledge of how each courthouse deals with these cases.
Fast action is critical in heroin cases. Call Los Angeles heroin 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.