PCP Defense Lawyer Los Angeles
Police and prosecutors throughout Los Angeles County and Southern California treat PCP (phencyclidine) cases very seriously. A Schedule II drug under the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act, PCP is perceived by police, District Attorney’s offices, and the medical community as a dangerous drug. Outside of chemistry labs and courts of law, it is known as Angel Dust, Supergrass (when mixed with marijuana), Boat, Tic Tac, Zoom, or Sherm.
First synthesized in the 1920s, PCP was briefly used in WWII as a surgical anesthetic, but it was discontinued because of side effects. Now only rarely used by veterinarians as an anesthetic or tranquilizer, PCP’s effects depend on its dose and how it is ingested. It can cause numbness, changes in mood, convulsions, and hallucinations. PCP can stay in the body for a week or more after its physical effects have ended.
With few exceptions, it is illegal in California to possess PCP. California law imposes severe penalties including jail time for certain cases of PCP possession and even harsher penalties for selling PCP, transporting it, or possessing PCP with an intent to sell. It also forbids the manufacture of certain chemicals that are thought to be precursors of PCP.
At the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg, we use our experience and local knowledge of how different District Attorney’s offices and courthouses work to aggressively defend every PCP-related charge.
Possession of PCP
California Health and Safety Code Section 11377 makes it a crime to possess PCP. There is an exception for someone who receives a valid prescription for PCP, but that is extremely rare. It is also against the law to possess controlled substances that are used to make PCP. These substances are referred to as “or any analog or any precursor of phencyclidine.” To prove possession of PCP, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- There was a usable quantity of PCP.
- PCP was found in a usable form.
- The person charged was in possession or in control of the PCP.
In California, a case of simple possession of PCP (without the intent to sell or distribute it to others) can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor has the discretion whether to charge a felony or misdemeanor. That decision generally depends on your criminal history, if any, and the facts of your case. The punishments for PCP-related activities can be increased if the PCP use involves minors, the prior criminal history of the person being charged, and whether a firearm was involved.
If PCP possession is charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is $1,000. As a felony, the potential prison sentences are 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years, and a maximum fine is $10,000. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it is also possible that a conviction for simple possession of PCP will qualify for California’s Drug Diversion Program. That program allows someone convicted of simple possession of PCP to avoid jail time. In addition, once the program is completed, the PCP charges are dismissed.
Combinations of PCP
California law not only prohibits the possession of PCP, but it also makes it unlawful to possess certain combinations of chemicals that are associated with the manufacture of PCP. Specifically, under California Health and Safety Code § 11383(b), it is a felony to possess the following chemicals with the intent to manufacture PCP:
- Piperidine and Cyclohexanone
- Pyrrolidine and Cyclohexanone
- Morpholine and Cyclohexanone
Cases of simple possession of PCP can be charged as a misdemeanor, but prosecutors often file them as felonies.
Possession of PCP for Sale
California Health and Safety Code Section 11378.5 makes it a felony to possess PCP with the intent to sell it to another person or entity. The penalties for possession with intent to sell are more serious than for simple possession. Specifically, someone convicted of violating Section 11378.5 can be fined up to $10,000 and be sent to prison for 3, 4, or 5 years.
Additional penalties apply if the amount of PCP involved is greater than one kilogram (2.2 lbs.) or 30 liters by liquid volume (approximately 8 gallons). People convicted of possessing this much PCP can be sentenced to an additional prison term of between 3 and 15 years. Likewise, additional penalties may apply if the possession of PCP took place on or close to a school, homeless shelter, or drug treatment facility.
The distinction between a charge of PCP 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 intent to sell. To determine possession for sale, police will look at whether there is evidence of sales. Examples of this commonly include:
- Separate packaging
- Scales or other measuring equipment
- Multiple cell phones
- Sales records (commonly called “pay and owes”)
Transporting or Selling PCP
Section 11379.5 of the Health and Safety Code makes it a felony to transport or sell PCP. Convictions are punishable by a prison sentence of three, four, or five years. A prison sentence as long as nine years will be imposed for people who are convicted of transporting PCP a across more than two counties within the State of California. As with the possession of PCP with intent to sell, additional penalties apply if the amount of PCP sold or transported exceeds one kilogram or 30 liters. Likewise, additional penalties apply if the person selling or transporting the PCP knows or should have known that person who bought or received the PCP was pregnant, a violent felon, or was being treated for a mental health disorder or drug problem. In order to prove illegal transportation of PCP, the prosecutor must prove:
- Quantity of PCP or precursor chemicals found in a car
- Driver or car registered from out-of-state or long-distance within California
- Surveillance or information from an informant
Manufacture of PCP
Some of the most severe penalties are imposed for the manufacture of PCP. Under Section 11379.6 of the Health and Safety Code, the manufacture of PCP is punishable by up to a seven-year prison sentence, plus a $50,000 fine. California law defines manufacture broadly. It means more than completing the entire process of making PCP. It includes activities such as making compounds, deriving chemicals, or extracting chemicals related to the making of PCP.
Defending PCP Charges
Prosecutors have the burden of proving every element of a PCP-related charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Defending a PCP case therefore involves challenging the evidence that police and prosecutors rely on. The most common defenses to PCP-related charges include but are not limited to:
- Challenging whether the substance that was found is actually PCP.
- In a case of PCP possession, interviewing witnesses and otherwise undermining the claim that our client had possession of the PCP.
- Reviewing search warrants and the manner in which the PCP was seized by the police to determine whether evidence of PCP 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 PCP, 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 intent to sell, challenging the evidence of intent.
A successful defense of a PCP case does not just magically happen. It requires examining every aspect of the prosecution case and identifying holes in that case.
Why an Experienced California PCP Defense Lawyer Can Help
Every Los Angeles County courthouse treats PCP differently. Prosecutors in every courthouse have different priorities and policies when it comes to PCP-related crimes. You will benefit from our insider knowledge of how each county courthouse deals with these cases. We provide a practical, tailored approach to our client’s cases that is based on our insider knowledge of the particular Los Angeles courthouse in which the case will be heard.
If a PCP case is a misdemeanor, the maximum prison sentence is 16 months. But, as indicated above, a felony charge together with enhancements can increase that sentence dramatically to 10 years or more. Defending a PCP case therefore involves challenging the evidence that police and prosecutors use to try to prove a case of possession, possession for sale, sale, transport of PCP, as well as all the evidence that relates to all the sentencing enhancements.
Contact Los Angeles drug defense lawyer Jerod Gunsberg at (310) 210-0744 for a free consultation.