PCP Federal Defense Lawyer Los Angeles

Federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are particularly interested in cases where they can charge multiple people of being involved in a conspiracy to manufacture or distribute PCP.

This one reason why federal PCP cases are different than cases handled through the California state court system. Most criminal defense lawyers lack experience in federal court.  In state court, PCP cases are more likely to involve smaller quantities and cases of simple possession (where there is no allegation of an intent to sell or distribute PCP).


The essence of a conspiracy is an agreement to commit an illegal act. The most important aspect of conspiracy law is that everyone who is part of the conspiracy can be found guilty of committing any crime committed by anyone else in the conspiracy.

Thus, under 18 USC § 846, the conspiracy law for drug trafficking cases, you can be found guilty of selling or possessing, distributing or manufacturing PCP even if you personally never touched or sold any PCP.  You can also be found to be part of a conspiracy with people you have never met before. Thus, for example, someone can be charged with conspiracy to manufacture PCP by buying equipment that is later used to make PCP.  In this example and in conspiracy cases generally, the mental state of the person buying the equipment is critical.  Federal prosecutors must prove that members of the conspiracy acted with an intent to distribute PCP, or with knowledge their actions would be in service of the conspiracy.  The defense of PCP cases therefore requires challenging the federal government’s evidence relating both to the acts of the alleged conspiracy as well as the mental state and intent of the people charged with being part of the conspiracy.

Federal conspiracy charges can lead to long prison sentences. The conspiracy charge often carries a five-year prison sentence. That’s just for the agreement to commit the crime, and is in addition to any penalties that relate to the distribution or sale of PCP itself.

How To Avoid The Most Common Mistake in Federal PCP Investigations

Because federal agencies are focused on uncovering conspiracies, they take a different approach to conducting interviews and interrogations than most local police departments.  In an effort to encourage people to talk and share information, FBI, DEA, and Immigration agents often know more than they disclose.  Thus, they may tell someone that they are only a “witness.” They may leave their business card on someone’s windshield or the door of their home, asking them to call.  What the “witness” doesn’t know is that the federal agents they may have already obtained damaging documents or statements from other people.

Thus, the biggest avoidable mistake you can make in a federal PCP prosecution is to talk to federal agents by yourself.  Never talk to a federal agent or prosecutor before first speaking with an experienced federal PCP defense lawyer.  This single step can be the difference between serving a long prison sentence, or getting a much better result.  And if you have already started talking to federal agents, stop and call an experienced PCP lawyer ASAP.

Possession of PCP

The primary federal law criminalizing the possession, manufacture and distribution of PCP (phencyclidine) is the Controlled Substances Act, which was enacted into law by Congress as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.  PCP, which is also known as Angel Dust, Embalming Fluid, Rocket Fuel, Wack, and Ozone, is a Class II substance.  A Class II substance is one that has a high potential for abuse, and that abuse may lead to severe psychological dependence.

Pure PCP is a white powder, which is made by mixing a combination of industrial chemicals.  Most of the PCP that is consumed, however, is combined with a variety of other substances that have the effect of changing the PCP mixture a variety of colors. Federal law creates separate penalties for possessing, distrusting and manufacturing both pure PCP and a PCP mixture.  A PCP mixture is defined as containing “any detectable” amount of PCP.

To prove a case of possession of PCP, federal prosecutors need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) there was a usable amount of PCP or PCP mixture; and (2) that there was control over the PCP or PCP mixture.

Penalties of Possession of PCP

Under 21 U.S.C. Section 844, the penalties for simple possession of PCP depend, in part on the number of prior violations.  Thus, for example, someone with no prior convictions can be jailed for up to one year and be ordered to pay a fine of at least $1,000.  Someone with 2 prior convictions for PCP possession is subject to a jail term between 90 days and 3 years and a minimum fine of $5,000.

Penalties for possession of PCP are often more severe under California law.  This is one reason why federal prosecutions of PCP possession cases are relatively rare.  PCP-related cases in federal court are more likely to involve allegations of manufacture or distribution of PCP.

Distribution and Manufacture of PCP

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will use a variety of evidence to determine whether they feel someone is distributing and/or manufacturing PCP or PCP mixture.  Examples of this evidence includes:

  • The quantity of PCP found;
  • Equipment commonly used to make PCP, such as jars, tin foil, or spoons that contain liquids that smell like PCP.
  • Possession of drugs from which PCP is manufactured, which are often refers to “precursor chemicals.”
  • Evidence of distribution of PCP includes measuring equipment, such as scales, large amounts of cash, and multiple cell phones, and sales records.

Penalties for Manufacture and/or Distribution of PCP

Under federal law, PCP-related penalties depend on the quantity of PCP or PCP mixture involved, whether this is a first or second offense, and whether the distribution of PCP caused serious bodily harm or death.  Regardless of the circumstances, the penalties for PCP distribution are severe.

For between 10 grams and 100 grams (about 4 ounces) of PCP and between 10 grams and less than 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of PCP mixture:

First felony drug offense: 5-40 years

Second felony drug offense: 10 years to life.

For 100 grams (about 4 ounces) or more of pure PCP or more than 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of PCP mixture, or where serious bodily harm or death results from the use of PCP, the maximum sentence, even for a first offense, is life in prison.  In addition, federal judges can impose severe financial penalties, up to $75 million.


Local Expertise in Federal Courts. Given the extreme potential punishments for being involved in a PCP conspiracy, it is critical to work with a lawyer who is experienced in defending federal drug cases.

The Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg has years of experience in defending federal drug cases and negotiating with local federal prosecutors. There are four federal courthouses in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties. Two are located in downtown, and generally handle federal opium cases that originate in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. The Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse is located in Santa Ana and handles Orange County cases. The George Brown Federal Courthouse is located in Riverside and handles cases from Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Each of these courthouses has separate judges. The prosecutors in Los Angeles are different than those who work in the federal Courthouses in Orange and riverside counties. Likewise, cases filed in the Santa Ana and Riverside courthouses get their jurors from a different geographic area than cases that go to trial in the two Los Angeles Courthouses.

These are just some of the factors that we take into account when defending federal PCP charges. Whether it involves representing people who have told that they are only “witnesses” in a PCP case, or thoroughly reviewing police searches and seizures of client property that were conducted with or without a warrant, we are able to provide an aggressive and practical defense in PCP cases based on our extensive experience in Federal court.

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