Law Office of David P. Shapiro - San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney




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San Diego Drug Possession With Intent to Distribute Lawyer

If you’re facing charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in San Diego, the consequences of a conviction could be devastating. Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11351, this offense can carry penalties of 2-4 years in prison if convicted. Unlike simple possession, you are also ineligible for drug diversion programs that allow treatment instead of jail time.

At the Law Office of David P. Shapiro, our criminal defense attorneys have handled many of these types of cases. We can analyze the evidence and circumstances surrounding your arrest to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Depending on the factors involved, we may be able to get evidence suppressed due to unlawful search and seizure, negotiate for reduced charges, or exercise your right to trial.

Charges this serious demand focused legal representation from day one. The sooner you have our firm protecting your rights and freedom, the better we can defend you against these accusations. Don’t wait and see what happens — contact our San Diego drug possession lawyer now to start building your defense.

California Possession With Intent to Distribute Law |HS § 11351

In California, what is referred to as “possession with intent to distribute” is known more formally as Unlawful Possession for Sale or Purchase for Purposes of Sale under California Health and Safety Code Section 11351.

The statute defines it as:

“Except as otherwise provided in this division, every person who possesses for sale or purchases for purposes of sale (1) any controlled substance specified in subdivision (b), (c), or (e) of Section 11054, specified in paragraph (14), (15), or (20) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054, or specified in subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11055, or specified in subdivision (h) of Section 11056, or (2) any controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V which is a narcotic drug, shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for two, three, or four years.”

This charge is much more severe than simple drug possession, which involves having drugs solely for personal use.

Factors that can contribute to unlawful possession for sale charges include:

  • Possession of large quantities of drugs — If the police find you with a significant amount of a controlled substance, they may assume that you intend to sell or distribute the drugs rather than use them personally.
  • Presence of drug paraphernalia — Items such as scales, baggies, or other packaging materials can suggest that you are preparing drugs for distribution.
  • Large amounts of cash — Law enforcement may find having substantial sums of money on hand, especially in combination with drugs, as evidence of drug trafficking.

Additionally, controlled substances commonly involved in intent-to-sell cases include cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs.

Penalties for Possession with Intent to Distribute in California

The penalties for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in California are quite severe under Health and Safety Code Section 11351. Specifically:

  • It is charged as a felony offense;
  • It carries a potential jail/prison sentence of up to 2, 3, or 4 years, and
  • It has a maximum fine of up to $20,000.

Importantly, a conviction makes you ineligible for alternative sentencing, like drug diversion programs that allow court-ordered treatment, instead of harsher consequences like incarceration.

The potential jail/prison term depends on factors such as:

  • The type and amount of controlled substance involved;
  • If the crime occurred near a school, park, etc.,
  • Whether someone was injured as a result of the drug use;
  • Who else was around at the time, like young children; and
  • Your prior criminal history.

With such high stakes, having aggressive legal representation is crucial to avoid the life-altering consequences of a conviction.

By challenging the evidence for intent, exploring mitigating circumstances, or negotiating for reduced charges, an experienced defense firm can advocate for a favorable outcome in your case.

Elements for Possession With Intent Charges

To convict someone of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, prosecutors must prove six key elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You unlawfully possessed a controlled substance;
  2. You were aware of the substance’s presence;
  3. You knew the substance was an illegal controlled substance;
  4. When possessing the controlled substance, you intended for it to be sold or exchanged for money, services, or anything of value – either by yourself or someone else;
  5. It was a qualifying controlled substance under the law; and
  6. The quantity was a usable amount.

It’s important to note that prosecutors do not need to show you specifically intended to sell the drugs yourself. Simply intending for someone to sell or distribute the drugs is sufficient for this element.

Additionally, while recreational cannabis is legal in California, it remains illegal to possess with the intent to sell without proper licensing and operating a legitimate dispensary.

With such nuanced legal standards at play, having a skilled defense attorney scrutinizing whether both possession and intent can be proven is critical when facing these charges. An experienced lawyer can effectively challenge any shortcomings in the evidence for either element.

Potential Defenses to Possession With Intent Charges

If you are facing possession with intent to distribute charges, all hope is not lost. There are several legal defenses that may apply depending on the circumstances.

Our experienced criminal defense lawyers can evaluate all factors surrounding your arrest and use defenses that include:

  • Lack of intent to sell or distribute — You may be able to have the charges reduced to simple possession when you can prove that you intended to use the drugs in your possession for personal reasons only.
  • Illegal search and seizure — Any evidence obtained through an unlawful search or seizure violating your Fourth Amendment rights may be inadmissible in court.
  • Entrapment — If undercover officers or informants coerced you into committing a crime that you would not have otherwise committed, you may be able to argue that you were a victim of entrapment.
  • Unknowing possession — In some cases, someone may have planted drugs on you or your property without your knowledge. You may have a strong defense when you can prove that you were unaware you possessed the drugs.

Our criminal defense attorneys will examine the circumstances of your case and your goals to determine the most effective strategy.

Don’t Let Intent to Distribute Charges Define Your Life

When facing intent to distribute charges in San Diego, know that the situation is serious and requires a skilled criminal defense attorney to help you through it.

The consequences of a conviction are life-altering, with the potential for lengthy prison sentences, substantial fines, and a permanent felony record that can impact every aspect of your life for years to come.

The Law Office of David P. Shapiro offers San Diego residents effective representation with a proven track record of successfully handling intent-to-distribute charges.

Contact us today and learn how we can help.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you go to jail for possession with intent to distribute in California?

For a conviction under California Health & Safety Code Section 11351 for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, you may be sentenced to probation, up to a year in jail, or 2, 3, or 4 years imprisonment.

What is possession of drugs with intent to sell in California?

Possession of drugs with intent to sell in California refers to having a controlled substance with the intent of selling, transporting, or giving it away to others, as prohibited under Health & Safety Code Section 11351.

What are the penalties for simple possession of a controlled substance in California?

For simple possession of a controlled substance as a first offense, you typically face misdemeanor charges under Health & Safety Code Section 11350, which may result in up to 1 year in county jail.

Is possession with intent to distribute a felony in California?

Yes, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute or sell is a felony offense under Health & Safety Code Section 11351 in California.

Start Regaining Control of Your Future Today

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges in California, swift action is imperative. The penalties can be life altering and long lasting. Give us a call today to set up a case evaluation with one of our attorneys and learn how to best protect your freedom and future.

Too often, we see clients who “wait and see,” unsure of the legal landscape ahead, only for charges to escalate. They then find themselves backpedaling into a bad defense and an even worse lawyer. Don’t let that happen to you. Protect your freedom. Protect your future. Know your rights.

The contents of this article are meant for informational and marketing purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Viewing and/or use of the blog does not form an attorney-client relationship. No statements in this post are a guarantee, warranty, or prediction of a particular result in your case.