Drug distribution laws and penalties in California

| Jun 4, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Individuals who are accused of distributing controlled substances in California are normally prosecuted by state authorities. However, federal agencies may take part in drug trafficking investigations when the illegal substances involved are being transported across state lines or the distribution is taking place in a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Combating drug trafficking in these areas is a law enforcement priority, so individuals arrested by federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration and prosecuted by U.S. attorneys face harsh mandatory minimum sentences.

Personal use

Claiming that seized drugs were for the defendant’s personal use is a common criminal defense in drug distribution cases. Prosecutors may try to undermine this defense by introducing evidence like scales and plastic bags that suggest the drugs were being packaged for sale. It could also be difficult to mount an effective defense based on personal use if significant quantities of controlled substances were seized or if undercover police officers purchased drugs from the defendant.

Drug distribution penalties

Drug distribution is a felony charge in California, and offenders convicted of the crime face a prison sentence of between three and nine years and a fine of up to $20,000. However, there are a number of factors that could lead to far longer custodial sentences. Transporting drugs from one California county to a contiguous county can add up to four years to a drug distribution sentence, and distributing controlled substances within 1,000 feet of a school or playground is a separate offense that carries a custodial sentence of between one and three years.

Entrapment and probable cause

There are several approaches that experienced criminal defense attorneys might take in drug distribution cases. When undercover officers are involved, attorneys may be able to claim that their clients were entrapped. If the drugs were discovered during the execution of a search warrant, attorneys may challenge the validity of the warrant and the probable cause investigators cited in order to obtain it.

Whether an individual is facing state or federal charges, it’s important to mount a defense. An attorney may be able to help their client avoid the harshest penalties or get the charges dismissed altogether.