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Defenses for California Drug Trafficking and Sales Cases

Posted by Sam Israels | Nov 12, 2019

We have represented many clients who were charged with drug trafficking or drug sales case in Los Angeles County Criminal Courts.

These type of serious felony drug crime charges will often depend on the quantity and type of drugs involved in the case. If convicted, you could be facing a significant amount of time in a California state prison.

There are many crucial recurring legal issues in felony drug cases that a criminal lawyer has to know in order to provide an effective defense and the best chance at a favorable outcome.

Of course, United States constitutional law applies equally is all criminal or drug crime prosecutions, but there are some factors that warrant special consideration in a California drug trafficking or sales case. One of these crucial factors is the distinction between a drug trafficking or sales case – and simple drug possession case.

Drug trafficking charges are often filed when someone has been accused of transporting, buying or selling controlled substances, such as cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, methamphetamine, prescription drugs, among others.

In some cases, we have seen people criminally charged for drug trafficking, but they only had possession of the drugs for personal use.

California Health & Safety Code 11351 has a long list of named controlled substances. It's important to note that drug possession is of course unlawful under California state law – but the penalties for possession for personal use only are significantly less than the penalties for a drug trafficking or sales case.

The distinction of simple drug possession or drug trafficking can often mean the difference between probation or diversion to avoid a conviction – and several year prison sentence.

Obviously, there are many drug crime cases that will clearly fall into a specific category, but in other cases, experienced legal representation might be able to challenge what appears to be an obvious case of drug trafficking or sales

Challenge Quantity of Drugs

A crucial factor to determine whether a drug crime case involves sales or just simple possession is clearly the quantity of drugs that were seized by law enforcement.

Of course, you won't be able to persuade a jury that you only had possession of drugs for personal use – if you were found in possession of a huge amount of narcotics.

However, it should be noted that in some drug crime cases – quantity is ambiguous. For example, let's say you were pulled over by police in a routine traffic stop. A subsequent search of your car found several ounces of methamphetamine.

There would be little argument this quantity is probably more than an average user would possess – but it might be possible to make a reasonable argument that the amount is not of sufficient quantity that personal use can just be ruled out.

Circumstances of Defendant's Behavior

In these type situations – where we might be able to challenge drug trafficking or simple possession – other circumstances about your behavior become crucial to the case.

For example, did you also have possession of a large amount of cash? Did you have possession of a scale, baggies, or paraphernalia normally involved in drug sales cases?

In most drug sales cases, police will also seize your cell phone. Did a search of cell phone records reveal several calls or text messages establish a pattern showing you were setting up transactions with buyers?

In many drug sales cases, undercover police set up surveillance before making an arrest. Did the surveillance evidence show behavior that is normally consistent with drug sales? Did it show several people visiting your home during all hours of the night?

As you can see, these questions are often a potential target by a criminal defense lawyer to create reasonable doubt when their client has been charged with serious felony drug trafficking or drug sales cases.

Creating Reasonable Doubt

In these type of situations described above, strategic presentation of the evidence by a criminal lawyer that depends on these specific details – could create crucial reasonable doubt that drug trafficking or drug sales really occurred.

For instance, California Health and Safety Code 11350 makes it a crime to possess a controlled substance – but it also includes language on drug possession with intent to sell. Our lawyers might be able to make a reasonable argument you never had intent to actually sell a controlled substance.

In a situation where you were obviously involved in drug trafficking and sales, we might also be able to make a reasonable challenge to the quantity of drugs involved. If we can create some reasonable doubt – it is often crucial in securing the best possible outcome.

While on the surface the quantity of drug seems like an easy question as they are just weighed on a scale. In some borderline cases, an experienced drug crime lawyer who is familiar with these type of prosecutions will know how to challenge this crucial factor.

For example, was the drug packaging also included in the total weight? Were there different narcotics or purities involved?

It should be noted that the facts and circumstances of all drug crime cases are unique and will first need to be closely examined in order to determine the best strategy. We may conduct an independent investigation or use expert witness.

Challenge Search and Seizure

It should be noted there is often a search and seizure issue in California drug trafficking and sales cases. The Fourth Amendment is designed to protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

In general terms, a warrant has to be obtained by a judge before law enforcement can search your belongings or home – but there are some exceptions to this rule. Whether or not an exception would apply to a warrant is an issue often litigated by your criminal defense lawyer in court with a motion to suppress evidence.

If a motion to suppress is successful, the prosecutor will normally have no option other than to dismiss the drug crime charges because the evidence seized in the case will be deemed inadmissible in court.

Related California Drug Offenses

Health and Safety Code 11351 – Possession of Controlled Substance for Sale
Health and Safety Code 11352 – Sale or Transportation of Controlled Substance
Health and Safety Code 11358 – Cultivating Marijuana
Health and Safety Code 11359 – Possession of Marijuana for Sale
Health and Safety Code 11360 – Transport or Distribute Marijuana
Health and Safety Code 11378 – Possession of Methamphetamine for Sale
Health and Safety Code 11379 – Sale or Transportation of Methamphetamine

A conviction for a California drug trafficking or sales case will carry harsh penalties. The sentence will normally depend on the quantity and type of controlled substance – along with your criminal record.

In most cases, a drug trafficking conviction will result in several years in California state prison and a permanent record – not to mention the life-altering consequences on your professional life.

If you are under investigation, or already arrested for a California drug trafficking or sales charge, you should contact our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to review the details of your case. We have a track record of success serving clients throughout Southern California. Call our law firm for a free case evaluation.

About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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