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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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California Cocaine Laws – Possession, Use, Sale, Trafficking

By Spodek Law Group | February 12, 2023
(Last Updated On: March 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th March 2023, 01:34 am

Cocaine Possession Penalties in California: Understanding the Consequences

California Health and Safety Code 11350 HS leaves no room for uncertainty – the possession of controlled substances like cocaine is strictly prohibited. The consequences of breaking this law are dire, and can result in a felony charge that carries a prison sentence of anywhere between 16 months to 3 years, along with a hefty fine of up to $20,000.

Intended Sale or Distribution of Cocaine: A Serious Offense

If the authorities have reason to believe that you intended to sell or distribute the cocaine, you could face even more severe charges under California Health and Safety Code 11351 HS. This offense comes with a punishment of 2 to 4 years in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000. However, if the substance in question is cocaine base, the prison sentence can go up to 5 years. And when the amount of cocaine exceeds one kilogram, the judge has the power to add 3 to 25 years to your sentence and the fines can skyrocket to $8,000,000.

The Consequences of Transporting and Selling Cocaine in California

The transport and sale of cocaine is prohibited under Health and Safety Code 11352 HS. If you’re facing charges for this offense, you could be facing a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years. But, if there’s evidence that you crossed more than two county lines with the product, the sentence could go up to 9 years. If the amount of cocaine in question exceeds one kilogram, you could be facing an additional sentence of 3 to 25 years and extra fines of up to $8,000,000.

Defending Against Cocaine Possession and Trafficking Charges

If you’re facing cocaine possession or trafficking charges, it’s important to seek the help of a seasoned San Diego drug crimes lawyer. Your lawyer may be able to apply one or more of the following defenses to your case:

Protecting Your Fourth Amendment Rights

  • Filing a motion to suppress the prosecution’s evidence if it was obtained from a search, arrest, or traffic stop that violated your 4th amendment rights

Entrapment Defense

  • Claiming that the authorities entrapped you, meaning that you committed the crime only because the police coerced you

Unethical or Illegal Police Conduct

  • Showing that the police committed any other unethical or illegal acts in investigating or arresting you

Proving the Prosecution’s Case is Flawed

  • Arguing that the prosecution did not prove every element of its case beyond a reasonable doubt

In some cases, even if a conviction is unavoidable, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. And during the sentencing hearing, it may be possible to obtain lowered penalties if mitigating factors apply to your case. In some cases, if you’re convicted of possession under state law, you may be able to avoid jail time by attending a substance abuse program.

Cocaine: a Powerful and Addictive Stimulant

Obtained from the Coca plant, which is native to the South American Andes, cocaine is one of the most popular drugs worldwide. The drug has an intense stimulant effect when snorted or smoked, leading to a surge of dopamine in the brain that can last for several hours. It is known by a variety of street names, including coke, blow, yeyo, or crack. Despite its addictive and harmful nature, cocaine was once legal for recreational use until banned under federal law in 1922. Nowadays, its use in medical contexts is rare and heavily restricted.

Under the federal Controlled Substance Act (21 U.S.C. 841), cocaine is listed as a schedule II substance. This classification means that cocaine has a high potential for abuse and addiction, while retaining some useful medical use under strict settings. In contrast, cocaine base is considered a schedule I substance, with no accepted medical uses. There is an ongoing legal dispute over the exact definition of “cocaine base,” but in the context of federal prosecutions, the term refers to crack cocaine.

The Harsh Penalties for Cocaine Possession and Trafficking

In most cases, cocaine possession charges are brought under state law. However, there are instances when someone can be charged for cocaine possession by the federal authorities. The penalties for cocaine possession are outlined by the Controlled Substance Act, which provides the following:

For first offenders, the penalty may be imprisonment for up to a year along with a fine ranging from $1,000 to $100,000.
A second offense will involve a sentence between 15 days and 2 years and/or fines between $2,500 and $250,000.
A third conviction will result in a prison term between 90 days and 3 years and possible fines between $5,000 and $250,000.
In addition, there are separate penalties for the possession of crack cocaine under federal law. The penalties involve a prison sentence of between 5 and 20 years and/or fines of up to $250,000 when:

A first offender has more than 5 grams
A second offender has over 3 grams
A third offender has more than 1 gram
When people are accused of drug trafficking, they usually face federal drug charges. The penalties for trafficking between 500 and 4,999 grams of cocaine mixture or 28 to 279 grams of crack cocaine are:

Between 5 to 40 years in prison for a first offense. The fines may reach $5 million for individuals and $25 million for organizations. The prison sentence increases to the 20 year to life range when there is evidence that serious injuries or death resulted from the trafficking activities.
Second offenders may face a sentence between 10 years and life. As for fines, they may reach $8 million for people acting alone and $50 million for organizations. An automatic life sentence applies to people convicted of trafficking activities that resulted in the loss of life or serious injuries.
When the case involves 5,000 grams or more of cocaine or in excess of 280 grams of crack, the penalties are as follows:

First offenders may receive between 10 years to life in prison, and the minimum sentence increases to 20 years for cases involving death or serious injury. For people acting alone, the fines may reach $10 million, and the fines for organizations may reach $50 million.

If you’re facing cocaine charges in California, the weight of the law can seem overwhelming. But don’t lose hope – there are a variety of legal defenses that a skilled California criminal defense lawyer can present on your behalf. Which specific ones will apply will depend on the specific charges you face.

A Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney is Key

As Hemet criminal defense attorney John Murray explains, “There are a handful of defenses that are typically raised in connection with California drug offenses, and these defenses routinely apply to California investigations involving cocaine.”

Here are some of the most common legal defenses to cocaine charges in California:

Illegal Search or Seizure

  • Challenging the validity of the police’s search or seizure, claiming that they violated California’s search and seizure laws, such as searching you without a California search warrant or by seizing cocaine that was discovered outside the scope of a valid warrant.


  • Claiming that you only committed a cocaine-related crime because the police coerced you into doing so.

Police Misconduct

  • Arguing that the officers engaged in unethical misconduct when they discovered or seized the alleged cocaine.

Lack of Possession

  • Showing that you didn’t possess the cocaine and that it belonged to someone else.

By working with a seasoned California criminal defense lawyer, you can ensure that your rights are protected and that you have the best chance of fighting the charges against you. Don’t face the legal system alone – get the help you need to fight for your future.


Understanding California’s Cocaine Laws: Possession, Sale, and Driving Under the Influence

Possession and Sale of Cocaine in California

Possessing or purchasing cocaine for sale in California is a serious crime that can lead to severe legal consequences. California’s Health and Safety Code 11351 HS prohibits the possession or purchase of cocaine with the intent to sell it. If convicted, you could face two, three, or four years in state prison and a maximum fine of $20,000.

However, the penalties increase if you are convicted of possessing or purchasing cocaine base for sale. You could face three, four, or five years in prison and the same maximum fine of $20,000. If the amount of cocaine or cocaine base exceeds one kilogram, you could also face additional prison time of three to twenty-five years and substantial fines that could total up to $8,000,000.

Unlike possessing cocaine for personal use, possessing or purchasing cocaine for sale does not allow you to participate in a drug diversion program.

Transportation and Sale of Cocaine in California

Transporting or selling a controlled substance in California is a grave crime that carries significant legal penalties. Health and Safety Code 11352 HS California prohibits the transportation or sale of cocaine or cocaine base. If convicted of selling cocaine or cocaine base, transporting cocaine with the intent to sell it, or engaging in any other prohibited activity under this law, you could face three, four, or five years in state prison.

If you transport cocaine across more than two county lines with the intention to sell it, you could face three, six, or nine years in prison. You could also face additional prison time and fines if the amount of cocaine or cocaine base exceeds the allowed limit.

Being Under the Influence of Cocaine in California

Being under the influence of a controlled substance is illegal in California. Under Health and Safety Code 11550 HS, if you are under the influence of any of the narcotics mentioned under HS 11350, you could face charges. “Under the influence” of cocaine means that your physical or mental abilities are impaired “in any detectable manner.”

If convicted, you could be subject to possible jail time, although eligible defendants may participate in drug diversion programs instead.

Driving Under the Influence of Cocaine in California

Driving under the influence of drugs is illegal in California. Under Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC, if you drive under the influence of cocaine, you could face fines and potential jail time.

However, the legal standard for being under the influence of cocaine while driving is different than the standard for HS 11550. In California, you drive under the influence of cocaine if the cocaine has “so far affected the nervous system, the brain, or muscles as to impair to an appreciable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner like that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties.”

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