According to California Health and Safety Code (HSC) 11351, you may face a sentence of two to four years in jail if convicted of selling cocaine. The courts impose longer jail terms if you are in possession of very large amounts of cocaine. For example:
- 1 kg of cocaine = three extra years
- 4 kg of cocaine = five extra years
- 10 kg of cocaine = ten extra years
- 20 kg of cocaine = 15 extra years
- 80 kg of cocaine = 25 extra years
Additionally, you can be sent to state prison for up to nine years if you sell cocaine in a public area, close to a school, or to a minor. Your specific sentence will depend on your unique circumstances.
Understanding the Ramifications of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that causes a euphoria “high” because of its impact on dopamine in the brain. It is a Schedule II drug, meaning it is very easy for people to abuse it. However, doctors can occasionally use it for legitimate medical purposes. People use it often under illegal circumstances, but occasionally doctors can use cocaine for medical purposes. People can snort, orally ingest, or inject cocaine.
In addition to its addictive properties, long-term use of cocaine can cause serious health problems. For example, it can decrease a person’s response to other rewards by rewiring specific pathways in the brain.
Increased use makes users more likely to experience psychological and physical problems. Cocaine use is also linked to increased stroke risk and heart problems. Depending on the method of ingestion, cocaine can also lead to organ damage, such as damage to the lungs if a person smokes cocaine.
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What is the Difference Between Possessing Cocaine and Selling Cocaine?
Possession of cocaine or another controlled substance has to do with having that substance for personal use, whether in your pocket or at home. While still illegal and sometimes punishable by fines or jail time, it is not as serious as trying to sell cocaine to other people. However, selling cocaine will likely result in a more severe sentence than simply possessing cocaine to use for yourself.
What Counts as Selling Cocaine?
You can be charged for possession with the intent to sell even if you are not caught in the act of distributing cocaine. Under California law, you can be prosecuted for selling drugs, including cocaine, simply if you have more of it than you could be using personally. Technically, you do not have to actually sell cocaine to face this charge.
The courts can also charge you if you bagged up small portions of the cocaine or were in possession of tools used to get the cocaine ready for sale. People visiting your house or business repeatedly and leaving after a short time may also be seen as suspicious. Finally, if someone tells the police that you sold them cocaine, you can face these charges.
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Evidence of Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell
The distinction between a charge of simple possession of cocaine or cocaine base versus possession with intent to sell makes all the difference, especially with sentencing. Police officers will examine whether there is any evidence that you intended to deal drugs to determine possession for sale. This evidence can include:
- The drugs were individually packaged
- The presence of a scale to weigh the drugs
- There were large amounts of cash
- Multiple cell phones were found to be in your possession
- People frequenting your residence
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What Are Other Charges Related to the Sale of Cocaine?
Even if you only have cocaine for personal use, you may be subject to jail time in California. The state considers cocaine a controlled substance. If you have it on your person or under your control, you can face charges for drug possession. You could be sentenced to a year in jail. You might also face fines.
You can be charged for being around others who are using cocaine if it is determined that you were helping them somehow. Other drug-related crimes may increase your jail time. The following sentences are used in California:
- Up to one year in jail for renting to someone who is making or storing cocaine in your space
- Up to one year in jail for utilizing or making a hidden compartment for the movement of cocaine
- Up to two to four years in jail for having a loaded gun along with cocaine
- Up to three to five years in jail for having, making, or selling cocaine in a space set up to keep law enforcement out
California also punishes the possession of paraphernalia associated with the use of cocaine.
Are the Laws in California Different for Selling Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a more finely processed form of cocaine and may be smoked instead of injected, inhaled, or snorted. Both forms of the substance are highly addictive, though California classifies them differently.
In addition to this difference in classification, California previously prosecuted the distribution of cocaine and crack cocaine differently. As a result, individuals convicted of possession of crack cocaine could face longer amounts of jail time. However, this changed when the Fair Sentencing Act was passed. This act makes the charges between the two forms more equal.
What is Proposition 36?
Proposition 36 offers individuals with charges for nonviolent drug offenses the chance to go through rehabilitation for one year instead of facing prison time. This could be as an inpatient, outpatient, or treatment at a halfway house. This legal option can be used for a first or second offense and only applies if you were in possession of cocaine for personal use.
You cannot use the rehabilitation option if you are charged with selling cocaine in California. Additionally, this does not apply to individuals who possessed a firearm or committed another offense unrelated to drugs.
What Can I Do if I Am Facing Charges for Selling Cocaine?
You have several options if charged with possession with the intent to sell cocaine. With the help of a drug crimes attorney, you can argue that you never possessed the drug or that the cocaine was only for your personal use. Remember that California considers even tiny amounts of cocaine usable for sale.
A case can be made that the drugs you possessed were not yours or that you were unaware of their presence. Your lawyer can also defend you if the police illegally conducted the search that found the drugs. Some cases have been supported by arguments that evidence was planted and not legitimate.
When you meet with a qualified attorney, they will carefully review what happened in your case. If you plead not guilty, your attorney will work to gather evidence that supports your innocence so that the courts will drop the charges. In other cases, your attorney will work to have the courts reduce your sentence or charges.
What Are My Rights if I Am Accused of Selling Cocaine?
Your rights are protected under California law and by the United States Constitution. Law enforcement must respect these rights whenever anyone is accused of a crime. If these rights are violated, it may change your sentence.
- The right to not incriminate yourself: You do have the right to not admit or confess to any crimes. This is why police say, “you have the right to remain silent.”
- The right to know the crimes you are accused of: In the case of drug-related crimes, you have the right to know if you are accused of selling or possessing cocaine or other substances.
- The right to an attorney: You have the right to an attorney who will represent you in any legal proceeding and offer you legal advice in your case.
Consequences of a Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell Conviction
Other than years of jail time, a felony conviction for the sale of a controlled substance, such as cocaine, can have lasting negative effects on your personal and professional life, including:
- The suspension or revocation of professional licenses
- A felony on your record as a drug offender, even after completing your sentence
- Denial of an immigration application or visa if you are not an American citizen
- Difficulty getting federal financial aid if you attend college
- A 10-year ban from owning a firearm
- Difficulty receiving or retaining custody of your children
It is essential to consider these long-term effects on your life and record before choosing to get involved in any drug use.
Sentencing Alternatives for Cocaine Possession in California
California has many programs in place to help people charged with drug crimes. These are alternatives to incarceration, and many specifically target first-time offenders.
Drug courts: Drug courts are located across the state and treat drug offenders. They often include terms like traditional probation (community service, counseling, treatment, etc.) but require regular court check-ins and are generally more intensive.
Deferred judgment: This occurs when you plead guilty to the offense to which you are charged and undergo a period of probation and treatment. If you successfully complete the period and remain arrest-free for a set period of time, you are released from supervision, and the case is dismissed.
Your criminal defense attorney can help fight for changes to your sentencing and possibly even rid you of potential jail time in exchange for rehabilitation and community service.
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If you face felony-related drug charges, speak with a cocaine defense lawyer immediately. They can explain the possible punishments and jail time for selling cocaine. The sooner they can begin researching your circumstances and negotiating with the prosecutor, the sooner you can put this event behind you.
Our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Simmrin Law Group can provide professional legal support and help you build a case before it is too late. You can call us or fill out our online contact form to get the assistance you require with a FREE consultation.