Although recreational and medical marijuana use are legal in California, there are still marijuana laws that—if broken—may lead to criminal charges. Specifically, California Health and Safety Code 11359 prohibits the possession of marijuana with intent to sell, usually suspected when marijuana is found in large quantities. Intent to sell convictions are serious and may lead to lengthy jail sentences and expensive fines. If you have been charged with intent to sell marijuana, you should consult with a skilled Santa Barbara drug defense attorney.
How California Law Defines Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell or Distribute
California Health and Safety Code 11359 establishes the possession of marijuana with intent to sell as an illegal act. You may be found in breach of HS 11359 if you are found guilty of any of the following:
- You were found in possession of large quantities of marijuana.
- You were found with items consistent with sales activities such as business records, baggies, scales, weapons, and large quantities of cash.
- When you possessed the marijuana, you intended to sell it illegally and did not have the required local and state marijuana sales licensure.
The law establishes two kinds of possession: actual and constructive. Both may be eligible for criminal charges. Actual possession extends to those who had physical and exclusive control of the marijuana in question. For example, this would include people who were the source of contact in a transaction and physically handed the drugs to a buyer. Constructive possession extends to people involved in a marijuana sale who did not physically perform the exchange but were in control of the transaction. For example, this would include people growing marijuana in their backyard but using a third party to sell the drug for them.
It is important to note that the code does not establish any quantity as a benchmark for implying an intent to sell. This means that even if you are suspected of selling a small quantity of marijuana, you may still face criminal charges.
Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell: The Prosecutor's Approach
To convict you of possession with intent to sell, a prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the aforementioned elements were present in your case. Most of the elements that constitute an intent to sell conviction center around a defendant's mental state or internal thoughts at the time of their arrest. This poses a challenge for prosecutors. For example, it may be challenging for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that possession of a large quantity of drugs in and of itself implicates your intent to sell.
Some of the circumstantial evidence the prosecution may rely on to garner a conviction may include:
- The defendant has a prior conviction of selling marijuana
- The defendant was in possession of more marijuana than one would have for personal use
- The defendant was found in possession of a large amount of cash at the time of the arrest
- The defendant's reaction to the police suggested they were aware of their possession of a controlled substance
- The marijuana was found in packaging that suggested it was for sale
- Paraphernalia, such as scales and baggies, were found at the time of the arrest
These are just a few pieces of circumstantial evidence the prosecution may use to establish their argument. If you have been charged with possession with intent to sell marijuana, you should consult with a skilled drug defense attorney.
The Potential Penalties of Marijuana With Possession With Intent to Sell
Criminal convictions in Santa Barbara fall into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. In possession with intent to sell cases, the penalties you may face vary depending on whether you incur a misdemeanor or felony conviction. Most intent to sell marijuana convictions result in misdemeanors. However, if your case involved selling marijuana to minors or you have a past history of serious and violent crimes, you may face felony charges. You may also face felony conspiracy charges if other people may have been involved in the sales activities. Some of the penalties you may face from an intent to sell marijuana conviction include:
- Fines: If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you may face a fine of up to $500. Those convicted of a felony may face fines up to $10,000.
- Jail time: If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you may face up to 6 months in county jail. Those convicted of a felony may face up to 3 years of custody time.
- Drug offender registration: This may apply to those convicted of a felony.
- Probation: If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you may face up to 3 years of probation, while those convicted of a felony may face up to 5 years of probation. If your felony conviction involved the sale of marijuana to individuals under 14, you may face a longer probationary period and more severe penalties, generally.
The best way to minimize the risks associated with a marijuana with intent to sell charge is to consult with a skilled drug defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney may look at all the factors surrounding your case and develop the best defense strategy for your situation.
Common Defenses to Possession for Sale Charges in California
The legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use in California allows for strong potential defenses against intent to sell marijuana charges. Some of the most effective defenses a drug defense attorney may use include:
- The marijuana was for personal use
- The marijuana was not for sale
- The arrest involved an illegal search or seizure
- You were planning on sharing some of the marijuana with friends, not selling it illegally
- You didn't know you were in possession of marijuana
These are just a few of the potential defenses against marijuana related charges under California Health and Safety Code 11359. The specific defense strategy your attorney will use will depend on the circumstances of your case.
Consult an Experienced Santa Barbara Marijuana Defense Lawyer
If you are facing a marijuana possession with intent to sell charge in Santa Barbara, the Aron Law Firm is here to help. We provide clients facing marijuana possession charges with a comprehensive analysis of their case. Mr. Aron and his team work tirelessly to obtain the optimal outcome. By limiting our client roster and the associated caseload, we are able to give more time and attention to each and every case.
To schedule an appointment with an experienced marijuana possession defense lawyer, call the Aron Law Firm today at (805) 618-1768 or fill out our online contact form.