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Sale or Transportation of a Controlled Substance

California has taken major steps in recent years to legalize the use of marijuana and reform the sentencing of addicts in drop possession cases. Despite these reforms, there are still serious consequences for many drug-related charges. One of the most serious charges is the sale or transportation of a controlled substance.

The charge of selling or transporting a controlled substance is governed by California Health and Safety Code 11352. Any violation of the statute is treated as a felony under state law. While a conviction typically results in a sentence of three to five years in prison, there are several factors that could enhance a sentence. If you are accused of transporting a controlled substance across multiple county lines, you could face up to nine years in prison. The penalties are much tougher for the sale of a controlled substance near a homeless shelter or to children.

Ultimately, any conviction for selling or transporting controlled substances carries substantial penalties. In addition to the penalties under the law, a felony conviction can have collateral consequences. These consequences could include difficulty in obtaining employment or housing. If you prevail at trial, however, you will avoid these consequences entirely. To speak with a Los Angeles defense attorney that could help you build a winning defense, contact the Sigal Law Group today.

What is the Sale or Transportation of a Controlled Substance?

The term “controlled substance” has a specific meaning under federal law. However, you might be surprised to know that the charge of sale or transportation of a controlled substance only refers to a handful of illegal narcotics and prescription drugs. Drugs that are covered by the statute include:

  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Peyote
  • LSD, and
  • Prescription opiates

Drugs that do not fall under the scope of California Health and Safety Code 11352 include:

  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ecstasy
  • GHB
  • PCP, and
  • Ketamine

That does not mean you have free reign to sell or transport these drugs as you see fit. California drug law is a tangled web of statutes, and most of these illegal substances have statutes solely dedicated to their sale or transportation. Regardless of the type of drug charge you face, it is crucial that you discuss your legal options with a skilled Los Angeles drug crimes defense lawyer right away.

Elements to Prove Sale or Transportation

To obtain a conviction for the sale or transportation of a controlled substance, a Los Angeles prosecutor must establish a number of elements. If the prosecutor is unable to establish even one of these elements, an acquittal is warranted. The elements include:

  • The defendant sold, gave, administered, transported, or imported a controlled substance;
  • The defendant was aware of the presence of the controlled substance;
  • The defendant knew of the illegal nature of the substance; and
  • There was a “usable amount” of the controlled substance.

The first element is intentionally broad, covering every potential combination of providing a controlled substance to another person. Under California law, the element of transportation is also defined broadly. There is no requirement on a long distance, meaning transportation could be as simple as taking a drug across the street.

The second element requires a defendant to knowingly transport or sell a controlled substance. A defendant unaware of the nature of the substance or unaware that they are in possession of a controlled substance will not be guilty of the sale or transportation of a controlled substance.

Finally, anything less than a “usable amount” of a drug will not result in a charge of transporting a controlled substance. There are some important things to remember. First, the lack of a usable amount only applies to a transportation charge, not a charge for the sale of a controlled substance. Second, the threshold for a usable amount is low. Any amount that is substantial enough for a crime lab to test could be a usable amount.


When it comes to a charge of selling or transporting a controlled substance, nuance is important. A small detail can be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Sale of a controlled substance

You are in possession of a pound of cocaine. Needing money, you sell the pound of cocaine to your next-door neighbor. Unfortunately, your neighbor was a police informant, and you are arrested. You could be found guilty as you meet all of the elements of the crime.

Example 2: No knowledge of a controlled substance

You are in the possession of an old suitcase you found in your attic. Unbeknownst to you, there is a pound of heroin hidden in the suitcase. Needing money, you sell the suitcase to your neighbor, who is a police informant. While you might be arrested, you could have a viable defense as you lacked the knowledge that the drug was present.

Example 3: No usable amount

You are in possession of a plastic bag that previously held cocaine. While there is some visible residue in it, there is not enough to use. You are pulled over while driving across town, and a drug dog indicates the bag contains a controlled substance. However, there is not enough of the substance for a crime lab to test. In this situation, you could have a viable defense based on the lack of a usable amount of the controlled substance.

Common Defenses

Every crime has viable defenses that could result in a verdict in favor of the defendant at trial, and the sale or transportation of a controlled substance is no different. Some of the common defenses available to a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer include:

  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • Lack of a usable amount of the controlled substance
  • Lack of knowledge of the presence of a controlled substance
  • Mistaken identity
  • Entrapment

The Right Los Angeles Controlled Substance Defense Attorney For You

The truth about a charge of selling or transporting a controlled substance is that this charge is defensible. Law enforcement frequently make mistakes, and prosecutors are known for moving forward with charges based on thin evidence. To learn how you might be able to beat your charges, contact the Sigal Law Group right away.


Sigal Law Group
15250 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1220
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
(818) 325-0570