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Orange County Cocaine Defense Attorney

Cocaine Under California Law - California Health and Safety Code 11350 HS

Cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance under California law that is derived for coca leaves and is highly addictive. It is a stimulant and the powdered form is popular in underground parties, particularly among young adults, which often leads to strict convictions in order to deter its use. If you or someone you know is facing cocaine-related charges of possession, intent to sell, or trafficking in Orange County, then the penalties could be life-changing.

But you do have a right to a defense and should contact the Orange County cocaine defense attorney at the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti. Whether you were falsely accused or are struggling with addiction, you do not deserve to be unfairly punished. Call our offices at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to secure proper representation after an arrest.

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Penalties for Cocaine Drug Crimes

Orange County prosecutors will try to charge you with one of three key drug crimes: possession, possession with intent to sell, and trafficking. Each crime comes with its own strict language with regards to what constitutes a crime as well as stiff penalties for those who are convicted. In addition, cocaine base, otherwise referred to as “crack cocaine,” is treated as a Schedule I drug and comes with stricter penalties.

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Possession of Cocaine

To be charged with violating California Health & Safety Code 11350 HS, the prosecution must demonstrate that you:

  • Had cocaine in your possession, either on your person or property;
  • Knew that you possessed cocaine; and
  • Had enough cocaine to be ingested, inhaled, or used in any other way.

Possession of cocaine can result in a misdemeanor for first-time offenders or a felony charge if you had a prior serious felony conviction. Penalties can include:

  • Possession for personal use: Up to one year in a California county jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
  • Possession with a prior serious felony conviction and/or are on the California registered sex offender list: Up to 16-months to two or three years in a California county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

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Possession of Cocaine With Intent To Sell

Intent to sell charges require that the prosecution proved that you possessed a large enough quantity of cocaine to be distributed and that you intended to distribute it, which is a violation of Health & Safety Code 11351. This is a felony crime that can result in strict sentencing depending on the quantity of cocaine and the form. Powdered cocaine is often less stringently charged than the base form.

Penalties for intent to sell cocaine include:

  • Powdered cocaine: Up to two, three, or four years in a California state prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
  • Base (“crack”) cocaine below 1 kg (35 ounces): Up to three, four, or five years in a California state prison and/or a $20,000

In addition, intent to sell base cocaine can result in a significantly increased prison sentence if you possess more than 1 kg of cocaine (35 ounces) to up to 25 years in a state prison. These charges may also be modified if a defendant is charged with selling in the proximity of a school, to a minor, or to a school worker, including a daycare attendant.

Besides the aforementioned possession elements, the prosecution could pursue an intent to sell charge based on several factors, such as the quantity of cocaine in your possession, large sums of money, a weapon in close proximity to the money or cocaine, if the drug is packaged separately, and even owning more than one cellphones or a “burner” phone with pre-paid minutes.

Defendants convicted of possession with intent to sell cocaine are eligible for probation but may not apply for drug diversion programs.

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Cocaine Trafficking and Distribution

Trafficking charges are a violation of Health and Safety Code 11352 HS and can result in a significant prison sentence, especially if you crossed multiple county or state lines. These cases can involve the DEA, ICE, and FBI. If charged with trafficking, cultivation, or distribution of cocaine, you may be facing:

  • Manufacturing cocaine: Three, five, or seven years in a state prison and/or a $50,000 fine;
  • Transportation/distribution of cocaine: Two, three, or four years in a state prison and/or a $10,000 fine;
  • Transporting cocaine across two county lines: three, six, or nine years in a state prison;
  • Transporting across a state line (first offense): Up to 20 years in a federal prison and/or a $1 million fine; or
  • Transporting across a state line (second offense): Up to 30 years and/or a $2 million fine.

To be charged with a trafficking or distribution drug crime, the prosecution must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you transported, sold, or gave away cocaine in its base or powdered form unlawfully. In addition, manufacturing charges are based on whether or not you have the equipment and chemicals to develop powdered or crack cocaine.

All of these charges can be enhanced based on California’s anti-gang legislature and firearm charges.

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Building a Defense Case

The penalties for cocaine-related drug crimes are extremely serious in the state of California and Orange County prosecutors may pursue the highest level of sentencing. To counteract these charges, your criminal defense attorney can employ several defenses to reach a reduced sentence or a complete dismissal. Luckily, the burden of proof is on the prosecution and they must demonstrate all elements of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction.

Your attorney may argue that:

  • A key element of possession is that you knew about the drug. If you were driving with a friend and they were pulled over, you could not be arrested if the officer found cocaine in the vehicle because you did not know about its existence and the vehicle is not your property.
  • Intent to sell charges require the same basis as possession charges. As a result of this, your attorney may use similar arguments to demonstrate that you had no knowledge of the drug, that it belonged to someone else, or that it was not on your property. In addition, he may demonstrate that quantity of cocaine in your possession is based on a drug habit and that there is no supporting evidence to say that you would sell or distribute it.
  • If the police pressured you into a sting operation, they could not then arrest you for transporting or distributing cocaine at their behest. These situations are categorized as entrapment.
  • The context of how the police discovered the cocaine can be called into question. Did they have a warrant to search your property? Did they have just cause? What evidence are they using to link you to the drugs? Your attorney can call out not only the nature of how the police ran their investigation, but also the gaps in their investigation.

In addition to reducing your dismissing your charges, your attorney may advocate for a drug diversion program based on Prop 39 or PC 1000. If you are a first- or second-time offender for possession, you may be eligible for one of these programs as an alternative to prison time.

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Protecting Your Rights After an Arrest

California law dictates strict sentencing as part of their anti-drug campaigns and many individuals have had their lives ruined based on false pretenses. These penalties are especially debilitating for minors, who may have their licenses suspended, have difficulty applying for schools or federal aid, finding employment, or renting an apartment. To ensure you receive a fair deal or complete dismissal of charges, you need the aid of a thorough and experienced Orange County drug crime attorney.

From the moment the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti takes on your case, our lead attorney can review every piece of evidence and argument against you to build a strong defense case. He can contact expert investigators, collect additional witness statements, negotiate with the DA for reduced charges, or aggressively defend you in court. Contact our law offices at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to secure sound legal advice if you have been charged with a cocaine-related drug crime.

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Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.

(714) 530-9690

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“It was strongly recommended that I call federal defense attorney Michael L. Guisti. He had several investigators look at records and such, and my federal case was dismissed. Michael Guisti does what few attorneys can do, beat the federal government, and that is why if you’re in trouble with the government you need to call Michael Guisti right away!”

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Served Less Than 30 Days in Jail

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Attempted Murder

Reduced to Assault With Deadly Weapon

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Serves 80 Days on Work Furlough

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Serves 80 Days on Work Furlough

Man charged with three felony counts of vehicular assault with a deadly weapon.


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