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A Drug Trafficking Lawyer with Unparalleled Experience Could Help You Avoid the Harsh Consequences of a Drug Conviction

The war on drugs continues to rage at both the state and federal levels. Law-enforcement agents pursue drug traffickers with the intent to send them to prison for decades. Despite law enforcement’s tough stance on drug traffickers, not every person accused of drug trafficking deserves to spend their lives behind bars.

The consequences of a drug crime conviction in California can be extreme and long-lasting. Therefore, everyone accused of drug trafficking deserves to have an aggressive San Diego County drug charge lawyer to evaluate their case.

A drug trafficking lawyer with extensive knowledge, skill, and experience fighting for justice could give you the best chance to stay out of prison. 

Drug Trafficking Laws in California

Trafficking in controlled substances is a felony in California under the state’s Health and Safety Code. The law covers illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth, and it also applies to prescription drugs like oxycontin and Percocet. 

Under California’s drug laws, a person may receive a prison sentence for three, four, or five years for any activity beyond simple possession of a controlled substance. Drug trafficking in California means:

  • Transporting a controlled substance;
  • Importing a controlled substance into California;
  • Selling a controlled substance;
  • Furnishing a controlled substance to another person;
  • Administering a controlled substance to another; or
  • Giving away a controlled substance to another person.

Possession of narcotics with the intent to sell or purchase of controlled substances with the intention to sell is punishable by imprisonment for two to four years.

Manufacturing a controlled substance, such as crystal meth, for example, carries a seven-year prison term. Additionally, a conviction of possessing more than 14.25 grams of heroin requires the sentencing judge to impose a fine of not more than $50,000. 

The severity of the sentence you receive depends on several factors. Those factors include your criminal history, the amount of drugs you have, and the existence of aggravating factors. 

Penalty Enhancements

California’s drug laws provide for severe penalty enhancements in circumstances involving minors. The court may sentence you to an additional prison term to be served consecutive to the underlying sentence if the drug offense involved heroin, cocaine, or cocaine base. 

The court could add a year to your prison sentence if the offense happened near a church, synagogue, playground, daycare, public swimming pool, or other similar place during the facility’s business hours or if minors are present.

The judge might add two years to your sentence if the offense happened within 1,000 feet of a school. The judge could tack on another year on top of every other sentence if the crime involved a minor four years younger than you. 

These sentencing enhancements apply only to a person 18 years of age or older. The law also gives the judge full discretion to strike the sentencing enhancements if mitigating circumstances and justice dictate.

Penalties for Drug Possession

Possession of an illicit drug or a prescription drug without a valid prescription is a misdemeanor. Possession means having control over a substance without the intent to sell. In other words, the drug is for personal use only.

The range of penalties includes civil infractions, felonies, misdemeanors, or charges known as “wobblers” because they could be either a felony or misdemeanor. An experienced San Diego County drug charge lawyer will argue vigorously for a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Proposition 47 helped reduce some felony drug crimes to misdemeanors as well.

The maximum jail sentence for a misdemeanor is one year for a first offense. A conviction for a subsequent offense could be a felony. However, California law disfavors incarceration for simple drug possession. Instead, judges may place a person on diversion or probation for felony drug possession. The terms of probation must include:

  • A fine for a first offense of at least $1,000 or community service; or
  • A fine for a second offense of at least $2,000 or community service.

The court cannot deny a person probation because they cannot pay the fine. Instead, the judge must impose community service.

Additional Sentencing Alternatives

A skilled drug trafficking lawyer will evaluate their client’s case and argue for a reduced sentence or an alternative to jail time. Sentencing options include:

  • Drug court for one year with conditions of probation that include drug testing, counseling, and case review by a judge;
  • A “Proposition 36” sentence that includes inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient rehab, or living in a halfway house run by the Department of Health; and
  • Deferred entry of judgment to allow the accused to enter into a six-month diversion plan that includes treatment. The court will discharge the case if the accused completes the program and avoids arrest for one year.

The courts impose these sanctions to help people overcome the vice grip drugs have on them. 

Drug Trafficking Defenses

A drug trafficking lawyer in San Diego with extensive experience knows that taking a multi-faceted approach to defending drug trafficking charges could be in your best interests. The best defense for your case depends on your unique circumstances.

In some cases, the best option for you might be to argue for a reduced sentence. In other cases, it might be to fight the charges because the police violated your rights. Arguing for suppression of the drugs based on the police violating your right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures is often the best method of beating the case or reaching a plea bargain with the prosecution.

In some instances, you may be better off trying the case and letting a jury decide—for example, when the evidence against you is weak or the prosecution refuses to plea bargain. The prosecution must prove that you had the intent to possess the drugs seized by police.

If the police arrested you when you were a passenger in a car they found drugs in or while you were in a house that you do not live in, the prosecution might not be able to connect you to the drugs. In those cases, the jury could acquit you of the charges. 

San Diego County Drug Crimes Attorney 

A drug trafficking lawyer with the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, understands the difficult situation you are in right now. Remember, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, even if the police possibly had enough evidence to arrest you.

Contact our office today. Our nationally-recognized law firm is ready to meet your needs and protect your best interests.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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