Drug Sales

Attorney Richard M. Oberto has taken drug sales cases to trial and helped client to avoid serious convictions. He has successfully represented clients who faced complex conspiracy charges, who were arrested in undercover police operations, and who were accused of firearm enhancements. He has successfully defended cases involving evidence from wiretaps, confidential informants, and search warrants. In addition to helping clients avoid conviction, he has helped numerous clients secure reduced charges of simple possession instead of sales. Mr. Oberto takes an aggressive approach in every case and makes sure to turn over every detail.

Crimes involving sale or distribution of a controlled substance are defined as felonies under California law. Similar and related crimes that are also treated as felonies include transporting for sale, furnishing, giving away, administering, maintaining a place for sale, and manufacturing a controlled substance. Although all such crimes carry long potential imprisonment sentences and other serious consequences, the specific punishments differ according to the type of controlled substance and manner of sale or distribution.

Intent to Sell or Distribute

One of the core elements of proof in a cases alleging sale or distribution of a controlled substance is the intent to sell or distribute. The prosecution has the burden of proving the element, as well as all other elements of the alleged crime, beyond a reasonable doubt. The issue of intent is frequently controversial. Other elements of proof such as possession, control, knowledge, and usable amount also frequently raise controversy.

Punishments for Different Drug Offenses

California law generally treats crimes of selling, transporting for sale, furnishing, giving away, and importing controlled substances more harshly than crimes of possession for sale. It generally treats crimes involving cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and opioid drugs more harshly than the same crimes involving methamphetamine, amphetamine, phencyclidine, and benzodiazepine drugs.

As examples of differences in California sentencing for similar drug dealing crimes, the crime of selling cocaine carries under Health and Safety Code section 11352 a maximum imprisonment term of 3, 4, or 5 years while possessing cocaine for sale under section 11351 carries a maximum term of 2, 3, or 5 years. The crime of selling methamphetamine under section 11379 carries a maximum imprisonment term of 2, 3, or 4 years while possessing the same substance for sale under section 11378 carries a maximum term of 16 months or 2 or 3.

Probation and Suspended Sentence

A person accused of drug sales or distribution may be eligible for probation and suspended sentence. The court can impose up to one year in jail as a condition of probation, but may impose less time based on the facts of the case, plea bargaining, treatment, and other sentencing considerations.

Enhancement Allegations

California law defines some specific conduct enhancements for cases involving sale or distribution of a controlled substance. Some examples include firearm enhancements, enhancements based on the quantity of controlled substance, and status enhancements based on prior convictions for sales and distribution. Enhancement allegations can lead to a dramatic increase in sentencing exposure.

Firearm Enhancements

In cases involving drug sale or distribution, the enhancement for possessing a firearm under Penal Code section 12022(c) carries a potential imprisonment term of 3, 4, or 5 years. The prosecution must prove that the firearm was available for immediate offensive or defensive use in the commission of the crime. Firearm enhancements can carry much greater potential imprisonment terms if the underlying crime is alleged to have involved use or discharge of a firearm.

Quantity Enhancements

Enhancements based on the quantity of controlled substance may apply in sales and distribution cases involving cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, amphetamine, phencyclidine, and others. The enhancements apply on a graduated scale based on increasing amounts of the controlled substance in question.

Status Enhancements

Cases involving drug sales and distribution are subject to many of the same status enhancements that apply generally in felony cases. Examples include prison prior enhancements and strike priors under under California's Three Strikes Law. In addition to enhancements that apply generally, Health and Safety Code section 11370.2 defines an enhancement allegation that applies specifically to enumerated cases involving sales and distribution of controlled substances. In such cases, the accused person is subject to a three year consecutive sentence of imprisonment for each enumerated prior conviction involving sales or distribution.

Expert in Criminal Procedure and Practice

Mr. Oberto welcomes people to contact him 24/7 at (559) 221-2557 to request an initial consultation. Se habla Español.

People also may contact Mr. Oberto to request an initial consultation using the contact form available on this website. Please do not use the contact form to write down sensitive information. Information communicated over the internet, including through this website, may not be considered confidential or privileged.

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