Drug laws and drug crimes have garnered a lot of attention over the past ten years. These laws aim to control and enforce strict consequences for possession with the intent to sell – often leading to jail time and felony charges. However, possession does not mean that you intend to sell drugs to anyone. Sometimes, the one charged was not aware that the drugs were there. Even when there seems to be no other option but to plead guilty, understand that you have the right to contend these charges to avoid unnecessary jail time and keep your record clear. You will need to know why you are being charged this way and what kind of attorney will work best. 

Controlled Substances

California’s possession with intent to sell law applies explicitly to certain controlled substances. These include opiates, opium (heroin), certain hallucinogens (peyote, mescaline), depressants (DMT, quaaludes), and cocaine. Additionally, charges also apply to certain prescription medications – however, charges apply if these prescriptions are not valid or the amount you have does not correspond with the prescription quantity and date. These include; Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Morphine, and Fentanyl. 

Marijuana and synthetic drugs are treated differently. Possession of cannabis is generally a misdemeanor but could become a felony based on the amount distributed to underage individuals. Likewise, for synthetic cannabis and stimulants – these each fall under different California Health and Safety Codes and are also generally charged as misdemeanors. 

California Law

In California, it is a felony to possess certain controlled substances with the intent to sell. If convicted, the penalties range from two to four years in county jail or a $20,000 fine. No matter if you had the intention to sell or not, a jury can rule in favor of charging you with intent to sell based on the number of controlled substances. Further, if you are charged with intent to sell, you will not be eligible for a drug diversion program, which is a program that, if completed, will allow for criminal charges to be dropped. This is why it is essential to seek an attorney or court services liaison to help avoid sentencing that includes the intent to sell. 


There are various possible possession charges, including unlawful possession,  actual possession, constructive possession, or joint possession to be charged with possession. Actual possession means you have physical control over the substance. Constructive means that drugs were discovered in a location where you exercise control; say they are in your car when you are driving – they are considered your possession because you have control over the environment. Joint possession is when you and another person share actual or constructive possession in which both could face drug charges with intent to sell. 


This applies when you know that a controlled substance is illegal and within the realm of possession. This could include knowing that a substance is a controlled substance- being aware of the drug’s presence and having control over the substance. Understand that you cannot avoid conviction by claiming you did not know the drugs were there or that the substance was illegal. You will need to provide more clarity and information over why and how you did not realize – even then, it will be up to the jury to decide whether they believe you. 

Intent to Sell

This is the most critical part to determine in your case. By law, you must specifically intend to sell drugs either personally or through another party to be charged. Things that could influence your case are whether you were found with more drugs than you could personally consume. Additionally, large quantities might be in connection with paraphernalia, such as baggies and scales. Understand that if charged with possession with intent to sell, you will want to be aware of any other circumstantial evidence built against you outside of just the drug possession. This will help your attorney or court services liaison better understand your situation and how to work toward a lesser sentence or plea deal. 

Legal Defense

 Instead of being appointed an attorney or representing yourself – having a versed attorney in drug law could make all the difference between a possession charge or possession with intent to sell. There are strategies a versed drug law attorney might use in your case. These include whether the search and seizure were illegal or violated constitutional rights. Determining whether any evidence was gathered through unlawful means could be enough cause to drop a case. Examples of such searches include warrantless searches, searches that exceed the warrant’s scope, and illegal detention of the individual. Any negligence on the part of the officer involved in your case can completely change a case’s outcome. A skilled attorney or court services liaison understands police tactics and how the state prosecutes drug crimes. 


Navigating the legal system is a complex process. It can be especially difficult when your case involves the illegal use and distribution of controlled substances. California is very strict when it comes to such cases, which is why understanding drug law and criminal prosecution is essential in helping you make better-informed decisions about your charges. You will need someone on your side that is versed in drug law and an advocate for the rights of those wrongfully prosecuted or discriminated against. This is exactly what we at True Recovery provide. Our Court Services division is thorough in knowing the law and your rights; we aim to be a resource for individuals who struggle to recognize their voice and rights. If you face legal trouble surrounding controlled substances, we offer 24/7 assistance to find the right help for you. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.