Manufacturing controlled substances is particularly dangerous. The combination of volatile chemicals, unsafe lab conditions, and untrained hands can lead to dangerous explosions and environmental disasters. Some of the substances used to create these drugs are so volatile that the mere possession of them is risky. For these reasons, California enacted a statute outlawing the possession of certain materials with the intent to use them for producing controlled substances.
California Health and Safety Code 11383 makes possessing materials for manufacturing controlled substances a felony punishable by prison time and steep fines. There's a lot at stake when you are charged with possessing materials for manufacturing controlled substances; hiring the right criminal defense attorney is an important step in protecting your freedom. If you've been charged in L.A. County, William Kroger Attorney at Law is ready to discuss your case.
Possessing Materials for Manufacturing Controlled Substances in California
California law actually has two separate statutes designed to outlaw the possession of materials to create two separate drugs. California Health and Safety Code 11383 outlaws the possession of materials used to create PCP while Section 11383.5 relates to materials used to manufacture methamphetamine. This can include the final, completed drugs or an analog of either drug. Licensed drug manufacturers or pharmacists are exempt from the charges described above.
While these are two different statutes, they operate in the same manner. A charge under either statute is a felony that carries significant penalties. To gain a conviction, the prosecutor will need to show that:
- You possessed the chemicals necessary to make either PCP, methamphetamine, or a component of either drug; and
- That you did so with the intent to manufacture PCP, methamphetamine, or a component of either drug.
Even if you possess the chemicals necessary to manufacture either drug, the prosecutor must show that you had the intent to manufacture those substances at the time you possessed the ingredients. Proving your intent can be difficult. While you are the only one who knows what was in your mind; an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to show a jury of your peers that had no intention of manufacturing any illegal substances.
What Substances do Sections 11383 and 11383.5 regulate?
The statutes leave a clear guide on the substances that apply to these sections of the California Health and Safety Code. Other than PCP and methamphetamine, the statutes specifically regulate:
- phosphorus pentachloride
- Hydriodic acid
- thionyl chloride.
Most of the substances mentioned above are highly regulated on their own. While the titles of these statutes may imply that they relate to the lab equipment used to manufacture these drugs, it's important to note that there is no requirement that you have the ability to manufacture these drugs, only that you possess the specified chemical components. You could still face legal jeopardy if you possess these chemicals with the intention of manufacturing drugs regardless of whether you have a lab set up to manufacture the controlled substance.
Potential Penalties for a Conviction for Possessing Materials for Manufacturing Controlled Substances
The consequences for violating sections 11383 and 11383.5 are steep. A conviction for possessing materials used for manufacturing controlled substances is a felony. Each conviction carries a potential sentence of either 2, 4, or 6 years. Additionally, you may face a maximum fine of $10,000. Unlike in simple possession cases, you are not eligible for a drug diversion program that would allow you to avoid jail time.
Potential Legal Defense Strategies
The State of California must prove both elements of the crime of possessing materials for manufacturing a controlled substance. If either element is not present, you are not guilty of the crime. In other words, you may have a viable defense if your attorney can show that you either did not possess the materials in question or that you lacked the intent to manufacture a controlled substance. Additionally, if your constitutional rights were violated by an illegal search or seizure of your property or person you may have a defense based on those violations. It's common for California criminal defense attorneys to build their defenses around alleged violations of their client's rights.
You Did Not Possess the Materials
Logically, you must actually possess the material in question to be guilty of possessing materials for manufacturing controlled substances. However, for the purposes of California Health and Safety Codes 11383 and 11383.5, you can still be convicted despite not having actual, physical control of the materials in question. Possession only requires that you have “control” over the materials. That can include storing the material on your property or even having another person handle the materials at your direction.
There are however any number of circumstances that could absolve you of any legal liability. For example, being in the vicinity of the materials used to manufacture drugs isn't enough to violate California Health and Safety Code 11383 or 11383.5. Even if you had the necessary intent, you would have a defense if the material in question was at all times in the possession or control of another person.
Another potential defense exists if you were unaware of the existence of the materials or were not aware of their nature. But in most cases, if you weren't aware of the materials in question you likely also lacked the intent to manufacture a controlled substance.
You Lacked the Intent to Manufacture a Controlled Substance
Even if you don't dispute that you possessed the materials necessary to manufacture a controlled substance, you may have a valid defense if you can show you never intended to actually manufacture any illegal substances with them. There are exceptions in which it is legal to possess these materials; in these cases, there is no violation of the law despite the possession of the materials. Consider the following example:
You are employed by a drug manufacturer licensed by the State of California. Part of your work duties involve you handling and controlling phosphorus pentachloride. The substance is locked up in your office at the headquarters of your employer and you are the only person with physical access to it. After leaving your workplace one day, you realize you are coming down with a cold. You drive to your local pharmacy where you purchase cold medication that contains pseudoephedrine as an active ingredient. You take the cold medication home and ingest it pursuant to the instructions on the box in an effort to get rid of your cold.
In this example, you meet the first element of possessing the materials intended for manufacturing a controlled substance. You physically possessed both phosphorus pentachloride and pseudoephedrine during the course of your day. However, you would have a valid defense to a charge of possessing materials for the manufacture of a controlled substance as you did not intend to use those materials to manufacture an illegal substance. You only possessed phosphorus pentachloride as part of your employment, and you only used the cold medication in an attempt to treat an illness.
Illegal Search or Seizure
One of the strongest defenses in these types of cases involves the illegal search or seizure of your home, vehicle, or person at the hands of law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment of The United States Constitution bars law enforcement from illegally searching you or your property. Due to the belief that the government should not benefit from evidence collected illegally, the Supreme Court has held that evidence taken illegally must be excluded from trial. Known as “fruit of the poisonous tree,” anything seized at the time of your illegal arrest must be excluded by the judge from being used at your trial. This can include evidence of possession of the materials in question found in your car or even admissions made by you following an illegal result. Consider this example:
You are driving to your home with a trunk full of the materials used for manufacturing drugs. You pass by a police officer that feels you look suspicious. He pulls your vehicle over despite not having any reason he can provide. Without getting your consent, the officer immediately searches your vehicle despite not having probable cause to do so. Upon finding the materials in your vehicle, the officer places you under arrest for possessing materials for manufacturing a controlled substance. Without reading you your Miranda rights, the officer begins questioning you regarding the materials he found. After hours of talking you admit that the materials belong to you and that you intended to use them to produce methamphetamine.
There are a number of problems for the State of California in this example. The initial traffic stop on your vehicle lacked probable cause which could lead to all of the evidence collected after the traffic stop to be excluded. The officer also searched your vehicle illegally, which would lead to the exclusion of any evidence found in your car. Finally, the court would also exclude the incriminating statements you made to law enforcement after being questioned in custody without receiving your Miranda rights.
Hiring a Resourceful Controlled Substance Criminal Defense Attorney in California
A charge of possessing materials for manufacturing controlled substances is a felony; a conviction can cost you your freedom and change your life forever. To discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney, contact William Kroger Attorney at Law today.