Opening and maintaining a place to deal drugs or use them is known in California as operating a drug house. This charge should not be taken lightly. If convicted, there is a myriad of consequences and penalties you face. Fighting the charge, however, can be exhausting and taxing on your nerves. Having the right drug crimes attorney, therefore, is imperative.
William S. Kroger, a well-respected and aggressive criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, has been supporting and defending clients charged with operating a drug house and other drug crimes for many years now. His experience, skill, and commitment set him apart from other lawyers. He has the insight. He has the resources. And he has a reputation of fiercely working to protect his clients' rights and freedom. Contact his office today to learn more about how William S. Kroger can help you. In the meantime, here are the basics of what you need to know about operating a drug house charge in L.A. County.
What does a California Operating a Drug House offense mean?
Operating a Drug House offense, Health and Safety Code §11366, is charged if you have allegedly opened and maintained a house, hotel, apartment, or other establishments to either sell or distribute controlled substances. This offense is a wobbler offense, which means based on the facts and circumstances, the prosecutor can charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Cultivating marijuana within a structure is one of the most charged offenses under this code section. The government can also bring charges against the landlord under H&S 11366.5.
It should also be noted that most people charged with this offense are not only charged this offense. There are related drug crimes that usually accompany this charge, like
- possession of a controlled substance (HS §11350)
- possession with intent to sell controlled substances (HS §11351)
- sale or transportation of a controlled substance (HS §11352), or
- possession of drug paraphernalia (HS §11364).
- cultivation of marijuana ( H&S 11358).
In general terms, a charge of operating a drug house in California means you have a fight ahead of you. Having a defense attorney you can trust and rely on to look out for your best interests will be key to your sanity. Whether guilty or not of the charge is not necessarily the important factor. The important factor is making sure your constitutional right to defend yourself is upheld and that it is done so you can either prove your innocence or ensure you get a second chance with limited consequences.
What must the prosecutor prove for a conviction of operating a drug house in L.A. County?
To prove that you have committed the crime of opening and maintaining a drug house requires the prosecutor to prove certain elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If one element is not proven sufficiently, you will likely be acquitted at trial. That's the job of William S. Kroger: to put forth arguments and evidence that weaken the State's claim against you and in some cases to prove your innocence. He is here to humanize you, not demonize you like the prosecutor will do when attempting to prove the elements of the crime.
There are two specific elements of the offense operating a drug house that the State must prove in order to render a conviction, and they are:
- You opened and maintained a place, and did so
- With the intent to sell, give away, or allow others to use a controlled substance or narcotic drug on a continuous or repeated basis at the same place.
With regard to the first element, the State must prove you used a certain location for this offense. That location can be just about anything, like a house, apartment, hotel room, office space, or other “place” so long as you opened it and maintained it. Therefore, is your name on the mortgage or the lease? Did you reserve the hotel room? Did you pay for the hotel room? The State must first identify the place and then prove your relationship to the place.
With regard to the second element, the State must prove you -- consistently or repeatedly -- sold, gave away, or allowed others to use controlled substances in the place. A showing that you personally used a controlled substance on a regular basis does not prove this element. Likewise, a showing that you shared a controlled substance with a friend on a one-time basis will likely not prove this element. What could prove this element is a showing you personally conducted drug transactions or you allowed others to use or sell drugs in the “place” to other people in the “place.”
What are the consequences of a conviction of operating a drug house in California?
As a wobbler offense, the LA County prosecutor has the discretion to file the charge as either a felony or a misdemeanor The legal penalties for, respectively, include the possibility of:
- Incarceration at a California state prison for up to three years and a fine up to $10,000 for a felony, or
- at the Los Angeles County jail for up to a year and a fine up to $1,000 for a misdemeanor.
But these are not the only penalties to which you will be subjected. Depending on the facts and circumstances, you could face eviction from your home if you rented the place used as a “drug house” or property forfeiture in accordance with California's asset forfeiture laws.
You may also face problems later with employment, housing, leasing, qualifying for loans, qualifying for welfare benefits, among other things. Thus, a conviction of a drug crime, including operating a drug house, can lead to serious penalties and consequences that can negatively affect your life well after you have paid your debt to society. The only way to prevent it is fighting the charge, which means retaining an L.A. drug crimes attorney who offers smart, strategic defense.
Do I have any defenses to a charge of operating a drug house in California?
You should almost always plead not guilty and fight a criminal charge -- even when you believe the odds are stacked against you. In one of the worst case scenarios, your attorney will be able to negotiate a plea deal that works to your benefit by allowing your to plead to a lesser offense with a reduced sentence. In one of the best case scenarios, your attorney will be able to get the charges dismissed altogether. Your chances of receiving a better outcome are always better when -- initially -- you plead not guilty and defend yourself. So, what are those defenses your attorney may be able to use in your case? The following are a few that William S. Kroger may use in conjunction with a well-planned, aggressive strategy. That said, each case is unique and the defenses used are determined by the facts of the case.
- The controlled substance or narcotic substance was for your personal use.
- You lacked knowledge that persons visiting or living in the place were selling, giving away, or using the controlled substance.
- Other people sold or used drugs in your place only once or twice, but not continuously or repeatedly.
In addition to these possible defenses, the police may have acted improperly in their investigation. They may have conducted a search and seizure unlawfully by, for example, obtaining a search warrant improperly or exceeding the limits of the search warrant during their search of your place or person. If evidence was obtained from law enforcement's unlawful efforts, then that evidence can be suppressed. When that happens, the prosecutor may lack sufficient evidence to prove you opened and maintained a drug house in L.A. County or the State of California. And when that happens, the case may be dismissed.
Contact a Smart, Strategic L.A. Drug Crimes Attorney Today
William S. Kroger is a smart, strategic L.A. drug crimes attorney who is committed. He listens to his clients and takes on the new challenges of each case with renewed vigor. He understands the importance of fighting these types of charges proactively and aggressively. Contact his office today either online or at 323-655-5700 to learn more about how he can help you defend the charges and defend your life.