Possession with the Intent to Sell HS 11351

Possession of an illegal drug is already a serious charge in California. But it’s a lot more serious if you’re charged with possession with the intent to sell under California Health and Safety Code 11351.

This is a charge that, if it turns into a conviction, could land you behind bars and with hefty fines to pay. But it doesn’t have to turn into a conviction.

That’s because Elite Criminal Defense is here to help. If you have been charged with possession with the intent to sell, reach out to learn more about your legal options and the best path forward.


Definition of Possession for Sale of Narcotics HS 1135

Possession for sale of narcotics means you possessed an amount of a controlled substance, or multiple controlled substances, and had the intent to sell them.

Controlled substances, in this case, include various illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, and LSD. But illegal drugs aren’t the only substances included here — you can also be charged with possession of various prescription medications with the intent to sell.

What Does a Prosecutor Need to Prove Intent to Sell?

You can be charged with possession with the intent to sell without definitive proof, but in order for the prosecution to actually convict you, they’ll need to prove that you possessed a controlled substance and intended to sell it.

How do they do that, exactly?

First, they need to show that you possessed the controlled substance in question. Then, they need to prove your intent to sell.

They can’t read your mind, so they often use other indicators to demonstrate that you intended to sell the controlled substance. Examples include the following:

  • People frequently coming to your home and only staying for a short time
  • Large amounts of the controlled substance in question
  • Tools commonly used in the sale of drugs, such as scales and small plastic bags
pills in plastic bag in hand close-up

What Does It Mean to Possess a Controlled Substance for Sale?

If you’re charged with possessing an illegal substance with the intent to sell, it’s crucial to understand your situation fully. Otherwise, you could make costly errors that harm your future.

Speak to an attorney to break down your specific case and develop a strategy to avoid conviction. In the meantime, let’s dive into what it means to possess a controlled substance for sale in legal terms.


Possession of an illegal substance is the first, perhaps most important part of this charge. But California law defines possession somewhat differently than most average individuals might.

In legal terms, possession of a drug refers to control of that drug. You can have control of a drug without having it directly on your person or in your vehicle.

The law breaks possession down into three key types:

  • Actual possession. “Actual possession” of a controlled substance means you have direct and immediate control over the substance. This usually implies that the substance is on your person, such as in your pocket, in a bag you’re carrying, or in your hand. The key aspect is that you have immediate control over the substance and can access it without needing to go through another person or take additional steps.
  • Constructive possession. “Constructive possession” of a controlled substance means you may not have the substance physically on your person, but you have control over its location and the ability to access it. Essentially, you have the power and intent to control the substance, even if it’s not in your immediate physical possession.
  • Joint possession. “Joint possession” of a controlled substance refers to a situation where two or more individuals share control over the location and access to a controlled substance. In simpler terms, it means that more than one person has the ability and intent to control the drug.


Possession is only the first part of possessing a controlled substance for sale. You must also know that you possess the controlled substance. Otherwise, it’s not exactly your fault.

For example, you may have borrowed a friend’s car and gotten pulled over. Suddenly, you’re under arrest after police found a stash of cocaine in the glove compartment. You had no knowledge that you were in possession of the drug.

How Does This Differ from Possession for Personal Use?


When you are facing charges of possession with intent to sell, you may be unsure of how these charges differ from a less severe charge: simple possession, or possession for personal use.

Both charges involve the personal possession of controlled substances without a legal right to do so, such as a prescription. But in what key ways do these charges differ?

Let’s take a look at the difference between possession and possession with the intent to sell in California.

The Quantity of the Controlled Substance

Often, the amount of a drug you have in your possession determines whether you are charged with simple possession or possession with the intent to sell in California.

A small amount of a drug suggests you possess the drug for personal use, and a large amount suggests you possess it with the intent to sell it.

The Presence or Absence of Drug Paraphernalia

Drug paraphernalia like pipes, rolling papers, and similar items can indicate that you intended to personally use the drugs you had in your possession.

But other drug paraphernalia, like scales and plastic bags, may suggest that you intended to sell the drugs you allegedly had in your possession.

In other words, the presence of drug paraphernalia can make a big difference in whether you’re charged with possession or possession with the intent to sell.


What Are the Best Defenses to HS 11351?

Once you have determined the severity of the criminal charges, including whether you are facing simple possession or possession with intent to sell, you can begin building a defense strategy

But where do you start?

Below are just a few samples of the defenses commonly used against charges like possession with the intent to sell, but your attorney can provide case-specific guidance for you.

Police Officer’s Failure to Follow Constitutional Procedures

Police officers have to adhere to particular protocols when they investigate and arrest you. If they violate those protocols, they may be violating your constitutional rights.

And a violation of your constitutional rights may be reason to dispute the possession with intent to sell charge you are now facing.

For example, your Fourth Amendment rights are meant to protect you from illegal search and seizure. Unfortunately, a police officer may have searched your car without reasonable cause to believe you were breaking the law.

In such a case, you may be able to argue that the charge against you shouldn’t stand as-is.

Momentary Possession

Maybe it’s true that you possessed the drugs in question at the time of your arrest, but you only had the drugs in your possession for a brief moment. It was just bad timing, and you never intended to sell them.

In fact, you might have been attempting to throw them away. Or you might have accidentally come into possession of the drugs. If you and your attorney can convince the court that this is the case, you may be able to beat this charge.

Lack of Control or Possession

A key part of many criminal offenses is the intent to do harm. However, you may not have had any intent to possess drugs, let alone the intent to sell them. You may have borrowed something from a friend that had drugs in it, for example.

Proving you did not intend to commit a crime is often a viable defense path. A trusted lawyer can help you understand whether this or any other defense is workable in your specific case.

Lack of Awareness of Knowledge

You may not have been aware of the drugs being in your presence in the first place. For example, you may have had a friend in your vehicle who brought the drugs into your vehicle or home.

Gathering evidence that you could not have been aware of the drugs may be vital for your case.

Valid Prescription

Many controlled substances often also have medicinal uses. While the substances can have addictive or potentially harmful properties, they may be one of the only treatment options available for certain conditions.

If a medical professional legally prescribed the drug to you, it’s not a crime for you to have it. And if you have the amount of the drug specified by your prescription, it’s likely to be difficult for the prosecution to prove that you intended to sell it.

Lack of Intent to Sell

In some cases, you may have had drugs in your possession because you intended to possess them for yourself, not for sale. While simple possession is still a criminal charge, it can come with less severe penalties than possession with the intent to sell.


What if you would never have possessed illegal drugs or intended to sell them if it weren’t for the manipulation of another person? And what if that person was an undercover police officer?

If that describes your situation, you may be a victim of entrapment. And that may lead to a viable defense against the charge of possession with the intent to sell you’re now facing.

Insufficient Evidence

In the United States, you have to be proven guilty. And that proof comes through evidence.

So, what if there isn’t actually all that much evidence against you? It probably means you shouldn’t be convicted.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you assess the evidence against you and even devise a strategy to attack the evidence.

What Are the Penalties for Possession for Sale?


If you’re found guilty under California’s Health and Safety Code 11351 HS, you could get two to four years in county jail and possibly a fine up to $20,000. That’s the most basic set of penalties you could face.

In some cases, though, your attorney might be able to help you get probation and less time behind bars (one year).

Also, it’s important to note that a conviction under HS 11351 disqualifies you from drug diversion programs, which means you can’t choose treatment over jail time. And certain aggravating factors may worsen the potential penalties you face.

Aggravating Factors

The penalties for possession with intent to sell are already high. Unfortunately, certain aggravating factors can make the penalties you face worse.

For example, you may face worse penalties if the selling and distribution process is part of an organized crime group or gang. When arrested, you may also face harsher penalties if you have a gun or other deadly weapon.

If you are concerned that aggravating factors may impact your case, do not hesitate to reach out and discuss your case with a qualified attorney.

Drug Diversion

Drug diversion is a program that allows convicted drug offenders to engage in treatment programs instead of spending time in jail or prison. Generally, however, California courts do not allow people convicted of sales-related drug crimes to engage in drug diversion.

In other words, if you’re convicted of possession with the intent to sell, you won’t be eligible for drug diversion.

However, your attorney may be able to fight to have your charge reduced to a simpler possession charge, which could make you eligible for drug diversion.

Possible Immigration Consequences

Immigrants face another potential penalty if they are convicted of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell: deportation.

For many immigrants in the United States, this may be an incredibly serious potential penalty. And that’s why it’s so important to speak with an experienced attorney about your legal options.


Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney 

If you’re charged with possession with intent to sell under HS 11351, the stakes are high. You could face years in jail and other long-lasting consequences that could harm your future.

That’s where Elite Criminal Defense comes in. We understand the stress and worry you might be feeling after an arrest. We’re here to help you create a strong defense plan tailored to your specific case.Ready to talk to a lawyer? Reach out to us for a consultation. You can call us at 619-642-2310 or fill out our online contact form.

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