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California Health And Safety Code 11350(a) HS - Possession Of A Controlled Substance


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerCalifornia Health & Safety Code 11350(a) HS deals with what’s often known as personal use possession or simple possession. This means that having certain controlled substances is against the law unless you have a valid prescription from a doctor.

According to Section 11350(a) of the Health and Safety Code, it is against the law for anyone to do the following:

  • Possess any type of controlled substance that falls under the categories of opiates and opium derivatives, substances that have a stimulating impact on the central nervous system (such as cocaine-based substances), or any substances causing hallucinations.
  • Possess any controlled substance listed in Schedule III, IV, or V, if it’s a narcotic drug, unless they have a written prescription from a licensed physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian who is authorized to practice in this state.

11350 HS: (a)  Except as otherwise provided in this division, every person who possesses (1) any controlled substance specified in subdivision (b), (c), (e), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, specified in paragraph (14), (15), or (20) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054, or specified in subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11055, or specified in subdivision (h) of Section 11056, or (2) any controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V which is a narcotic drug, unless upon the written prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, except that such person shall instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 of the Penal Code or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290 of the Penal Code.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whenever a person who possesses any of the controlled substances specified in subdivision (a), the judge may, in addition to any punishment provided for pursuant to subdivision (a), assess against that person a fine not to exceed seventy dollars ($70) with proceeds of this fine to be used in accordance with Section 1463.23 of the Penal Code. The court shall, however, take into consideration the defendant’s ability to pay, and no defendant shall be denied probation because of his or her inability to pay the fine permitted under this subdivision.

(c) Except in unusual cases in which it would not serve the interest of justice to do so, whenever a court grants probation pursuant to a felony conviction under this section, in addition to any other conditions of probation which may be imposed, the following conditions of probation shall be ordered:

(1)  For a first offense under this section, a fine of at least one thousand dollars ($1,000) or community service.

(2)  For a second or subsequent offense under this section, a fine of at least two thousand dollars ($2,000) or community service.

(3)  If a defendant does not have the ability to pay the minimum fines specified in paragraphs (1) and (2), community service shall be ordered in lieu of the fine.

(d) It is not unlawful for a person other than the prescription holder to possess a controlled substance described in subdivision (a) if both of the following apply:

(1) The possession of the controlled substance is at the direction or with the express authorization of the prescription holder.

(2) The sole intent of the possessor is to deliver the prescription to the prescription holder for its prescribed use or to discard the substance in a lawful manner.

(e) This section does not permit the use of a controlled substance by a person other than the prescription holder or permit the distribution or sale of a controlled substance that is otherwise inconsistent with the prescription.



When someone is charged with California HSC 11350, which relates to possessing a controlled substance, the prosecutor needs to prove that possession of the controlled substance occurred in one of three possible ways:

  • Actual Possession: This means showing that law enforcement physically found the controlled substance on the person, like in a pocket, bag, or concealed in clothing.
  • Constructive Possession: This involves demonstrating that the controlled substance was discovered in a location or item that the person had control over, such as a closet in a bedroom or a bag checked onto an airplane.
  • Joint Possession: This comes into play when it can be proven that multiple individuals had possession, either physically or constructively.

For the prosecutor to make their case, they must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You intended to possess the controlled substance.
  • You weren’t forced into possessing it or unaware of its presence.
  • You knew the substance was a controlled substance.
  • Your possession was voluntary.
  • The quantity of the substance was sufficient for use or altering one’s state.
  • The evidence was gathered lawfully.

If any of these fundamental points cannot be convincingly proven, it could lead to the charges being dismissed, or the defense attorney could work with the prosecutor and judge to negotiate a resolution that results in a dismissal of the charges.


Lisa attended a friend’s party at a local apartment and discovered colorful pills in the bathroom. Unbeknownst to Lisa, the pills were a prescription medication used to manage a medical condition, and they fell under the category of a controlled substance. Intrigued and not fully aware of the legal implications, Lisa slipped a couple of pills into her pocket, thinking they were harmless party favors.

John is a college student who has been struggling financially. He’s heard that selling prescription medications can bring in some quick cash. One day, he acquires a significant quantity of prescription painkillers from a friend without a prescription. These painkillers are classified as controlled substances under the law.

Unfortunately, as Lisa was leaving, the apartment was unexpectedly visited by the police responding to a noise complaint from a neighbor. The officers entered the apartment to ensure everything was in order. During their quick inspection, they noticed Lisa’s uneasy demeanor and decided to question her.

As Lisa nervously interacted with the officers, one of them noticed the small bag of pills protruding from her pocket. They promptly asked her to surrender the pills and questioned her about their origin. Lisa, now realizing her mistake, explained what had happened in the bathroom.

The officers ran a quick check on the pills and verified that they were indeed a controlled substance requiring a valid prescription. Lisa was arrested for violating California Health and Safety Code Section 11350 HSC. Despite her explanation, she faced legal consequences including probation, drug education, and community service. The case highlights the importance of understanding the law to avoid unintended consequences.


Several offenses are closely associated with Health and Safety Code 11351 HS. Some of these share similar behavior, some are commonly charged alongside 11351 HS, and others may be substituted for it in legal cases.



If someone is found guilty under California HSC 11350 for possessing a controlled substance, the potential consequences depend on whether they’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony:


    • They could be fined up to $1,000.
    • They might face a jail sentence of up to 1 year in the county.
    • Non-citizens could possibly face deportation.


    • up to 1 year in county jail, followed by a period of probation.
    • Alternatively, they could face a sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison, followed by parole.


Here are some general immigration consequences that may arise:

  • Deportation or Removal: Certain drug-related offenses, including possession of a controlled substance, can lead to deportation or removal proceedings for non-U.S. citizens, including those with legal permanent resident status (green card holders) or visas.
  • Inadmissibility: Drug-related convictions can render an individual inadmissible, which means they may be barred from entering the U.S. or obtaining a visa or green card in the future.
  • Loss of Immigration Benefits: Drug convictions can also result in the loss of certain immigration benefits, such as asylum, withholding of removal, or cancellation of removal.
  • Impact on Naturalization: Drug-related convictions can affect an individual’s eligibility for naturalization (becoming a U.S. citizen) by affecting their moral character requirement.
  • Aggravated Felony: In some cases, drug-related offenses may be classified as aggravated felonies under immigration law, which can have severe consequences for immigration status and relief.
  • Waivers and Relief: Depending on the circumstances, some individuals may be eligible for waivers or relief from the immigration consequences of a drug-related conviction. However, these options can be complex and require legal guidance.
  • Immigration Detention: Convictions for drug offenses can also result in immigration detention, affecting an individual’s ability to be released on bond.

It’s important for non-U.S. citizens to be aware of the potential immigration consequences before making decisions in criminal cases. Consulting with both a criminal defense attorney and an experienced immigration attorney is advisable to understand the potential impact of a conviction and to explore possible strategies to mitigate the immigration consequences. Tabibnia Law firm can refer you to an excellent immigration attorney, if necessary.


There are several possible defenses that can be used when facing charges under California Health and Safety Code Section 11350 for possession of a controlled substance. Keep in mind that the viability of these defenses can depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the evidence available. Here are some potential defenses:

  • Lack of Possession: If you can demonstrate that you didn’t actually possess the controlled substance in question, the charges may be challenged. For example, if the substance was found in a shared area and you can prove you didn’t exercise control over it, this defense could apply.
  • Unlawful Search and Seizure: If law enforcement obtained the evidence through an illegal search or seizure without a proper warrant or probable cause, your Fourth Amendment rights may have been violated. In such cases, evidence obtained illegally may be suppressed, weakening the prosecution’s case.
  • Lack of Knowledge: You may argue that you were unaware of the presence of the controlled substance. If someone else placed it in your belongings without your knowledge, you might have a defense against the charges.
  • Medical Prescription: If you had a valid prescription for the controlled substance from a licensed healthcare professional, you could argue that your possession was lawful. This defense may apply if the substance falls under Schedule III, IV, or V and was prescribed for a legitimate medical purpose.
  • Entrapment: If law enforcement induced you to possess the controlled substance when you wouldn’t have done so otherwise, you might have a defense of entrapment. This defense asserts that you were manipulated or coerced into committing the offense.
  • Illegal Stop or Arrest: If the police lacked a valid reason to stop or arrest you, any evidence obtained as a result could be inadmissible in court. This defense is rooted in the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
  • Chain of Custody Issues: The prosecution must establish a proper chain of custody for the seized substance, documenting how it was handled and stored. If there are inconsistencies or gaps in this chain, it could raise doubts about the integrity of the evidence.
  • Insufficient Evidence: If the prosecution cannot provide sufficient evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, your attorney may argue that the case against you is weak.

Remember, the effectiveness of these defenses can vary depending on the specifics of your situation and the legal strategies employed. Consulting with a qualified criminal defense attorney is crucial to determine the best approach for your case.


However, not all convictions are eligible for expungement, and the eligibility criteria can vary based on the specific circumstances of the case, the type of offense, and the individual’s criminal history.

Keep in mind that laws and procedures can change, and individual cases can vary widely. It’s highly recommended that you consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney who specializes in California law to assess your specific situation and determine whether you are eligible for expungement under Health and Safety Code Section 11350 HSC or any other relevant laws. Understand the drug offender registry in California if you have been convicted of certain drug offenses.


Being charged with possessing controlled substances in California is a serious matter that can lead to lasting repercussions if found guilty. Given the gravity of the situation, it’s essential to consult with a skilled drug crime defense attorney in Los Angeles, especially if you or someone you’re familiar with is facing such accusations. Cyrus Tabibnia, a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer at Tabibnia Law Firm, holds extensive expertise in dealing with drug-related offenses. He recognizes the delicate nature of these charges and collaborates closely with his clients to ensure they receive the most effective and thorough defense available.

Tabibnia Law Firm provides legal services throughout Southern California, including but not limited to Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Orange County, San Fernando Valley, Ventura County, Riverside County, San Bernardino, Beverly Hills, Glendale, Santa Clarita, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Van Nuys, Woodland Hills, and various other locations in the region.

Call the Los Angeles drug crime defense lawyer at Tabibnia Law Office today to schedule your free consultation at 866-713-2159

Tabibnia Law Firm is serving its clients throughout Southern California including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Orange County, Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, Ventura county, Riverside County, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, Palmdale, Santa Clarita, Monterey Park, La Puente, Van Nuys, Pomona, Manhattan Beach, West Covina, Whittier, Downey, Woodland Hills, Norwalk, Torrance, Redondo Beach, San Bernardino, Walnut Creek, Inglewood, Lancaster, Westlake Village and nearby areas.

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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