Oakland California Cocaine Laws & Penalties

According to Health and Safety Code § 11055, cocaine is a Schedule II narcotic, which means that it has a high potential for abuse along with physical and psychological dependence. There are three types of cocaine, including the following:

  • Cocaine Hydrochloride – This is a fine white powder often mixed with other substances like talcum powder
  • Cocaine Base – This is similar to cocaine hydrochloride, except it’s purer
  • Crack Cocaine – This form of cocaine is characterized as having white, cream, or transparent crystals.

Cocaine Charges & Penalties

You could face the following charges and penalties for cocaine in California:

  • Cocaine Possession – Health and Safety Code § 11350 makes it a misdemeanor offense to possess cocaine, punishable by up to a year in jail.
  • Cocaine Possession for Sale – Health and Safety Code § 11351 states that those who possess or purchase cocaine for sale face felony charges, punishable by a sentence of two, three, or four years in jail. Those convicted of possessing cocaine base for sale face the same punishment under Health and Safety Code § 11351.5.
  • Transporting or Selling Cocaine – Health and Safety Code § 11352 states that anyone who transports, imports from this state, sells, furnishes, administers, or gives away cocaine, or offers to do such things faces felony charges punishable by a sentence of three, four, or five years.
  • Under the Influence of Cocaine Health and Safety Code § 11550 states that anyone under the influence of cocaine faces misdemeanor charges, which result in up to a year in prison followed by possible probation for up to five years.

Legal Defenses for Oakland Cocaine Charges

You might have several defenses available if you’re facing cocaine charges. Your attorney might argue the following:


When law enforcement officials coerce you into committing a crime you otherwise wouldn’t have committed, you may be a victim of entrapment. In other words, the alleged criminal must have been willing to commit the crime before the police got involved for it to be a lawful arrest.

Illegal Search & Seizure

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to be protected from an unlawful search and seizure. That means that the police must have established probable cause or obtained a warrant before conducting a search of you or your property.

If police do not satisfy either of these requirements, any evidence gathered from the search will be thrown out in the pretrial process.

You Were Not in Legal Possession

You might argue that you were never in legal possession of cocaine in the first place. There are three types of possession: actual, constructive, and joint. Actual possession means that the drugs were actually on your person.

Constructive possession means that the drugs were in an easily accessible location, such as the back seat of your car. Joint possession is when two people have either actual or constructive possession of the drugs. If none of these types of possession are present in your case, you did not possess the substance in the eyes of the law.

You May Be Eligible for Drug Diversion Programs

Over the years, the courts have recognized that jail may not be appropriate for an individual struggling with substance abuse, especially users of highly addictive narcotics like cocaine. Individuals sent to jail with a substance abuse problem are likely to re-offend, creating an endless cycle of mass incarceration.

For this reason, you may have the option to get to the root of the issue by qualifying for the following pretrial diversion programs.

California Penal Code § 1000

California Penal Code § 1000 allows first-time offenders to apply for pretrial diversion to obtain an alternative sentence for their drug charges. You must meet the following requirements to be eligible for pretrial diversion:

  • You have not been convicted of any other drug offenses within the past five years
  • The crime was non-violent
  • There is no evidence of a contemporaneous violation relating to narcotics or restricted dangerous drugs
  • You have no prior felony convictions within the past five years

Proposition 36

Proposition 36 allows those charged with non-violent drug crimes to be sentenced to probation and attend a drug treatment program rather than jail.

This treatment aims to reduce recidivism in California and help individuals overcome their addiction. One study cited that the program resulted in favorable outcomes for many non-violent drug offenders.

California Drug Court

Another way the courts increase the likelihood of successful rehabilitation is through drug court. Like Prop 36 and California Penal Code § 1000, California drug court addresses the issue of substance abuse head-on by offering a treatment program for those charged with non-violent drug crimes.

Completion requirements for the program vary. Individuals may be required to complete educational and job training in addition to remaining sober.