LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL DEFENSE COCAINE AND COCAINE BASE ATTORNEY

With respect to cocaine, the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act distinguishes between “cocaine,” which is classified in Schedule II, and “cocaine base” which is a Schedule I drug. As used in the statute, cocaine means cocaine hydrochloride which is the chemical name for powder cocaine. Powder cocaine is a salt derived by mixing a cocaine base substance with sulfuric acid and a solvent.

Cocaine base includes and refers to all forms of cocaine that react with acid to form a salt, such as powder cocaine. Such cocaine base forms include crude coca paste, cocaine freebase and crack cocaine.

Beside the fact that cocaine base is classified in Schedule I as a more harmful drug than cocaine which listed under Schedule II, there is a significant sentencing disparity between the two drugs. Possession or purchase of cocaine base for sale is punishable by up to five (5) years in state prison. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11351.5]. By contrast, the exact same offense with respect to cocaine carries a maximum of four (4) years. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11351].

It is noteworthy that there is no uniform agreement among the courts as to what cocaine base involves. Some courts construe cocaine base narrowly so that it only covers crack cocaine. Other courts construe the term broadly so that it covers all forms of cocaine base and not simply crack. This is an additional discrepancy which needs to be fully resolved in order to bring consistency and justice to the issue of cocaine sentencing under both California state and federal laws.

It is our strong view that the cocaine vs. cocaine base disparity is unjust if not altogether absurd. It is common knowledge that certain forms of cocaine base, such as cocaine freebase and crack cocaine are more prevalent in poor white and minority communities while the more affluent parts of the white community use more actual cocaine, as in powder cocaine. Thus, the sentencing distinction between cocaine base and cocaine on its face discriminates on the basis of class and/or race, and constitutes yet another example of how one of the purposes of our penal system is the disproportionate incarceration of, and thus social control dominance over, the poor and minorities.

It should be noted, however, that progress is being made in eliminating the patent absurdity and injustice of the sentencing difference between cocaine base and cocaine. Until recently, under the federal law, specifically 21 U.S.C. §841(b), a person who committed a crime involving five (5) kilograms of cocaine triggered a mandatory minimum sentence of ten (10) years in prison. By contrast, a person who committed a crime involving fifty (50) grams – one one-hundredth the amount – of cocaine base received the same mandatory minimum. Recently, the Congress abolished this blatant disparity.

Cocaine Base. A substance containing cocaine base is a Schedule I drug classified as a stimulant under the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11054]. Simple possession of a cocaine base substance for personal use is punishable as a felony by a sentence of up to three (3) years of incarceration in state prison. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11350]. Because cocaine base is considered to be particularly dangerous and harmful, possession or purchase of cocaine base for sale is punishable by up to five (5) years in state prison. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11351.5]. Likewise, selling, distributing, importing or simply transporting cocaine base, even if transportation is for personal use, can carry a state prison sentence of up to five (5) years. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11352]. Transportation for the purpose of sales between noncontiguous counties carries a maximum sentence of up to nine (9) years in state prison. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11352(b)].

Cocaine. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug classified as a stimulant under the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11055]. Simple possession of a cocaine base substance for personal use is punishable as a felony by a sentence of up to three (3) years of incarceration in state prison. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11350]. Possession or purchase of cocaine base for sale is punishable by up to four (4) years in state prison. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11351]. Selling, distributing, importing or simply transporting cocaine base, even if transportation is for personal use, can carry a state prison sentence of up to five (5) years. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11352]. Transportation for the purpose of sales between noncontiguous counties carries a maximum sentence of up to nine (9) years in state prison. [Cal. Health & Safety Code §11352(b)].

If you are facing a criminal investigation, or criminal charges for possession of cocaine, a cocaine base substance or any other drug or narcotic have already been filed against you, a friend or a family member, we advise you most strongly to contact a criminal defense attorney in order to thoroughly evaluate your situation and explore your options. It is possible that an investigation or charges against you might be dismissed because the evidence against you was obtained through an illegal search and seizure, or some other reason. In the event chances for complete dismissal of the criminal charges are not great, you should know about your options for alternative pleas and sentencing. For example, you should know that first time drug and narcotics offenders, and individuals who do not have a significant past criminal record, especially in situations involving simple possession for personal use, are often eligible to be sentenced to a drug treatment program without serving any time in county jail or state prison. Alternative sentencing options include programs such as the state financed Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) also known as PC 1000, Proposition 36 or a private outpatient or residential treatment program of your choice if approved by the Court. You also might be eligible for formal or informal (also known as summary) probation with or without a treatment program. Probation might include some custody in county, city or private jail.

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