California Health and Safety Code Section 11366 HSC: Operating A Drug House

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimedrug house

Houses where drugs are dealt or used are often considered to be blights on the community. As a result, the California legislature has made it illegal to maintain a place for controlled substance sale or use under California Health & Safety Code Section 11366 HSC. Those charged with this offense may be convicted of a felony that carries significant prison sentences.

In order to prove that a defendant is operating a drug house, a prosecutor must establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant opened or maintained a place
  2. AND the defendant opened or maintained the place 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 that place.

California Health & Safety Code Section 11366 HSC is not violated by a defendant’s personal use of a controlled substance in his or her own home, even if the defendant used drugs continuously or repeatedly.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Possession of a Controlled SubstanceCalifornia Health & Safety Code Section 11350 HSC
  2. Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance - California Health & Safety Code Section 11351 HSC
  3. Sale or Transportation of a Controlled Substance - California Health & Safety Code Section 11352 HSC
  4. Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – California Health & Safety Code Section 11364 HSC
3. Examples

After receiving numerous complaints from neighbors about people coming and going at all hours from a certain house, the police decide to conduct surveillance. They observe people coming to the house at all times and leaving quickly. They notice what they suspect are drug transactions and also notice some people leaving the house while apparently under the influence of drugs. The police get a warrant to search the home, but do not find any drugs. However, the owner of the house could still be charged with operating a drug house in violation of California Health & Safety Code Section 11366 HSC even where no controlled substances were discovered.

In another example, police search a man’s house and find large amounts of narcotics. The man says that the drugs are his for personal use and he does not sell or give drugs away to other people. In this scenario, the man would not be guilty of maintaining a drug house in violation of the statute.

In a third example, police respond to numerous neighbor complaints about a large party. The police notice lots of drugs being used at the house when they respond to the call. The owner of the house could not be charged with operating a drug house in violation of the law as long as the conduct did not occur on a continuous or repeated basis.

4. Defenses to Operating a Drug House

As discussed above, it is not a violation of California Health & Safety Code Section 11366 HSC to use drugs in one’s own house, even if the use is repeated and continuous.

In addition, the statute requires that the conduct involved occurs on a continuous and repeated basis. Thus, a person would not be criminally liable for this offense if the conduct only occurred one time only.

5. Penalties

Operating a drug house is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When making a filing decision, prosecutors will consider factors such as the defendant’s criminal history and the underlying factual circumstances. If charged as a felony, a defendant can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. If charged as a misdemeanor, a defendant can be sentenced to a maximum year in jail and whatever conditions of probation a judge may deem appropriate.

6. Criminal Defense for Operating a Drug House Cases

Operating a drug house is a serious criminal offense that carries potentially severe penalties for those convicted. As a result, it is crucial that you consult with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away if you have been charged with this offense. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is highly regarded as a skilled advocate who knows how to effectively fight drug charges.

For more information about operating a drug house, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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