A 32-year-old man is facing multiple criminal charges after storming into a Victorville bar and restaurant with a loaded assault rifle. According to reports, Francisco Felix was denied service because he didn’t have a valid ID. He ran out to his car, grabbed the loaded weapon, and returned to confront the manager. The two got into a fight and at least one shot was fired. Felix was able to get away before police officers arrived at the scene.
Officers, with an arrest warrant and search warrant in hand, were able to locate Felix at his home. A search uncovered several loaded firearms, ammunition, and illegal drugs. He was arrested and is facing weapons and drug charges. Specifically, he is charged with possession of a controlled substance while armed.
Possession of a Controlled Substance While Armed
California has some of the strictest gun regulations in the country. Violating any of California’s gun laws can carry very harsh consequences. There are certain aggravating factors that can make a gun law violation even worse.
One such factor is being in possession of certain controlled substances while also in possession of a loaded firearm. California Health and Safety Code Section 11370.1 HSC makes it a crime to be in possession of a controlled substance “while armed with a loaded, operable firearm.”
Which Controlled Substances Are Prohibited Under 11370.1 HSC?
Health and Safety Code 11370.1 HSC does not apply to the possession of all controlled substances. The section specifically prohibits the possession of a controlled substance containing:
- Cocaine base
- Phencyclidine (crystalline)
- Phencyclidine (liquid), or
- Phencyclidine (plant material).
It’s also a violation of 11370.1 HSC to possess a hand-rolled cigarette treated with phencyclidine.
You have to know that you are in possession of a usable amount of a controlled substance. Possession can be actual (immediate physical contact) or constructive (ability to control the item, even if not in your physical custody). The element of knowledge helps to protect you in the event that drugs are planted on you or your property. You cannot be guilty under 11370.1 HSC if you didn’t know that you had drugs in your possession.
What Does it Mean to Be Armed With a Gun?
It’s a violation of the law to possess certain drugs while you’re also “armed with” a firearm. You will be considered to be armed with a firearm if the weapon is “available for immediate offensive or defensive use.” In other words, you have the ability to access the gun and use it without delay.
What is a Firearm?
California law has very strict definitions for what qualifies as a firearm. A firearm is defined as “any device designed to be used as a weapon, from which a projectile is expelled or discharged through a barrel by the force of an explosion or other form of combustion.”
Examples of firearms include:
- Assault rifles
- Automatic rifles
- Machine and submachine guns, and
What is a Loaded and Operable Firearm?
It’s not enough to be armed with a firearm. That weapon must also be loaded and operable. Loaded simply means that it contains ammunition. Operable means that the weapon is capable of being fired and working as intended.
You don’t necessarily have to know that the gun is loaded or operable. You just have to know that you have a firearm available for immediate use.
Penalties for Possessing a Controlled Substance While Armed
Drug crimes and firearm offenses are taken very seriously in the state of California. When a crime involves both drug and firearm aspects, the consequences can be quite severe. As a result, possession of a controlled substance while armed is always a felony offense.
Penalties for possession of a controlled substance while armed can include:
- Two, three, or four years in a California state prison;
- Criminal fines; and
- Felony probation.
Probation can include community service, drug and/or alcohol treatment programs, and work requirements.
Felony Conviction and the Loss of Your Gun Rights
Your right to own and/or possess a firearm will be impacted if you are convicted of a felony. In fact, a felony conviction will result in a lifetime revocation of your gun rights. If you are convicted for possessing a controlled substance while armed, you will not be eligible to have your gun rights reinstated.
Defending Yourself If You’re Arrested for Gun and Drug Possession
A conviction for possessing a controlled substance while armed can have serious consequences, including significant time behind bars and the loss of your gun rights. It will be important to assert a very strong defense. The following arguments may help in your criminal case for possessing drugs while armed:
- You didn’t know you had possession of a controlled substance
- You didn’t have possession of a controlled substance
- The firearm was not immediately available for use
- The firearm was not loaded or operable, and
- There wasn’t a usable amount of the controlled substance.
Did police conduct an illegal search or make an unlawful arrest? The state shouldn’t be allowed to benefit from a violation of your rights. An experienced attorney will file a motion to have any evidence tainted by illegal police activity suppressed from your case. Without evidence, prosecutors may be forced to drop the charges or consider a favorable plea.
Always speak with a criminal defense attorney after an arrest. At The Rodriguez Law Group, our legal team can help you fight to protect your future. Call our Los Angeles office today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.
The Rodriguez Law Group
626 Wilshire Blvd Suite 460
Los Angeles, CA 90017