January 29, 2014 By Paul Wallin

Breaking Bad Has Bring Your Child to Work Day (11378 HS Felony Charges)

Fans of the popular television series “Breaking Bad” know that Bryan Cranston’s character Walter White makes his living producing and selling methamphetamine to support his family after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

If you commit drug crimes in the presence of children, you coudl face HS 11378 felony charges.
If you commit drug crimes in the presence of children you could face 11378 HS felony charges in addition to other charges as well.

While financially lucrative, this line of work could send Walter into custody for a long time if he were ever “caught.” Committing drug crimes where children are involved or present, as Walter does, raises the stakes.

What Charges Could Walter Have Faced if He were Arrested in Real Life?

Health and Safety Code 11377 penalizes possession of a controlled substance such as methamphetamine. In California, this is a “wobbler” offense – meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case. Under Health and Safety Code Section 11378, Walter could be convicted of 11378 HS felony charges of  possession with intent to sell a controlled substance. A felony conviction for either of these crimes is punishable by up to three years in jail and/or a maximum $10,000 fine.

Health and Safety Code Section 11379 makes it a felony to illegally sell or transport drugs. This crime carries two, three or four years in jail plus a $10,000 fine upon conviction.

Pursuant to California Health and Safety Code 11379.6, if Walter had been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine, he could be sentenced to serve three, five or seven years in jail, fined up to $50,000 or both.

What Happens if Kids are Present at a Meth Lab?

California law under Penal Code 1170(h) provides that convictions for non-serious, non-violent, non-sex felonies, including illegal drug possession, possession for sales, sales/transportation and manufacturing may be served in jail rather than prison.

However, according to Health and Safety Code 11379.7, if a child under the age of 16 is present in the place where the drugs are being produced, a sentence can be enhanced by two additional and consecutive years, to be served in the state prison.

This situation was recently addressed in the California Court of Appeal as the following case of first impression illustrates…

People v. Vega (Case No. F065909, California Court of Appeal, January 15, 2014)

David Vega was convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine (HS 11379.6) in Tulare County in 2012 with a special allegation that children under the age of 16 were present in the home where the drugs were being produced (HS 11379.7). Living in Vega’s home were his wife and their three children, ages 7, 10 and 17. Also present was the defendant’s 19-year-old son, his 17-year-old girlfriend and their seven-month-old-son.

Additional charges of child endangerment pursuant to Penal Code Section 273a were dismissed in exchange for Vega’s no contest plea to drug manufacturing.

Vega was sentenced to serve a total of five years in custody: three years for the underlying manufacturing charge plus two additional and consecutive years for having minor children present in the place where he was producing the drugs.

The Court of Appeal ultimately decided that because of the enhanced sentencing requirements mandated by Penal Code Section 11379.7, Vega’s entire sentence must be served in prison.

What are Some Circumstances that Would Raise the Stakes in a Drug-Related Arrest?

If you are arrested for a drug-related crime, prosecutors will look at all of the circumstances of your offense to decide how to charge you. “Aggravating circumstances” – facts that may increase your punishment and/or mandate a prison rather than jail sentence – include but are not limited to the following:

  • The presence or involvement of children;
  • Drug activity within a protected zone, such as a church, school, park, drug rehabilitation facility or homeless shelter;
  • Sales or transportation of illegal drugs across two or more California counties. If you cross state or national borders, you can be federally prosecuted;
  • The amount of drugs involved.

Additionally, exposing children to situations where serious injury or harm is likely could also bring charges of child endangerment pursuant to California Penal Code Section 273a. This offense may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime.

A misdemeanor child endangerment conviction is punishable by up to one year in jail. A felony conviction means you face two, four or six years in prison.

Other serious consequences may also result upon your conviction for crimes similar to those “committed” by Walter in “Breaking Bad.” You need to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney before you make any decisions in court regarding a pending drug-related case.

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today if You are Facing Drug Charges

If you or someone you know has been accused of a drug-related crime, you should contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney from Wallin & Klarich is your best chance to avoid a lengthy jail or prison sentence.

We will thoroughly examine all of the evidence against you to determine whether every element of the crime can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. We may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 40 years of experience successfully defending thousands of Southern California residents charged with a drug-related crime.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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