March 12, 2014 By Paul Wallin

Drug Trafficking in California – “Walter White” is Actually Convicted in Real Life (Health and Safety Code 11379, 21 U.S.C § 841)

Your name doesn’t have to be “Walter White” and you don’t have to be a character played by Emmy-winning actor Bryan Cranston in the popular television series “Breaking Bad” to learn the hard way that trafficking in methamphetamine is a risky and often deadly business carrying serious consequences. But perhaps it helps.

drug trafficking in California
There are harsh penalties for drug trafficking in California.

In December 2013, a real-life Walter White pled guilty in a federal court for trafficking in more than 32 pounds of methamphetamine. The Montana man, who shares his name and vocation with the lead character in the gritty television drama about manufacturing and selling drugs out of an RV, dealt methamphetamine out of his home.1

The fictitious Walter White is shot to death in the show’s final episode. The real-life Walter White got shot in his driveway in a gunfight with his son over a $10,000 drug debt.2

Fortunately for him, the real-life drug dealer doesn’t die. Instead, a U.S. District Judge sentenced 53-year-old Walter Jack White to serve more than 12 years in a federal prison: nine years on a meth possession charge and a consecutive three-and-a-half years for a firearms conviction.3

If you are suspected of illegal drug trafficking, you could be prosecuted for violating both California and federal laws.

Drug Trafficking in California (HS 11379)

California Health and Safety Code Section 11379 (HS 11379) prohibits unlawfully selling, transporting, importing/exporting, giving away or otherwise distributing certain controlled substances.

A controlled substance can be either of the following:

  • Illegal drugs (such as methamphetamine); or
  • Legally prescribed medication.

Sentencing and Punishment for a California Drug Trafficking Conviction

If you are convicted for trafficking methamphetamine in violation of HS 11379, you can be sentenced to two, three or four years in jail, a maximum $10,000 fine, or both.

Additionally, there are a number of factors than can increase the amount of time you can be sentenced to serve in custody if you are convicted of drug trafficking. For example:

  • If you are convicted of drug trafficking on the grounds of or within 1,000 feet of a drug treatment center, detox facility, or homeless shelter, add one more year to your underlying sentence;
  • If you are convicted of selling, transporting or otherwise distributing drugs unlawfully across two or more California counties, you can be sentenced to up to nine years in prison;
  • If the amount of the methamphetamine you possessed was substantial (one or more kilograms), you face an additional and consecutive 3 to 15 years in prison;
  • If you solicit, hire, encourage, intimidate or otherwise induce a minor under the age of 18 to sell, transport or otherwise distribute methamphetamine, or sell, furnish or give away methamphetamine to any minor, you face an additional and consecutive three, six or nine years in prison.

Enhanced sentencing specifying a prison term means any underlying sentence must also be served in prison, even if the law authorizes confinement in county jail for the underlying sentence.

Federal Drug Trafficking (21 U.S.C. § 841)

Drug trafficking according to federal law is prohibited under 21 U.S.C. § 841. The elements in a federal drug trafficking prosecution include that you knowingly or intentionally did the following:

  • Manufactured, distributed, or dispensed a controlled substance; or
  • Possessed with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance.

Federal authorities are likely to get involved in a drug trafficking investigation under the following circumstances:

  • You are suspected of trafficking in unusually large amounts of methamphetamine; and
  • You are suspected of illegal drug distribution across state or national borders; and/or
  • You are suspected of drug dealing in what is known as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). These are areas across the country targeted by federal authorities for intensified surveillance and aggressive investigation due to high volume drug activity.

Sentencing and Punishment for a Federal Drug Trafficking Conviction

drug trafficking federal crime
You could go to jail and pay hefty fines for drug trafficking.

If you possess methamphetamine and you are convicted of federal felony drug trafficking charges like the real-life Walter White was, you can be punished according to the amount of drugs involved in your arrest and prosecution.

If the weight of the drugs involved totaled at least 50 grams of pure meth or at least 500 grams of a mixture containing a detectable amount of meth, you face:

  • A minimum of 10 years to life for a first offense and/or up to a $10 million fine;
  • A minimum of 20 years to life for a second offense and/or up to a $20 million fine;
  • Life imprisonment without release and/or up to a $20 million fine if you were previously convicted more than twice of a federal drug felony;
  • 20 years to life imprisonment if death or serious bodily injury occurs as a result of use of the substance.

If the weight of drugs involved totaled at least 5 grams of pure meth or at least 50 grams of a mixture containing a detectable amount of meth, you can be punished as follows:

  • 5 to 40 years in prison, a maximum $5 million fine, or both for a first offense;
  • 10 years to life in prison, a maximum $8 million fine, or both for a second offense;
  • 20 years to life in prison if death or serious bodily injury occurs as a result of use of the substance.

Other Consequences of Drug Trafficking

In addition to a lengthy jail or prison sentence and heavy fines, a conviction for drug trafficking may also result in other consequences, such as:

  • Deportation or removal from the United States if you are not a U.S. citizen. This includes any immigrant with Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status (possess a “green card”) in addition to visa holders and undocumented aliens;
  • Disciplinary proceedings that may lead to suspension or revocation of a professional state license you may hold (teacher, doctor, nurse, pharmacist, therapist, attorney, broker, etc.);
  • Disqualification from receiving state or federal public benefits, educational grants or scholarships;
  • Registration as a drug offender with local authorities.

As we have learned from the example of the real life Walter White, drug trafficking often involves other crimes, such as weapons charges.

If you use a gun to commit a serious crime like drug trafficking, you may face additional prosecution and sentencing that can lead to life in prison.

Wallin & Klarich Can Help You Fight State or Federal Drug Trafficking Charges

criminal defense attorney
Our skilled criminal defense attorneys can help you.

If you or someone you know is facing federal or California state drug trafficking charges, you should contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible. Hiring an attorney from Wallin & Klarich could mean the difference between you having to face many years in state or federal custody and a reduction or dismissal of the charges against you.

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 our clients charged with state and federal drug trafficking and other drug-related crimes. We can help you get the best possible result in your case.

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

1. [CBS News: “Real-life Walter White gets 12 years in prison for dealing meth;”]
2. [Id.]
3. [Id.]

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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