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California Drug Laws Involving Vicodin (Hydrocodone) – California Health & Safety Code 11350 HS


Vicodin is the brand name for a prescription drug combination of the pain reliever acetaminophen and the narcotic hydrocodone, which is an opiate derived from the poppy plant. The prescription narcotic is used to treat moderate to severe pain. The drug works by blocking the sensation of pain from the brain.

Vicodin (hydrocodone) can be used as a cough suppressant and is nearly equal to morphine for pain relief. Because of the presence of hydrocodone, Vicodin is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule II drug. 1 It has strictly limited medicinal uses, has a high potential for abuse, and can lead to physical and psychological dependence.

People who use Vicodin or hydrocodone for long periods or consume higher doses may become tolerant to the effectiveness of the drug and require higher doses for pain relief, which can lead to addiction and cause health problems such as liver toxicity.

Vicodin (Hydrocodone) Drug Crimes

A Vicodin drug law charge is very serious.
If you break a Vicodin drug law, you could face serious punishment.

There are many state and federal laws that regulate how Vicodin (hydrocodone) is prescribed and used. Breaking these laws could cause you to face serious charges. Some of these illegal situations include:

  • Possessing Vicodin without a prescription, or possessing more than the prescribed amount of Vicodin or more than one prescription
  • Possessing Vicodin (hydrocodone) with the intent to sell.
  • Transporting and selling Vicodin (hydrocodone).

Possession of a Controlled Substance (California Health and Safety Code Section 11350)

If you are in possession of Vicodin without a prescription, you are in violation of California Health and Safety Code Section 11350. If you have a valid prescription for Vicodin, but you have more of the drug than what is prescribed, or you have more than one prescription (from unknowing physicians), or you have someone else’s prescription for the drug, you could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Punishment for Possession of Vicodin (Hydrocodone)

If you are convicted of possession of the controlled substance Vicodin, you face up to one year in county jail and a fine of at least $1,000. Drug diversion may be available to you if this is your first offense, which would allow you to avoid jail time.

Be aware that being convicted for possession of Vicodin could cause non-citizens to be deported and denied reentry into the country or naturalization, as can each of the Vicodin crimes listed here.

Possession or Purchase of Vicodin (Hydrocodone) for Sale (California Health and Safety Code Section 11351)

Intention to sell Vicodin (hydrocodone) rather than simple possession.
A charge including intention to sell Vicodin is harsher than simple possession.

Possession with intent to sell is a felony crime that carries a harsher punishment than simple possession. There are several factors that are used to help determine if a person intends to sell a controlled substance. These include:

  • Having large quantities of Vicodin, or more than the average patient would consume
  • Having Vicodin separated into packages such as baggies or bundles
  • Having paraphernalia like scales, measuring tools, or other instruments used to divide and package Vicodin

Punishment for Possession or Purchase of Vicodin (Hydrocodone) for Sale

If you are convicted of possession of Vicodin with intent to sell, you could be sentenced to two, three, or four years in county jail and fined up to $20,000. Drug diversion is not available for those convicted of intent to sell.

Transporting or Selling Vicodin (Hydrocodone) (California Health and Safety Code Section 11352)

In California, transporting and selling Vicodin is the most serious of the crimes listed here. According to the law, “selling” Vicodin in this context means giving Vicodin in return for services, money, or anything else of value. Also, in this context, “transporting” means moving Vicodin from one location to another, even if it is only a short distance.

Punishment for Transporting or Selling Vicodin (Hydrocodone)

Transporting or selling Vicodin is a felony offense that is punishable by three, four, or five years in state prison and fines of up to $20,000. Be aware that if you illegally transport Vicodin across two or more county lines and you are convicted, you will face three, six, or nine years of incarceration along with the $20,000 fine. Drug diversion will not be available to those convicted of this crime, unless your criminal defense attorney can plea bargain down to a possession charge.

Prosecution for Unlawful Possession of Vicodin (Hydrocodone)

It is against the law to possess Vicodin for which you do not have a valid prescription. Legally, possession can be defined as –

  • Actual possession, in which Vicodin is in your immediate possession, such as in your pocket, or purse
  • Constructive possession, in which the Vicodin is in some location that you control, such as in your closet or desk drawer
  • Joint possession, in which you and another person either actually have possession of Vicodin, or you and another have constructive possession of Vicodin, such as when it is located in the home of you and your spouse

To be convicted of possession of Vicodin, the prosecution must prove the following:

  • That you were in possession of Vicodin and
  • You knew you were in possession of Vicodin and
  • You were aware that Vicodin is a controlled substance.

Defenses for Drug Crimes Involving Vicodin (Hydrocodone)

The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich will fight for your freedom.
Our drug law attorneys will fight in court to defend your innocence.

If you are accused of possession of Vicodin, your lawyer can raise several defenses, including: 

1. You have a valid prescription for the amount and dosage strength of the Vicodin you possess

2. The Vicodin belonged to someone else and was not yours 

3. You were unaware that you had Vicodin in your possession

4. You did not know that the Vicodin in your possession was a controlled substance

5. Police violated your Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights through an illegal search and seizure where either they did not have a search warrant or they had a search warrant but searched more than what was listed in the search warrant.

California Vicodin (Hydrocodone) Drug Crimes Frequently Asked Questions

The laws regarding possession and sale of Vicodin are complex, and those facing convictions for drug crimes involving Vicodin often have questions. Here we list some of the more common questions and explain the law in more detail.

What happens if you don’t know you have Vicodin in your possession?

To be convicted for possession of Vicodin, it must be proven that you were aware that you had Vicodin in your possession. An example of how someone might be acquitted for criminal possession would be if your significant other had an unmarked bottle of medicine in the house and while you knew it was there, you believed it was an over-the-counter medicine and not a scheduled drug.

What is a usable amount of Vicodin?

A usable amount of Vicodin is enough that someone can use it, though it does not have to be enough to have an effect on the user. However, trace amounts or Vicodin or hydrocodone debris is not considered a useable amount. 2

Can I be charged with possession of controlled substance if Vicodin was not found on my body or in my house?

Yes, you can be charged with possession of a controlled substance whether it is found on your person or in any location that you have control over, including your garage, car, home, office space, etc.

It is my first Vicodin (Hydrocodone) possession offense. Will I have to go to jail?

First-time, nonviolent drug offenders facing a Vicodin or hydrocodone possession charge may be able to participate in a drug diversion program instead of going to jail. In this scenario, you would plead guilty to possession of Vicodin and then complete an 18-month treatment program. If you successfully complete the program, the charge against you could be dismissed. However, if you fail to complete the drug treatment program, you will likely face a jail sentence.

Wallin & Klarich Can Help You Fight Criminal Possession of Vicodin (Hydrocodone) Drug Charges

If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug crime, contact one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. Without an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for you, you could be convicted of a drug offense, which could lead to jail time, heavy fines, and loss of your professional license. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you could also be deported.

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The call is free. Will you be?

Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending clients facing criminal drug charges. Hiring an attorney from Wallin & Klarich may be your best chance to avoid the serious consequences of a conviction for possession of Vicodin.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide you with the very best legal representation. We are dedicated to giving you the personal attention you expect to help you through this difficult time. We are here to help you get the best result possible 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. [http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/orangebook/c_cs_alpha.pdf]

2. [People v. Rubacalba (1993) 6 Cal.4th 62, 65-67 [23 Cal. Rptr.2nd 628, 859 P.2d 708]; People v. Piper (1971) 19 Cal.App.3rd 248, 250 [96 Cal.Rptr. 643] ]

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