Much Needed Revision Possibly Coming to “Transportation” Drug Law

California Health and Safety Codes 11352 and 11379 prohibit “transportation” of controlled substances (most importantly, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine), and provide for more prison time than simple possession of the drugs, .  The legislature never gave a specific meaning for “transportation”, though reasonable and rational people can infer that the enhance penalties provided by the statute should only be applied to defendants actually trafficking in drugs and transporting drugs with the intent to sell them.  So a particularly cruel and idiotic string of court decisions has held that anybody simply moving any quantity of drugs for any reason is guilty of “transportation”.  (See, e.g. People v. Ormiston (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 676.  This case approves a transportation conviction for a defendant who had drugs on him while walking across a parking lot.  Ormiston also gives an excellent summary of the case law).

These statutes are particular favorites for bullying prosecutors who want to pointlessly lock drug offenders up longer or want to arbitrarily exclude defendants from drug treatment programs – no treatment programs for anybody charged with transportation.  I have personally represented dozens (hundreds?) of defendants charged with transportation for having small quantities of drugs in their car or in their pocket while riding a bicycle.

AB 721 provide a little sensible reform, allowing prosecutors to only charge transportation when the narcotics are actually intended for sale.  The bill has been approved by the legislator and is heading to Governor Brown’s desk now.