Two residents of Simi Valley were arrested recently, and drugs with a street value of more than $400,000 were also seized. The pair, now facing charges of possession with intent to sell, had been observed over several months by the Ventura County Interagency Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit, and was arrested after allegedly selling more than 1.5 pounds of methylone to an undercover agent. Authorities say that the pair was also illegally importing methylone from China.
Methylone is a stimulant and hallucinogenic substance, and is the subject of a 2011 emergency DEA order, making it illegal to possess or distribute in the United States. The drug is chemically similar to Ecstasy and is sometimes sold as Ecstasy on the street. It has also been sold as “bath salts,” even though methylone differs from each.
Authorities believe that the pair was the likely source of much of the methylone sold recently in Ventura County. As part of the arrest, officers searched residences in Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley. Those searches also turned up tens of thousands of dollars in cash, other illegal substances and production tools.
Possession with intent to sell is a serious charge in California. The charge requires prosecutors to prove two elements:
- Intent to sell
When illegal substances are found in an area like a residence, and the defendant knew the drugs were present and had control over them, the prosecutor can establish what is known as “constructive possession.” Constructive possession” can be circumstantial. The prosecutor does not have to prove that the defendant actually knew that the illegal substances were present, but instead can rely on circumstances to show that the defendant should have known that the illegal substances were on his property and in his control.
“Intent to sell” can also be demonstrated by circumstantial evidence. Prosecutors often demonstrate intent to sell based on the quantity of the illegal substances seized. When a person possesses drugs for his own personal use, seizures are generally small. Illegal substances in large quantities, tools and materials used to produce or package drugs, raw materials for producing drugs, large quantities of cash, the presence of weapons, written records, and other evidence of organized production and distribution can all be used to demonstrate a person’s intent to sell drugs in his or her possession.
If a possession with intent to sell charge can be proven in court, the defendant can face substantial fines and a prison sentence of up to five years, even as a first-time offender. Repeat offenders risk additional penalties.
Robert M. Helfend is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura County, and has successfully defended clients facing California criminal charges for 30 years. Mr. Helfend provides