California Codeine Charges

California drug law makes it a crime to 1) possess the painkiller codeine without a valid prescription, either for personal use or for sale, 2) sell codeine or transport it for sale, 3) be under the influence of codeine without a prescription, or 4) drive under the influence of codeine.

California law imposes serious penalties for non-prescription codeine crimes—even though codeine is the most prescribed drug in the world.

Personal possession of codeine, and being or driving under the influence of codeine, are California misdemeanors for most defendants.1

But you will face California felony penalties if you are convicted of possessing codeine for sale, selling codeine or transporting codeine for sale.2

The following chart summarizes the penalties for various crimes involving codeine in California:

California Codeine Crime

Code Section

Type of Offense

Penalties

Eligible for Drug Diversion?

Possession of codeine for personal use

HS 11350

Misdemeanor (for most defendants)

Up to 1 year in county jail; up to $20,000 fine

Yes

Possession of codeine for sale

HS 11351

Felony

2, 3 or 4 years in prison; up to $20,000 fine

No

Sale/transportation for sale of codeine

HS 11352

Felony

3 to 9 years in prison; up to $20,000 fine

No

Under the influence of codeine

HS 11550

Misdemeanor

Up to 1 year in county jail; up to $1,000 fine

Yes

Driving under the influence of codeine

VC 23152(e)

Misdemeanor (in most cases)

Driver's license suspension; up to $390 fine; 3 to 5 years DUI probation

No

California Codeine Crime

Penalties

HS 11350 possession of codeine for personal use without a prescription

Misdemeanor penalties: up to 1 year in county jail; up to $20,000 fine

HS 11351 possession of codeine for sale

Felony penalties: 2, 3 or 4 years in prison; up to $20,000 fine

HS 11352 sale/transportation for sale of codeine

Felony penalties: 3 to 9 years in prison; up to $20,000 fine

HS 11550 under the influence of codeine

Misdemeanor penalties: up to 1 year in county jail; up to $1,000 fine

VC 23152(e) driving under the influence of codeine

Misdemeanor penalties: driver's license suspension; up to $390 in fines; 3-5 years of DUI probation

 In this article, our California codeine and drug crimes attorneys answer the following frequently asked questions about codeine charges and penalties:

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. What are the Penalties for Violating California Codeine Laws?

Despite being a frequently prescribed drug, codeine can be the basis of a number of criminal charges in California. The most common include:

1.1. What are the penalties for HS 11350 personal possession of codeine?

Health and Safety Code 11350 HS, California's "possession of a controlled substance" law, prohibits possessing codeine for personal use without a valid prescription. (In addition to codeine, HS 11350 covers a number of other common drugs, including cocaine, heroin and hydrocodone (Vicodin).)

Prescription-drug-bottle-beside-pills
Simple possession under HS 11350 is one of the most common California codeine charges.

Simple possession of codeine is a California misdemeanor for most defendants. The penalties may include up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or a fine of up to twenty thousand dollars ($20,000).3

However, you will face California felony penalties--including two (2) to four (4) years in jail--for personal possession of codeine if you have a prior conviction on your record for either:

  1. any of a small list of especially serious felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or
  2. a sex crime that subjects you to California's sex offender registration requirement.4

The good news is that a conviction for this California codeine-related offense entitles eligible defendants to participate in drug diversion. This can mean programs such those provided for by:

What all of Prop 36, PC 1000 and California drug courts allow is for a defendant convicted of misdemeanor simple codeine possession to participate in drug treatment in lieu of serving time in jail. And those who successfully complete diversion will qualify to have their drug charge(s) dismissed.

1.2. What are the penalties for HS 11351 possession for sale of codeine?

You violate Health and Safety Code 11351 HS, California's "possession or purchase of a controlled substance for sale" law, when you possess or purchase codeine with the intent to resell the narcotic. This is a more serious California codeine crime than HS 11350 personal possession of codeine.

Prescription-drug-bottle
HS 11351 possession of codeine for sale is a California felony.

If prosecutors can prove that you possessed or purchased codeine with the intent to sell it--rather than consume it for personal use—the penalties may include:

  • Two, three or four years in county jail, and/or
  • A maximum $20,000 fine.5

And unlike possessing codeine for personal use, possessing or purchasing codeine for sale does not allow you to participate in a drug diversion program.  

However, as San Bernardino codeine attorney John Murray6 explains,

"If your California drug crimes defense lawyer can convince the prosecutor or judge or jury that you only possessed codeine for your personal use--and that you had no intention of reselling it--your HS 11351 charge could be reduced to an 11350 charge for personal possession. This means much lighter penalties and, possibly, the chance to participate in a drug diversion program like Prop 36 or PC 1000 instead of going to jail."

1.3. What are the penalties for HS 11352 sale / transportation of codeine?

Perhaps the most serious California codeine crime falls under Health and Safety Code 11352 HS, California's "transportation or sale of a controlled substance" law.  

If you are convicted of selling codeine, or transporting (that is, moving) codeine with intent to sell it, or engaging in any of the other acts prohibited under this law, you will face felony penalties for transportation or selling a controlled substance under HS 11352. These may include:

  • Three, four or five years in county jail, and/or
  • A maximum $20,000 fine.7

And, if you are convicted of transporting the codeine across more than two county lines with intent to sell it at your destination, you face three, six or nine years in prison and the same maximum fine.8

A conviction for this offense does not entitle you to participate in drug diversion.

Immigration-and-customs-enforcement-seal
A conviction for any California codeine crime can have serious immigration consequences.

Also important to note is the fact that a conviction for any of these California codeine-related offenses—HS 11350 simple possession of codeine, HS 11351 possession for sale of codeine or HS 11352 sale/transportation of codeine--may have serious immigration consequences, including your removal or deportation, if you are a legal immigrant or alien.9

1.4. What are the penalties for HS 11550 under the influence of codeine?

You violate Health and Safety Code 11550 HS, California's "being under the influence of a controlled substance" law, when you are under the influence of codeine—AND its use is not consistent with a valid prescription.10

You are "under the influence" of codeine if your physical or mental abilities are impaired "in any detectable manner.”11

This is the case whether you are under the influence of straight codeine or whether the codeine is mixed with another medication such as Tylenol or cough syrup.

Note that you can also be charged with HS 11550 under the influence of codeine even if you have a prescription for codeine—provided that you are using it other than in accordance with the prescription (for example, taking far more of it than you have been prescribed)

Health & Safety Code 11550 under the influence of codeine is a misdemeanor. Eligible defendants may be able to participate in drug diversion instead of serving county jail time.12

1.5. What are the penalties for VC 23152(e) driving under the influence of codeine?

You violate Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC, California's driving under the influence of drugs law, when you drive under the influence of codeine.13

You can be convicted of VC 23152(e) DUI of drugs even if you consume the codeine in a way that is completely consistent with a valid prescription. (This distinguishes driving under the influence of codeine from the other California codeine crimes we have discussed.)

However, driving under the influence of codeine uses a different standard for being under the influence than HS 11550. You drive under the influence of codeine when the codeine has "so far affected the nervous system, the brain, or muscles as to impair to an appreciable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner like that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties.”14

And most, if not all, codeine prescriptions come with some type of warning that the narcotic may impair your thinking and/or reactions and that you shouldn't drive until you know how the drug affects you.

Prescription-bottles
Penalties for DUI of codeine or other drugs are the same as those for DUI of alcohol.

Most convictions for DUI of codeine are misdemeanors. A first-time DUI of codeine may not lead to jail time but will subject you to penalties that may include:

  • Suspension of your driver's license;
  • Up to $390 in base fines (the total amount may be higher);
  • Required DUI school; and/or
  • 3-5 years of DUI probation.

Drug diversion is not available in connection with driving under the influence of codeine.

2. What Legal Defenses Can I Use to Fight California Codeine Charges?

Some of the most common legal defenses for fighting California codeine charges include:

  • mistaken identity (i.e., the codeine actually belonged to someone else, but the police incorrectly assumed it was yours),
  • illegal search / seizure (perhaps the police violated California's search and seizure laws by searching you without a valid California search warrant or by discovering or seizing codeine that was located beyond the scope of a valid warrant), and
  • police misconduct (the officers engaged in unethical and illegal conduct when they discovered/seized the alleged codeine).

2.1. Can I be guilty of a California codeine charge if I had a prescription for codeine?

Doctor-writing-prescription-for-codeine
Using codeine within the limits of a valid prescription is not a crime.

One of the most obvious legal defenses to a California codeine-related offense is that you possessed or used codeine in compliance with a valid prescription.

If this is the case, you are not guilty of HS 11350 codeine possession or HS 11550 being under the influence of codeine.

However, you can fight codeine charges with the prescription defense only if it was actually your prescription, if it was obtained legitimately, and if you used the codeine in accordance with the prescription.

So you may still be convicted of a codeine charge if you

  1. Possessed someone else's codeine,
  2. Possessed codeine under prescriptions that you obtained from multiple doctors, without them knowing about each other (a type of prescription fraud known in California as "doctor shopping"), or
  3. Possessed more than the prescribed amount of the drug.

3. What is the Difference between Legal and Illegal Use of Codeine in California?

Codeine both a legal and an illegal drug.

On one hand, codeine is used and recognized as an effective pain killer. It is prescribed for pain, both on its own and added to many cancer and HIV medications. In fact, codeine is one of the world's most prescribed medications.15

On the other hand, codeine is a “controlled substance"—that is, a narcotic drug whose manufacture, possession and use are regulated by the federal government under the United States Controlled Substances Act (as well as by California drug laws). (Codeine prescribed alone or in a high dosage is considered a dangerous “Schedule II” controlled substance.16)

Ty
Prescription codeine is often mixed with other analgesics, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen).

Codeine is an opiate that dulls the senses and has a powerful sedative effect. As a result, it is frequently abused.

Tragically, many people who abuse codeine—and eventually face California codeine charges--began using the drug for legitimate medical purposes.

But they then discover that they enjoy the euphoria and sense of well-being that comes with the pain-numbing effects of codeine. Or they find that effectiveness for pain relief decreases with time, prompting them to use more and more of the drug.

Once a person is addicted to codeine, s/he may obtain the drug through the criminal practice of doctor shopping/prescription fraud--or by working with a doctor who is willing to knowingly commit the crime of prescribing controlled substances to an addict.

Our codeine defense attorneys feel particular compassion for drug crimes defendants charged with crimes related to codeine. Many of these defendants began using codeine because of a medical condition that was already disrupting their lives—and then found that the drug that was supposed to help them only disrupted their lives even more.

Call us for help . . .

Drug-crimes-defense-firm-call-center

If you or a loved one is charged with possession of codeine or another Californa codeine-related crime, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone.

We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Nevada drug crimes defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada's possession of a controlled substance laws.  


Legal References:

  1. Health & Safety Code 11350 HS -- Possession of designated controlled substances [including codeine without a prescription]; punishment and fine. (“(a) Except as otherwise provided in this division, every person who possesses (1) any controlled substance specified in subdivision (b), (c), (e), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, specified in paragraph (14), (15), or (20) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054, or specified in subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11055, or specified in subdivision (h) of Section 11056, or (2) any controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V which is a narcotic drug [including codeine, unless upon the written prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, except that such person shall instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 of the Penal Code or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290 of the Penal Code.”) See also Health & Safety Code 11550 HS – Under the influence of [codeine]. (“(a) A person shall not use, or be under the influence of any controlled substance that is (1) specified in subdivision (b), (c), or (e), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, specified in paragraph (14), (15), (21), (22), or (23) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054, specified in subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11055, or specified in paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (d) or in paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) of Section 11055, or (2) a narcotic drug classified in Schedule III, IV, or V [includes codeine], except when administered by or under the direction of a person licensed by the state to dispense, prescribe, or administer controlled substances. It shall be the burden of the defense to show that it comes within the exception. A person convicted of violating this subdivision is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced to serve a term of not more than one year in a county jail. The court may also place a person convicted under this subdivision on probation for a period not to exceed five years.”) See also Vehicle Code 23536 VC -- Conviction of first violation of § 23152 [including VC 23152(e) driving under the influence of codeine]; punishment.
  2. Health & Safety Code 11351 HS – Possession or purchase for sale of designated controlled substances [including codeine]; punishment. (“Except as otherwise provided in this division, every person who possesses for sale or purchases for purposes of sale (1) any controlled substance specified in subdivision (b), (c), or (e) of Section 11054, specified in paragraph (14), (15), or (20) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054, or specified in subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11055, or specified in subdivision (h) of Section 11056, or (2) any controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V which is a narcotic drug [including codeine], shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for two, three, or four years.”) See also Health & Safety Code 11351 HS -- Transportation, sale, giving away, etc., of designated controlled substances [including codeine]; punishment; definition; prosecution for aiding and abetting. (“(a) Except as otherwise provided in this division, every person who transports, imports into this state, sells, furnishes, administers, or gives away, or offers to transport, import into this state, sell, furnish, administer, or give away, or attempts to import into this state or transport (1) any controlled substance specified in subdivision (b), (c), or (e), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, specified in paragraph (14), (15), or (20) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054, or specified in subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11055, or specified in subdivision (h) of Section 11056, or (2) any controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V which is a narcotic drug [including codeine], unless upon the written prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for three, four, or five years. (b) Notwithstanding the penalty provisions of subdivision (a), any person who transports any controlled substances specified in subdivision (a) within this state from one county to another noncontiguous county shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for three, six, or nine years. (c) For purposes of this section, "transports" means to transport for sale.”)
  3. Health & Safety Code 11350 HS -- Possession of designated controlled substances [including codeine without a prescription]; punishment and fine, endnote 1 above.
  4. Same.
  5. Health & Safety Code 11351 HS – Possession or purchase for sale of designated controlled substances [including codeine]; punishment, endnote 2 above.
  6. San Bernardino codeine attorney John Murray has years of experience as a California drug crimes defense attorney, with a particular focus on driving under the influence of codeine cases. Murray represents clients charged in the San Bernardino County courts and Riverside County courts.
  7. Health & Safety Code 11352 HS -- Transportation, sale, giving away, etc., of designated controlled substances [including codeine]; punishment; definition; prosecution for aiding and abetting, endnote 2 above.
  8. Same.
  9. 8 U.S.C. 1227 -- Deportable aliens. ("(a) Classes of deportable aliens. Any alien (including an alien crewman) in and admitted to the United States shall, upon the order of the Attorney General, be removed if the alien is within one or more of the following classes of deportable aliens. . . . (2) Criminal offenses. . . . (B) Controlled substances. (i) Conviction. Any alien who at any time after admission has been convicted of a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 802 of Title 21), other than a single offense involving possession for one's own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana, is deportable.”) This means that deportation or removal is possible for immigrants convicted of codeine possession, codeine possession for sale or codeine sale/transportation.
  10. Health & Safety Code 11550 HS – Under the influence of [codeine], endnote 1 above.
  11. People v. Enriquez (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 661, 665.
  12. Health & Safety Code 11550 HS – Under the influence of [codeine], endnote 1 above.
  13. Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC – Driving under the influence of drugs [including codeine]. (“(e) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”)
  14. People v. Enriquez, endnote 11 above.
  15. The Role of Chemistry in History - How Codeine Affects History.
  16. Health and Safety Code 11055 HS – Drug schedules. ("(a) The controlled substances listed in this section are included in Schedule II. (b) Any of the following substances . . . : (1) Opium, opiate, and any salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium or opiate, with the exception of naloxone hydrochloride (N-allyl-14-hydroxy-nordihydromorphinone hydrochloride), but including the following: . . . (G) Codeine.")

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Regain peace of mind...

Our defense attorneys understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most difficult times of your life. Rely on us to zealously and discreetly protect your rights and to fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370