Penal Code § 4573 PC makes it a crime to bring a controlled substance into a California jail or state prison. Common defendants in these cases are jail workers or visitors who try to sneak in drugs.
This offense also applies if you were arrested with drugs hidden on your person and you then bring those drugs into the detention facility. Violating PC 4573 is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in county jail.
- after Tom gets arrested for DUI, he smuggles a bag of meth into jail with him.
- during visiting hours, Nia brings a bag of cocaine into jail and tries to give it to her boyfriend.
- Sam’s friend is in state prison and Sam sends him a letter with Vicodin in it.
- a jail guard brings codeine into jail facilities and tries selling it to inmates.
There are several legal defenses that you can raise if accused. These include showing that you:
- were authorized to bring a controlled substance;
- acted without knowledge; and/or,
- did not have a controlled substance.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. Is it a crime to bring drugs into a jail or prison in California?
- 2. What are the best defenses to a 4573 PC charge?
- 3. What is the potential punishment?
- 4. Are there other crimes that involve contraband at a jail or prison?
- 4.1. Bringing contraband into a jail or prison – PC 4573.5
- 4.2. Alcohol at a public educational facility – BPC 25608
- 4.3. Possession of a controlled substance – HSC 11350
- 4.4. Bringing alcohol into a penal institution – BPC 25603
- 4.5. Unlawful communications with an inmate – PC 4570
- 4.6. Possession of a controlled substance in jail or prison – PC 4573.6
1. Is it a crime to bring drugs into a jail or prison in California?
Penal Code 4573 is the California statute that makes it a crime to knowingly bring or send controlled substances into a jail or prison. Common defendants in these cases are jail visitors trying to sneak drugs to inmates.
A “controlled substance” is a drug or chemical whose manufacture, possession and use are regulated by the government under the United States “Controlled Substances Act”.
- heroin, and
PC 4573 also applies if you have been arrested and then try to smuggle drugs into jail.1
Example: Helen is arrested for soliciting prostitution in L.A. Helen knows she has an MDMA pill hidden in her bra. When Helen gets booked, the jail official finds the pill during the strip search. Since Helen knowingly tried to sneak drugs into jail, she faces a PC 4573 charge in addition to the prostitution charge that got her arrested.
2. What are the best defenses to a 4573 PC charge?
If you are accused under 4573 PC, you can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense.
Three common defenses are:
- no knowledge; and/or,
- no controlled substance.
The statute says that you can bring a drug into a jail/prison if you are authorized to do so by the person in charge of the facility. Therefore, a defense under this section is to say that you acted with this authorization.
2.2. No knowledge
You are only guilty under this statute if you knowingly brought a drug into a jail. Therefore, you cannot be guilty of a crime if you did not know you were bringing a drug into prison.
2.3. No controlled substance
This law only applies to “controlled substances.” This means it is always a defense to show that while you may have carried a substance into a jail, it was not a controlled substance.
3. What is the potential punishment?
A violation of PC 4573 is a felony under California law.2
The crime is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for:
- two years,
- three years, or
- four years.3
In lieu of jail time, a judge may award you with felony or formal probation.
4. Are there other crimes that involve contraband at a jail or prison?
There are six crimes related to bringing drugs into a jail. These are:
- bringing contraband into a jail or prison – PC 4573.5;
- alcohol at a public educational facility – BPC 25608;
- possession of a controlled substance – HSC 11350;
- bringing alcohol into a penal institution – BPC 25603;
- unlawful communication with an inmate – PC 4570; and
- possession of a controlled substance in jail or prison – PC 4573.6
4.1. Bringing contraband into a jail or prison – PC 4573.5
Penal Code 4573.5 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime to knowingly bring contraband into a jail or prison.4
- alcohol, and/or,
- a drug that is not a “controlled substance.”5
A violation of PC 4573.5 is charged as a felony. The offense is punishable by up to three years in state prison.6
4.2. Alcohol at a public educational facility – BPC 25608
Business and Professions Code 25608 is the California statute that makes it a crime to bring alcohol into a public schoolhouse, or on the grounds of the same.
A violation of BPC 25608 is charged as a misdemeanor.7 The crime is punishable by:
- imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months; and/or,
- a maximum fine of $1,000.8
4.3. Possession of a controlled substance – HSC 11350
Health and Safety Code 11350 HS prohibits possessing certain controlled substances without a valid prescription.
A violation of HSC 11350 is usually charged as a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:
- up to a year in county jail; and/or,
- a fine of up to $1,000.9
4.4. Bringing Alcohol into a Penal Institution – BPC 25603
Business and Professions Code 25603 is the California statute that makes it a crime to bring any alcoholic beverage into a penal institution.
A violation of BPC 25603 is charged as a felony. The offense is punishable by:
- imprisonment in county jail for up to three years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $10,000.10
4.5. Unlawful Communications with an Inmate – PC 4570
Penal Code 4570 makes it a misdemeanor to unlawfully communicate with an inmate without the warden’s permission. Penalties for violating PC 4570 include:
- up to 6 months in county jail; and/or
- a fine of up to $1,000.11
4.6. Possession of a controlled substance in a jail or prison – PC 4573.6
Penal Code 4573.6 makes it a felony to knowingly possess drugs in a jail or prison. Penalties for violating PC 4573.6 include incarceration for two, three, or four years.12
Contact us for help…
If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 4573 PC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 by phone or on social media.
(For similar charges in Colorado, please see our article on Introducing Contraband to a Jail or Prison Colorado CRS 18-8-203. And, for similar charges in Nevada, please see our article on Nevada Laws for “Prohibited Items for Prisoners” NRS 212.160; NRS 212.165; NRS 212.180.)
- California Penal Code 4573 PC. This code section states: “(a) Except when otherwise authorized by law, or when authorized by the person in charge of the prison or other institution referred to in this section or by an officer of the institution empowered by the person in charge of the institution to give the authorization, any person, who knowingly brings or sends into, or knowingly assists in bringing into, or sending into, any state prison, prison road camp, prison forestry camp, or other prison camp or prison farm or any other place where prisoners of the state are located under the custody of prison officials, officers or employees, or into any county, city and county, or city jail, road camp, farm or other place where prisoners or inmates are located under custody of any sheriff, chief of police, peace officer, probation officer or employees, or within the grounds belonging to the institution, any controlled substance, the possession of which is prohibited by Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code , any device, contrivance, instrument, or paraphernalia intended to be used for unlawfully injecting or consuming a controlled substance, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, three, or four years. (b) The prohibitions and sanctions addressed in this section shall be clearly and prominently posted outside of, and at the entrance to, the grounds of all detention facilities under the jurisdiction of, or operated by, the state or any city, county, or city and county.”; People v. Gastello (2010) 49 Cal. 4th 395, 232 P.3d 650 (“the statute applies to someone who has a controlled substance in his possession when arrested for another crime, and who knowingly and voluntarily brings the drugs into jail when booked pursuant to that arrest.”). See also People v. Blanco (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 2021), 61 Cal. App. 5th 278; People v. Noyan (Cal. App. 3d Dist. 2014), 232 Cal. App. 4th 657; People v. Low (Cal. 2010), 49 Cal. 4th 372.
- See same.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 4573.5 PC.
- See same.
- See same. See also Penal Code 18 PC.
- California Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC.
- See same.
- California Health and Safety Code 11350 HSC.
- Business and Professions Code 25603.
- Penal Code 4570.
- Penal Code 4573.6.