Health and Safety Code 11366.8 HSC - Concealing Drugs in a “False Compartment”

Health and Safety Code 11366.8 HSC is the California statute on persons hiding controlled substances in “false compartments.” Under this statute, it is a crime for a person to either:

  1. possess or use a false compartment with the intent to hide or transport drugs inside of it; or,
  2. build a false compartment inside of, or attached to, a vehicle with the intent to hide or transport drugs inside of it.

A “false compartment” is any box or enclosure that is intended or designed to conceal a controlled substance.

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • Becky uses a type of locket to smuggle cocaine into a nightclub.
  • Jorge modifies the fuel tank on his boat with the intent to conceal OxyContin and deliver it to his friend.
  • Dominic constructs several “hidden” compartments inside of his truck with the hope of storing several ounces of heroine.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under HSC 11366.8. These include showing that an accused:

Penalties

A violation of Health and Safety Code 11366.8.1 is charged as a felony (as opposed to a California misdemeanor or an infraction). Depending on the facts of a case, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to:

  • one year,
  • 16 months,
  • two years, or
  • three years.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

concealed drugs vehicle california
California Health and Safety Code 11366.8 HSC is the California statute on persons hiding controlled substances in “false compartments.

1. What is the legal definition of concealing drugs in a “false compartment”?

California Health and Safety Code 11366.8 pertains to the use of false compartments to hide drugs. The code section makes it unlawful for persons to do two things.

First, under Health and Safety Code 11366.8(a), it is a crime for a person to:

  1. possess, use, or control a false compartment; and,
  2. to do so with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport drugs inside of it.1

Second, under Health and Safety Code 11366.8(b), it is a crime for a person to:

  1. design, build, alter, install, or attach a false compartment to a vehicle; and,
  2. to do so with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport a controlled substance in it.2

A “false compartment” means any box, container, space, or enclosure that is intended for, or designed to, hide any drug inside it.3

A “vehicle” can be either private or commercial in nature. Some examples of common vehicles include:

  • cars,
  • trucks,
  • buses,
  • aircraft,
  • boats,
  • ships, and
  • yachts.4

2. What are the legal defenses to accusations under HSC 11366.8?

A person accused of hiding drugs in a false compartment can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to HSC 11366.8 accusations are:

  1. coerced confession;
  2. entrapment; and/or,
  3. no intent.

2.1. Coerced confession

This defense applies to the situation where a defendant was charged under HSC 11366.8 following a confession.

California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession.

If a party can show that the police coerced him into a confession, then:

  1. the judge may exclude the confession from evidence; or,
  2. the case could get dropped altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.

2.2. Entrapment

In many cases involving drugs and false compartments, suspects are often arrested and accused after an undercover sting. Any later charges under HSC 11366.8, though, must get dropped if an officer lured a suspect into committing the crime.

This “luring” is known as entrapment. It applies to overbearing official conduct on the part of police officers, like pressure, harassment, fraud, flattery, or threats. Entrapment is an acceptable legal defense provided that the accused shows he only committed the crime because of the entrapment.

2.3. No intent

Recall that a party is guilty under Health and Safety Code 11366.8 only if he acts with a specific intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport a controlled substance. It is a valid legal defense, therefore, for a defendant to show that he did not make, use or attach a false compartment with this requisite intent. For example, it is quite possible that he simply made a false compartment to hide cash or other valuables.

man behind bars
Concealing drugs in a false compartment can lead to prison time

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

A person that conceals drugs in a false compartment is guilty of a felony offense.5

If a person is found guilty under Health and Safety Code 11366.8(a), then he may be punished with imprisonment in the county jail for a maximum term of one year.6

If a person is found guilty under Health and Safety Code 11366.8(b), then he may be punished with imprisonment in the county jail for:

  • 16 months,
  • two years, or
  • three years.7

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to the concealing of drugs in a false compartment. These are:

  1. possession for sale of a controlled substance – HSC 11351;
  2. operating a drug house – HSC 11366; and,
  3. the manufacturing of drugs and narcotics – HSC 11379.6

4.1. Possession for sale of a controlled substance – HSC 11351

California Health and Safety Code 11351 HS makes it a crime to possess certain controlled substances in order to sell them.

Such substances include illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and LSD. HSC 11351 also covers common prescription drugs like oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin) and codeine.

A prosecutor must prove the following elements in order to successfully convict a person under this code section:

  1. the defendant possessed or purchased a drug,
  2. with the knowledge that he did so,
  3. the defendant knew of the drug's nature as a controlled substance,
  4. the defendant possessed enough of the drug to use or sell, and
  5. the defendant either
  6. possessed the drug with the intent to sell it, or
  7. purchased the drugs with the intent to resell them.8

A person guilty under Health and Safety Code 11351 is charged with a felony. The crime is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for:

  • two years,
  • three years, or
  • four years.9

The guilty party may also face a maximum $20,000 fine.10

4.2. Operating a drug house – HSC 11366

California Health & Safety Code 11366 HS makes it a crime to operate a drug house.

A “drug house” is any place maintained for the purpose of unlawfully selling or giving away illegal controlled substances.11

A prosecutor must prove two elements in order to show that an accused is guilty under HSC 11366. These are that the defendant:

  1. opened or maintained a place; and
  2. did so with the intent to sell, give away or allow other people to use a controlled substance or narcotic drug on a continuous or repeated basis at that place.12

Operating a drug house is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a California misdemeanor or a felony.

As a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by:

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.13

As a felony, the offense is punishable by:

4.3. The manufacturing of drugs and narcotics – HSC 11379.6

California Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS prohibits illegally manufacturing drugs, narcotics or controlled substances.

More specifically, it prohibits

  • manufacturing,
  • compounding,
  • converting,
  • producing,
  • deriving,
  • processing,
  • preparing...
  • or offering to engage in any of these acts with respect to...

any controlled substance specified in Health and Safety Code Sections 11054 - 11058 HS.15

A violation of Health and Safety Code 11379.6 is charged as a felony

The crime is punishable by:

  • three, five or seven years in the California state prison; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $50,000.16

Were you accused of concealing drugs in a false compartment in California? Call us for help…

california drug criminal defense
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under California Health and Safety Code 11366.8, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Health and Safety Code 11366.8(a) HSC. This code section reads as follows:

    “(a) Every person who possesses, uses, or controls a false compartment with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport a controlled substance within the false compartment shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code.

    (b) Every person who designs, constructs, builds, alters, or fabricates a false compartment for, or installs or attaches a false compartment to, a vehicle with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport a controlled substance shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for 16 months or two or three years.

    (c) The term “vehicle” means any of the following vehicles without regard to whether the vehicles are private or commercial, including, but not limited to, cars, trucks, buses, aircraft, boats, ships, yachts, and vessels.

    (d) The term “false compartment” means any box, container, space, or enclosure that is intended for use or designed for use to conceal, hide, or otherwise prevent discovery of any controlled substance within or attached to a vehicle, including, but not limited to, any of the following:

    (1) False, altered, or modified fuel tanks.

    (2) Original factory equipment of a vehicle that is modified, altered, or changed.

    (3) Compartment, space, or box that is added to, or fabricated, made, or created from, existing compartments, spaces, or boxes within a vehicle.

    See also 2 CALCRIM 2441.

  2. California Health and Safety Code 11366.8(b) HSC.

  3. California Health and Safety Code 11366.8(d) HSC.

  4. California Health and Safety Code 11366.8(c) HSC.

  5. California Health and Safety Code 11366.8 HSC and California Penal Code 1170(h) PC.

  6. California Health and Safety Code 11366.8(a) HSC.

  7. California Health and Safety Code 11366.8(b) HSC.

  8. California Jury Instructions -- Criminal: CALJIC No. 12.01.

  9. California Health and Safety Code 11351 HSC.

  10. See same.

  11. Health & Safety Code 11366 HSC.

  12. 2 CALCRIM 2440.

  13. California Health & Safety Code 11366 HSC.

  14. See same.

  15. California Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HSC.

  16. See same.

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