Penal Code 4573.5 PC - Bringing “Contraband” into a Jail or Prison

Penal Code 4573.5 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to bring “contraband” into a jail or the California state prison.

“Contraband” includes:

Examples of illegal acts under this statute include:

  • police book Mark for a California DUI, and during the process, discover a flask filled with hard alcohol on his possession.
  • a jail guard brings alcohol into jail facilities and tries selling it to inmates.
  • Janine brings several over-the-counter medications onto prison grounds during visiting hours and tries to give them to her husband.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 4573.5. These include showing that an accused party:

  • did not have contraband;
  • acted without knowledge; and/or,
  • acted under duress.

Penalties

A violation of PC 4573.5 is a felony under California law (as opposed to a misdemeanor or an infraction). The crime is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for up to three years.

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

contraband california jail
Penal Code 4573.5 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to bring “contraband” into a jail or the California state prison.

1. The legal definition of bringing contraband into a jail or prison

Penal Code 4573.5 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to knowingly bring contraband into a jail or prison.1

Contraband” includes:

  • alcohol, and
  • any drugs, other than controlled substances.2

Examples of the latter are:

  • over-the-counter medications, and
  • medications that are prescribed to treat medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and bacterial infections.

2. Legal Defenses

A person accused under Penal Code 4573.5 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense.

Three common defenses are:

  1. no contraband;
  2. no knowledge; and/or,
  3. duress.

2.1. No contraband

PC 4573.5 only prohibits a person from bringing contraband into a jail or prison. Therefore, it is always a defense for an accused to show that while he may have brought something into a jail, it was not contraband

2.2. No knowledge

Please recall that a defendant is only guilty under this statute if he knowingly brought contraband into a jail/prison. An accused, therefore, cannot be guilty of a crime if he did not know he was bringing contraband into prison.

2.3. Duress

Duress is a legal defense in which an accused basically says: “He made me do it.” The defense applies to the very limited situation in which a person commits a crime (here, bringing contraband into prison), because somebody threatened to kill him if the crime was not committed.

woman behind bars
A violation of this law can result in (additiona) jail time

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

A violation of PC 4573.5 is a felony under California law.3

The crime is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for:

  • 16 months,
  • two years, or
  • three years.4

In lieu of jail time, a judge may award a guilty party with felony or formal probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to bringing contraband into a jail. These are:

  1. bringing drugs into a jail or prison – PC 4573;
  2. alcohol at a public educational facility – BPC 25608; and,
  3. rescuing a prisoner – PC 4550.

4.1. Bringing contraband into a jail or prison – PC 4573

Penal Code 4573 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to knowingly bring a controlled substance into a jail or prison.5

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".

Examples include:

  • cocaine,
  • heroin, and
  • oxycodone.

A violation of PC 4573 is charged as a felony. The offense is punishable by up to four years in a county jail.6

4.2. Alcohol at a public educational facility – BPC 25608

Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC 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. Rescuing a prisoner – PC 4550

California Penal Code 4550 PC makes it a crime for a person to rescue, help in rescuing, or attempt to rescue a prisoner of the state.

A violation of PC 4550 is charged as a felony. The crime is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a term not to exceed four years.9

Were you accused of bringing contraband into a jail/prison in California? Call us for help…

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

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 4573.5 PC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

(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.)


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 4573.5 PC. This code section states: Any person who knowingly brings into any state prison or other institution under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, or into any prison camp, prison farm, or any other place where prisoners or inmates of these institutions are located under the custody of prison or institution officials, officers, or employees, or into any county, city and county, or city jail, road camp, farm or any other institution or place where prisoners or inmates are being held under the custody of any sheriff, chief of police, peace officer, probation officer, or employees, or within the grounds belonging to any institution or place, any alcoholic beverage, any drugs, other than controlled substances, in any manner, shape, form, dispenser, or container, or any device, contrivance, instrument, or paraphernalia intended to be used for unlawfully injecting or consuming any drug other than controlled substances, without having authority so to do by the rules of the Department of Corrections, the rules of the prison, institution, camp, farm, place, or jail, or by the specific authorization of the warden, superintendent, jailer, or other person in charge of the prison, jail, institution, camp, farm, or place, is guilty of a felony.

    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.”

  2. See same.

  3. See same.

  4. See same. See also California Penal Code 18 PC.

  5. California Penal Code 4573 PC.

  6. See same.

  7. California Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC.

  8. See same.

  9. California Penal Code 4550 PC.

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