A former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers has been arrested following the discovery of more than 44 pounds of cocaine in his San Diego home. According to reports, Esteban Loaiza was being investigated by police after he was seen driving a vehicle that was believed to be involved in a drug trafficking operation. During a traffic stop, police discovered a compartment in the vehicle that is traditionally used to smuggle narcotics. They requested and received a search warrant for the former pitcher’s home. During the search, they discovered 44 pounds (20 kilograms) of cocaine worth more than $500,000. He was immediately arrested and booked on suspicion of possession, possession for sale, and transporting cocaine.
Drug Charges in San Diego
San Diego is a hotbed for drug activity in California. Investigators aggressively track and pursue individuals who they believe to be involved in drug trafficking programs. While some drugs are becoming more acceptable – and even legal – in the state, hard drugs like cocaine are still investigated and prosecuted aggressively.
Possession of Cocaine With Intent to Sell
It is illegal to possess any amount of cocaine in California. The seriousness of the crime is directly linked to the amount of the drug found in the defendant’s possession. Possession of a small amount of the drug is generally considered possession for personal use, as defined in Health and Safety Code 11350 HS. Thanks to Proposition 47, possession of for personal use was recently downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor. Loaiza was found with 44 pounds of cocaine in his possession. This will likely qualify as possession for sale as defined in Health and Safety Code 11351 HS. Possession for sale is a felony, carrying a maximum penalty of 2-4 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.
In California, it is a serious crime to sell or transport cocaine. Health and Safety Code 11352 HS makes it a crime to engage in (or offer to do) any of the following activities:
- Sell cocaine (and other controlled substances),
- Transport cocaine with the intent to sell, and
- Give or administer cocaine to another person.
Transporting cocaine for sale is punishable by a three, six, or nine years in prison. The length of the penalty will depend on the defendant’s prior criminal record, the amount of the drug in his/her possession, and the distance traveled with the drugs. Crossing multiple borders will result in a harsher criminal sentence.
Actual vs. Constructive Possession
How can Loaiza be charged with the possession of cocaine if the drugs were not found directly on him? Possession of drugs can be either actual or constructive. Actual possession means that you physically have something on your person. Actual possession can include things in your pant pockets, in a jacket or coat, or in a backpack or purse you are holding.
Constructive possession means that you have possession of something that is not directly on your person. Instead, you have the authority and ability to exercise control over property that is located somewhere else. This property could be in your car, in your home, stashed away in an alley for safekeeping, or even temporarily in someone else’s care. Just because another person also has possession of an item does not necessarily mean that you cannot also possess it. All that matters is that you have the authority and ability to exercise control over that property.
Since the cocaine was found in Loaiza’s personal home – a place that he has authority to control – the drugs were considered to be in his constructive possession.
Fighting Drug Charges in San Diego
Some of California’s drug laws are becoming more lenient. However, most of the changes to the laws are in regard to possession of drugs for personal use. The state still aggressively prosecutes individuals who are believed to be involved in the sale, distribution, and trafficking of controlled substances. If you are facing criminal drug charges in San Diego it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. When you hire an attorney to handle your defense you have a better chance of securing a favorable plea or getting the charges dismissed.
Call the experienced attorneys at the San Diego Criminal Law Center to schedule a free consultation and learn more. We will review the criminal charges against you, determine if your rights have been violated, and answer the questions you have.