Bringing Contraband into a Jail or Prison

Visiting loved ones who are incarcerated in county jail or prison is common and encouraged. However, you can easily find yourself in the same situation if you decide to bring drugs, alcohol, or other contraband into a penal institution. If you are facing a PC 4573.5 offense get the help of a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can.

Attempting to fight these charges alone can be extremely difficult. A conviction will follow you for the rest of your life. Criminal background checks are routine for job searches, college or university programs, and housing applications. Fighting these charges will be less overwhelming with a defense attorney by your side.

For a more detailed insight into what this law entails, let’s take a look at how it is defined.

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Defining Bringing Contraband into a Jail or Prison

California outlines what it means to bring contraband into a penal institution under Penal Code 4573.5. It states bringing contraband into a jail or prison is strictly prohibited. This crime is committed if:

  • You knowingly bring contraband,

    • Knowingly means you acted on purpose, intentionally carrying contraband.

    • Contraband is any type of alcohol or drugs (aside from controlled substances).

      • This includes OTC (over-the-counter) medications, or prescription medications meant to treat medical ailments, such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, or infections.

  • Into a county jail or prison.

    • This includes bringing contraband onto jail or prison property.

What drugs are considered contraband under PC 4573.5?

The type of drugs that are covered under this statute is OTC or prescription medications. For instance:

  • Bringing personal prescription drugs that are not prescribed to the inmate.

    • Sally brings her monthly prescription of 800mg Naproxen Sodium (high-dosage Aleve) to her husband, Phil while he is serving time in prison.

  • Bringing OTC medicines without authorization.

    • Chase brings several Dayquil-Nyquil packs to his brother who is detained in the county jail.

OR when the case involves alcohol, such as;

  • Bringing alcoholic beverages into a jail or prison.

    • Brent is being detained for disturbing the peace, PC 415, and public intoxication PC 647(f). During the booking process, the officer finds mini-alcohol bottles in the pockets of his cargo shorts.

Closely Related Offenses

Business and Profession Code 25603 - Bringing alcohol into a penal institution;

This law prohibits carrying alcohol into a penal institution such as a county jail or prison.

California Penal Code 4573, bringing drugs into a jail or prison

If you were caught carrying drugs into a penal institution, you could also face a PC 4573 charge. This sounds virtually similar to PC 4573.5, however, it specifically focuses on drugs as listed under the United States Controlled Substances Act. This crime can be violated if you knowingly bring drugs into a jail or prison. Illegal drugs covered under this statute include but are not limited to:

  • Anabolic steroids,

  • Barbituates,

  • Cocaine,

  • DMT (Dimethyltryptamine),

  • Fentanyl,

  • Heroin,

  • PCP (Phenylcyclohexylamine),

  • MDMA (ecstasy),

  • Methamphetamine,

  • Morphine (codeine),

  • Opium extracts,

  • Oxycodone,

  • Peyote,

  • Psilocybin (mushrooms),

  • Valium (Diazepam)

  • Vicodin, and

  • Zolpidem (Ambien).

The major difference between PC 4573.5 bringing contraband into a jail or prison and PC 4573, bringing drugs into a penal institution is PC 4573 specifically covers controlled substances that are most often considered illegal to possess. Essentially, any controlled substances whose manufacture, possession and sale are regulated by the government are included in this statute.

It is important to note, you can face multiple, related offense if you are found to be in possession of a combination of prohibited drugs, alcohol, and unauthorized medications.

Associated Offenses

Business and Profession Code 25608 - Bringing alcohol onto a public educational facility;

You commit this crime if you bring alcohol onto school grounds, such as a public school, college, or university.

Health and Safety Code 11379 - Sale and Transport of Methamphetamine;

This statute makes it a crime for the sale of or the transport of methamphetamine with the intent to sell.

Health and Safety Code 11550 - Being under the influence of controlled substances;

Under this code, it is a crime to be under the influence of illicit substances, such as cocaine, GHB, heroin.

Penal Code 4550 - Rescuing a prisoner;

You violate this crime if you attempt, help, or engage in rescuing a prisoner of the state from custody or incarceration.

Penal Code 647(f) - Public Intoxication;

This crime is committed if you are in public and intoxicated from drugs or alcohol to the point that you are unable to care for the safety of others or yourself.

Penal Code 415 - Disturbing the Peace;

Under this statute, it is a crime to use offensive language, play excessively loud music, make unreasonably loud noises, fight, or challenge another person to a fight while in public.

The Prosecution

Before the prosecution can get a conviction for PC 4573.5, bringing contraband into a jail or prison, they must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that specific facts took place. These factors are known as the elements of the crime.

Elements of the Crime

  • You knowingly brought contraband,

    • You were fully aware of what you were doing, and

    • Had every intention of bringing said contraband with you.

    • Contraband includes alcohol and drugs.

      • It does not include illicit controlled substances.

  • Into a jail or prison.

    • Whether you were bringing the contraband for an inmate or personal use is irrelevant.

    • Having possession of said substances while on county jail or prison property is enough to face this offense.

You will face felony consequences if the prosecution believes you are guilty. They will fight hard for a conviction. Do not let this intimidate or prevent you from retaining a professional defense attorney. Getting top-notch legal representation will help in challenging these allegations.

Who Can Face Charges

To gain more critical insight into who can face a PC 4573.5 offense, take a look at the following examples. They illustrate the different situations that can lead to charges for bringing contraband into a jail or prison.

Example 1:

Gene brings a celebratory bottle of wine with him when visiting his cousin in the county jail. Instead of carrying an obvious bottle of alcohol, he fills a camo-pack and tries to pass it off as his sports drink. The guards can pick up the scent of the wine and notices Gene’s wine-stained teeth. Gene can face charges for bringing contraband into a county jail, PC 4573.5.

Example 2:

Michelle’s sister was serving time in state prison and would complain about back pain. Michelle had taken prescription Gabapentin for an old injury and no longer needed them. She brought her left-over pain medications to her sister on her next visit.

Although Gabapentin is a legal prescription drug, it is illegal to share or sell it. Michelle could be charged with PC 4573.5 for bringing her personal prescription drugs to prison with the intent of distributing it to an inmate, her sister.

Example 3:

Sean works as a guard at the county jail and is upset over being underpaid. To earn extra cash he regularly sells the inmates alcohol, cannabis, and OTC medications. As more inmates are being caught with contraband, they reveal that Sean is the guard they are getting it from. His personal effects were checked, exposing the joints, random medications, and mini-alcohol bottles in his possession.

Sean is charged with bringing contraband into a jail. Although recreational marijuana is legal in California, it is only legal for personal use. Sean was selling cannabis. In additional to PC 4573.5 charges, he could also face an HS 11359, possession of marijuana for sale charge.

Example 4:

Larry was always on the lookout for athletes to join his MMA gym, often attempting to recruit new clients from the pre-release center and the county jail. He would supply his potential clients with free sports drinks, powder mixes, and OTC medications. After one of his guys suffered from cardiac arrest, the doctor discovered anabolic steroids and sports enhancements drugs in his system.

Larry could be charged with PC 4573.5 for bringing contraband, the OTC medicines into the jail. He will also face charges for PC 4573, bringing drugs into the county jail. The anabolic steroids that were being supplied in the sports drinks and protein powders are illegal and fall under the controlled substances list.

The Legal Defense

Fortunately, there are common legal defenses that have been used to challenge a PC 4573.5 offense. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with these defenses and could help get the charges reduced or dropped.

Was it contraband?

If you were not carrying any alcohol or relevant drugs as described under PC 4573.5, then you should not be guilty.

For instance, Cyan brings a birthday cake into the county jail for her husband. She had a couple of shots of tequila before taking a taxi to visit him. The cake also contained concentrated CBD. A guard catches the slight scent of cannabis and alcohol on Cyan. She is accused of bringing contraband into the jail.

It is not a crime to have an alcoholic drink or to smell like alcohol before stepping onto jail or prison property. Also, CBD is not considered an unauthorized drug or controlled substance. If you do not have alcohol or other contraband in your possession, this charge would not be valid.

Were you authorized to carry it?

There are prescription medications that inmates can take and they can have an authorized person bring it to them. As long as the process follows the legal policies in place and you got the authorization from the head of the institution.

Mya, for example, received permission to bring OTC medications, specifically Aspirin, to the county jail for her husband. She had a doctors’ note stating her husband needed a regular Aspirin regimen before he could be completely weaned off of it. She received authorization from the individual in charge of the facility. When a guard prevented her from giving her husband the medicine and the head of the institution could not be reached to support her claim, she was charged with PC 4573.5 for bringing contraband into the jail.

Fortunately, her lawyer was able to contact the head of the facility. This person corroborated Mya’s claim, that she had the approval to bring in the Aspirin for her husband, and all the charges were dropped.

Did you know what you were carrying?

To face this charge, one of the elements of the crime is to have knowingly brought contraband into a jail or prison. If you lacked the knowledge of what you were carrying, you should not be guilty.

Ross, for instance, wanted to visit his brother, Sal who was in prison. Tory, their cousin, wanted to surprise Sal with some homemade moonshine. He gave Ross a care-package which included snacks, socks, and a mason jar of moonshine wrapped in a T-shirt, hidden beneath it all. When Ross was stopped by prison guards, his care-package was searched and they found the moonshine. He was charged with PC 4573.5.

However, Ross did not know what was in the care package and he hadn’t opened it to check the contents. With the help of a legal defense attorney, they were able to show Ross’s lack of knowledge. Tory told the courts he supplied the care-package and was the one who hid the moonshine jar in the T-shirt at the bottom of the bag. The charges against Ross were dropped.

Were you being coerced?

Committing a crime while under duress can be used as a legal defense, especially in cases where you felt your life was being threatened. If coercion played a factor in you bringing contraband into a jail or prison, find a defense lawyer who can help.

For example, Clare would visit her new-boyfriend, Taylor in the county jail every week. He was serving time for domestic violence against his ex-wife. Clare assumed she would never be one of his victims and did everything he asked. When he requested she bring contraband, such as flasks of whiskey the next time she visits, she expressed worry and refused. He threatened to “beat her to a pulp” and “whip her son’s butt” if she did not comply. She believed him and followed through with his order. She was so nervous on her next visit that she told the prison guard she had a flask of alcohol and Taylor “made her do it.”

Even though Clare knowingly brought contraband into a jail, she was coerced into doing so. Being intimidated into breaking the law can be a legal defense. When one’s life or physical safety is threatened, then you did not act willingly. Her defense lawyer was able to get the charges dropped.

Not every case is cut and dry, meaning it can be complicated when trying to present a viable legal defense. Retaining the right legal representation can mean the difference between facing the maximum penalties or getting the best possible results. If you can relate to any of these examples, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Penalties for PC 4573.5

If convicted of bringing contraband into a jail or prison, you face:

Felony consequences;

Formal (felony) probation,

16 months, 2 or 3-year county jail sentence.

Enhanced Penalties

Depending on what contraband you brought in, you could face harsher consequences. Multiple offenses could also play a role. If convicted of more than one offense, you will face longer county jail or prison sentencing along with much higher fines.

Closely Related Offenses

Business and Profession Code 25603 - Bringing alcohol into a penal institution;

Felony;

Felony probation,

A possible three-year county jail sentence, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

California Penal Code 4573, bringing drugs into a jail or prison;

Felony;

Formal probation,

2, 3, or 4 years in county jail.

Penalties for Associated Offenses

Business and Profession Code 25608 - Bringing alcohol onto a public educational facility;

Misdemeanor;

Informal (summary) probation,

A possible county jail sentence of six months, and/or

One thousand dollars in fines.

Health and Safety Code 11379 - Sale and Transport of Methamphetamine;

Felony;

A possible 2, 3, or 4 years in county jail,

Increased sentencing of 3, 6, or 9 years in county jail, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

Health and Safety Code 11550 - Being under the influence of controlled substances;

Misdemeanor;

A possible one-year county jail sentence, OR

Serve your sentence in a drug-diversion treatment program.

Penal Code 4550 - Rescuing a prisoner;

Felony;

A potential county jail sentence of 16 months, 2 or 3 years, OR

A possible county jail sentence of 2, 3, or 4 years.

Penal Code 647(f) - Public Intoxication;

Misdemeanor;

Summary (misdemeanor) probation,

Upwards of one thousand dollars in fines, and/or

A possible six-month county jail sentence.

Penal Code 415 - Disturbing the Peace;

Infraction;

A fine of up to four hundred dollars.

Misdemeanor;

A county jail sentence of up to three months, and/or

A possible four hundred dollar fine.

Let Us Help

Attempting to face these charges without a criminal defense lawyer by your side can be problematic. Are you or someone you love facing a PC 4573.5 charge or any of the related offenses?

Finding legal assistance in San Diego, Orange County, or Los Angeles does not have to be too hard or complex. Simply contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. As a former prosecutor turned highly-sought-after criminal defense lawyer, Attorney Yum understands how aggressively one must fight to maintain their freedom.

A criminal record can follow you for years. Get legal advice and expert representation as soon as you can. For more information on the laws surrounding bringing contraband, drugs, or alcohol into a jail or prison, contact us at 619-233-4433. You can also schedule a no-obligation, free consultation by giving us a call or use our online contact form. We welcome all inquires and look forward to helping you get through this.

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