Operating a Drug House


Operating a drug house is a serious federal and state crime. It is defined as maintaining or knowingly creating a space, store, building, vehicle, warehouse, or other facility for the purpose of keeping or selling controlled substances. These facilities are usually secured in order to aid and abet individuals who may be unlawfully transporting, purchasing, and/or selling various kinds of narcotic drugs and substances.

When you are arrested for an operating a drug house charge in California, you may face significant jail time and other penalties. You may or may not be directly associated with the crime, but it is important to understand the legal consequences. An experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney can help assess your individual situation, build a strong defense, and fight to get your charge dismissed or reduced.

Contact San Diego drug attorney Jessica McElfresh today to receive a free, one-on-one consultation regarding your case. You can get your legal questions answered immediately by calling us at (858) 756-7107.

Federal Penalties for an Operating a Drug House Charge

Under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act (21 U.S.C. § 856), it is unlawful for anyone to:

  • Knowingly open, lease, rent, use, or maintain any place, permanently or temporarily, for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.
  • Manage or control any place, permanently or temporarily, either as an owner, lessee, agent, employee, occupant, or mortgagee, and knowingly and intentionally rent, lease, profit from, or make available for use, with or without compensation, the place for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance.

If convicted of the said illegal acts in federal court, you can be subject to criminal and civil penalties, including:

  • Prison sentence up to 20 years
  • Fines up to $500,000
  • Civil fines two times the gross receipts derived from each violation
  • Potential declaratory or injunctive relief

Penalties for an Operating a Drug House Charge Under California Law

In addition to federal prosecution, you may be subject to an operating a drug house charge under the California Health and Safety Code (§ 11366). The law states that “every person who opens, or maintains any place for the purpose of unlawfully selling, giving away, or using any controlled substance” shall be punished by:

  • Misdemeanor — Up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $1,000
  • Felony — Up to 3 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000

Any property in connection with illegal drug operations may also be confiscated in accordance to state asset forfeiture laws. A designated drug house does not necessarily refer to an actual house or apartment. It could be a car, storage space, hotel room, or office.

How A San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

If you have been charged with crimes related to operating or maintaining a drug house in San Diego, you may be feeling scared, confused, or angry. In the face of serious penalties, it is best to stay calm, and hire a knowledgeable San Diego criminal defense lawyer for legal protection. You may have several options moving forward, and a skilled drug defense attorney can help establish the most effective strategy. A resourceful attorney may be able to get your charge dismissed or reduced by:

  • Demonstrating insufficient evidence against you on charges to intentionally sell, distribute, or transport narcotic drugs
  • Filing a motion to suppress any evidence obtained without a valid search, arrest or stop warrant
  • Showing any type of misconduct throughout the investigation

Your attorney may also be able to negotiate with the prosecutor or judge, and strike a plea bargain. Nevertheless, you and your attorney should take the proper steps to put together a strong defense as soon as possible.

Schedule a free and confidential case consultation with San Diego criminal defense attorney Jessica McElfresh today. At McElfresh Law, we value the freedom and constitutional rights of every client. We will work our hardest to achieve the most favorable outcome in your case. Learn more about the defense work we do by calling our office at (858) 756-7107.