Possession of Hydrocodone While Armed in California

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 Is Hydrocodone a Controlled Substance in California?

Yes, in California, Hydrocodone is considered a controlled substance. It is an opioid pain medication that falls under Schedule II of controlled substances, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. This may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

What Is Hydrocodone Possession?

Hydrocodone possession is the act of retaining or holding onto hydrocodone, a potent opioid pain medication, outside the boundaries of a lawful prescription. The definition of “possession” in this context is multifaceted:

  • Nature of Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone is a prescription medication classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This classification signifies its recognized medical use but also its high potential for misuse, leading to severe dependence, either physically or psychologically.
  • Actual Physical Possession: This is the most straightforward form of possession. If an individual is found with hydrocodone in their bag, pocket, or even in a pill container in their hand without a legitimate prescription, they are said to have actual physical possession.
    • This form doesn’t leave much room for defense, as the substance is directly linked to the individual.
  • Constructive Possession: This is a more abstract concept. Even if hydrocodone isn’t found directly on a person, they can still be charged with its possession if it’s found in a location over which they exert control. For instance, if hydrocodone is discovered in an individual’s locked bedroom, glove compartment of their car, or personal storage unit, they can be said to have constructive possession.
    • This implies that the person had knowledge of the drug being in that location and had the power to control its presence.
  • Joint Possession: This is when hydrocodone is found in a shared space, and more than one individual has access and control over that area. An example might be hydrocodone found in the living room of a shared apartment. In these scenarios, it may be more challenging to pin possession on one person, as multiple individuals had access to the location.
  • Valid Prescription Exception: Possession becomes lawful when an individual has hydrocodone due to a valid prescription of opioids provided by a licensed medical professional. It’s essential to keep this prescription accessible, as it serves as a direct defense against any possession charges.
    • However, if the quantity possessed exceeds the prescribed amount or if the medication is not stored in its original container, there could still be grounds for a possession charge.

In summary, the core idea of hydrocodone possession is straightforward. However, its legal intricacies and the circumstances surrounding the possession can profoundly influence the outcome of any related charges.

What Is Gun Possession?

Gun possession refers to having ownership or control over a firearm. In California, possessing a gun without a license or under circumstances where the individual is prohibited (e.g., convicted felons, certain misdemeanants, or individuals with restraining orders against them) is illegal.

How Does California Define Hydrocodone Possession While in Possession of a Firearm?

While California laws address drug possession and firearm possession separately, combining the two can lead to increased penalties. Possessing hydrocodone without a valid prescription while also possessing a firearm can compound the potential legal consequences, signaling the intent to commit a more serious crime or pose a greater public threat.

What Does the State Have to Prove To Convict Me of Hydrocodone and Firearm Possession?

To secure a conviction for hydrocodone and firearm possession, the state of California must prove each of these elements under California gun laws:

Hydrocodone Possession

Hydrocodone possession means that the accused has retained or controlled hydrocodone without a corresponding legal prescription. This possession isn’t merely about having the drug on one’s person, as it can extend to one’s belongings or within spaces the accused can control, such as their vehicle or residence. The differentiation between actual possession (directly having the drug) and constructive possession (the ability to access or control the drug, even if not on one’s person) is critical.

Furthermore, if an individual possesses hydrocodone with the intent to distribute or sell, particularly in quantities exceeding typical personal use, the potential legal repercussions could be more severe.


Proving possession goes hand-in-hand with demonstrating that the accused was not only aware of hydrocodone’s presence but also understood its illegal nature without a valid prescription. Simply having hydrocodone might not be sufficient grounds for conviction. The prosecution often needs to establish that the accused had clear knowledge about what they possessed.

Factors like the drug’s location, admissions or statements by the accused, or prior drug-related convictions can be used to demonstrate knowledge. Conversely, defenses might argue accidental possession, suggesting the accused was unaware of the drug or believed it to be another lawful substance.

Firearm Possession

Firearm possession pertains to whether the accused had control or ownership over a firearm, either directly or indirectly. Actual possession is straightforward: the accused is found directly holding or carrying a gun, such as having it in their bag or vehicle. Constructive possession, however, is more abstract. It suggests that the accused can control the firearm, even if it’s not on their immediate person.

An example would be a firearm kept locked in the accused’s cabinet or safe. The matter is further complicated with joint possession, where multiple individuals might have had access to and control over the firearm.

Lack of License

In states like California, possessing a firearm requires specific permits or licenses. If the accused does not have a valid permit, such as a Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) in California, then the act of possessing the gun becomes illegal. Beyond mere possession, certain individuals, due to past convictions, specific mental health diagnoses, or restraining orders, might be entirely prohibited from owning firearms.

For these individuals, possession can carry even steeper legal consequences. Additionally, even those with proper permits can face charges if the firearm is not stored or handled correctly, like if it’s left in a location accessible to minors.

Each of these areas underscores the intricate nature of laws surrounding hydrocodone and firearm possession. Should you find yourself facing such charges, understanding these nuances and finding a lawyer becomes vital.

What Is the Punishment for Possessing Hydrocodone and a Firearm?

Possessing hydrocodone and a firearm in California is a serious offense that can lead to felony charges and prison time. Hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin, is a prescription opioid painkiller that is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.

Possessing hydrocodone without a valid prescription or possessing more than the prescribed amount is illegal under Health and Safety Code 11350 HS. The penalty for simple possession of hydrocodone is up to one year in county jail, community service, and a fine of up to $1,000.

However, the offense becomes much more severe if the person also possesses a loaded, operable firearm at the same time. According to Health and Safety Code 11370.1 HS, it is a felony to possess any controlled substance while armed with a firearm that is capable of being fired. The penalty for this offense is up to four years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

This applies even if the person has a valid prescription for hydrocodone or if the person has no intent to use or sell the drug.

Are There Any Defenses to Possession of Hydrocodone and a Firearm?

Yes, potential defenses can include:

  • Lack of Knowledge: The defendant wasn’t aware they possessed hydrocodone or a firearm.
  • Valid Prescription: The defendant had a valid prescription for hydrocodone from a licensed medical professional.
  • Search Warrant Issues: The evidence was obtained illegally, perhaps without a search warrant, in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.
  • Mistaken Identity: The drugs or firearm belonged to someone else, and the defendant had no control over them.

Should I Talk to a Criminal Lawyer About Having Hydrocodone while Possessing a Firearm?

Absolutely. Combining drug and firearm possession can lead to significant legal repercussions in California. If you or someone you know is facing such charges, consult with a knowledgeable California drug lawyer. Secure legal guidance by reaching out through LegalMatch to find the right attorney for your situation.


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