What is Considered Contraband in Prison?
There are many items that inmates housed in jail or prison are prohibited from possessing. Many things are disallowed for safety reasons, while others are disallowed to punish prisoners during incarceration.
Bringing certain items into a jail or prison can result in criminal charges for illegally bringing contraband under California Penal Code 4573.5 PC, which is considered a felony offense that could lead to prison time and fines.
Contraband is defined under this statute as alcohol and any drugs other than controlled substances. Even over-the-counter medication is considered contraband under California law. Controlled substances are illicit drugs that the government regulates.
An individual can face a charge of bringing contraband to a jail or prison regardless of who they are. Individuals might abuse their positions and access jails or prisons to break this rule.
Examples include a jail guard bringing drugs into jail to sell to inmates or an attorney bringing over-the-counter medications to their client during a visit.
PC 4573.5 applies to people who often enter jails or prisons in California, such as visitors to a prison, guards who work at a jail, people sent to jail or prison, and prisoners in a correctional facility. It is critical to understand that ignorance of the law is not a defense if you are charged with delivering contraband to a prisoner.
These laws apply to any jail, prison, or other facility or place controlled by the California Department of Corrections or county jails. Our California criminal defense lawyers will examine this topic further below.
What are Penalties for Bringing Contraband into a Jail
Bringing contraband into a correctional facility is a felony in California, the harshest charge you can face in this state.
If someone is convicted of bringing contraband into jail or prison, they can face severe penalties. A conviction under 4573.5 PC results in a criminal felony and can be punished by 16 months, two years, or three years in a California state prison.
A judge can also order probation as an alternative to incarceration or as an addition to ordered jail time. Each case will be evaluated individually by the court regarding sentencing. If you have prior convictions, then it is likely that you will face more significant jail or prison time.
What Are Some Related Offenses?
Other criminal laws in the California Penal Code prohibit certain activities involving prisoners housed in a jail or prison. Some of these related criminal offenses include:
- Penal Code 4573 PC: Bringing drugs into a jail or prison. This law is similar to the law described on this page, except it is specific to controlled substances. Controlled substances include hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and oxycodone. If individuals are convicted of this crime, they face a felony and up to four years in a California state prison.
- Penal Code 4550 PC: Rescuing a Prisoner. This law makes it illegal to help someone escape prison, jail, or from the lawful custody of an officer. Suppose the prisoner faced a potential death sentence for a criminal conviction? In that case, the person convicted for rescuing that prisoner could face two, three, or four years in a California state prison. All other situations would result in up to one year in a California county jail.
- Business and Professions Code 25608: Bringing alcohol into a public school. This law makes it illegal to bring alcohol to a school or school grounds. If an individual is convicted of this crime, they face a misdemeanor and six months in a California county jail. A judge can also impose a fine of up to $1,000.
- Health and Safety Code 11350 HS – possession of a controlled substance,
- Health and Safety Code 11351 HS – possession of drugs for sale,
- Health and Safety Code 11377(a) HS – possession of methamphetamine,
- Health and Safety Code 11378 HS – possession of meth for sale,
- Health and Safety Code 11379 HS – sale or transportation of meth,
- Health and Safety Code 11173 HS – prescription fraud,
- Health and Safety Code 11364 HS – possession of drug paraphernalia,
- Health and Safety Code 11352 HS – sale or transportation of drugs,
- Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS– manufacturing a controlled substance,
- Health and Safety Code 11370.9 HS – money laundering in drug crimes,
- Health and Safety Code 11550 HS – under the influence of drugs.
What Are the Defenses for Penal Code 4573.5 PC?
Several defenses can be available when facing a criminal charge of illegally bringing contraband to a jail or prison. The defense that applies to your case depends on the facts and circumstances of the incident and who is involved. Common defenses are discussed below.
The items are not contraband under the law: If the items are authorized under the law or received prior approval from the jail, they are not considered contraband.
The individual did not know about the contraband: If the person bringing the contraband did not know that the contraband was contained in what was given, this could be a defense to the element of intent.
The act was caused by duress: If the individual bringing the contraband did so under the threat of harm or violence, they could claim the defense of duress. It is essential for an experienced criminal defense attorney to assess what defenses are available for your case.
In some cases, when we are retained early in the process, it might be possible to enter into prefiling negotiations with the District Attorney's Office to persuade them from filing formal criminal charges in the first place.
We specialize in this process known as “prefiling intervention,” which involves advocacy with law enforcement and prosecuting agencies to reduce the charges or even have them dropped entirely before the first court date.
In prefiling intervention, therefore, time is of the essence. The primary key is to intervene with the appropriate decision-makers before a formal filing decision.
If you or a family member has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 4573.5 PC, you should contact us to review the details and legal options.
The criminal defense law firm of Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles County and provides legal representation for people under investigation or already charged with a crime across Southern California. Call us at (877) 781-1570 or fill out the contact form.