What is PCP?

Phencyclidine is a hallucinogen commonly known as PCP, Angel Dust, Boat, Tic Tac, Zoom, Shermans, or when combined with marijuana, Killer Joints or Super Grass. It was developed during the 1950s for use as an intravenous anesthetic. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the drug was discontinued because of serious adverse effects, including postoperative delirium and hallucinations. Illicit use of PCP declined during the 1980s and 1990s, but it has increased slightly in recent years, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

PCP is a “dissociative” drug, meaning it causes distortion of sight and sound and creates feelings of detachment. The effects of PCP include sedation, amnesia, immobility, and analgesia. It acts as a glutamate receptor in the brain, which is responsible for the perception of pain, responses to the environment, and learning and memory.

Higher doses produce hallucinations, and chronic use can result in dependency. Smoking is the most common way to ingest phencyclidine, and an average dose is 5-10 mg. According to January 2013 statistics, 6.1 million Americans reported using PCP in their lifetime.

Legal Definitions:

The Controlled Substances Act, passed in 1970, defines specific standards and penalties for drug offenses. The act created five classifications of illicit drugs based on potential for abuse and psychological or physical dependence.

PCP is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, which means:

  • It has a high potential for abuse
  • It has a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions
  • Abuse can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence

After its discontinuation, PCP was used veterinary anesthetic or tranquilizer, but there is no current accepted medical use for humans. Therefore, having a valid prescription for PCP is very rarely an acceptable defense for the consumption, sale, or transportation of PCP.

PCP Charge Legal Defenses:

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can offer a variety of legal defenses when it comes to PCP use and possession. Some common defenses include:

  1. Lack of knowledge: The law requires that you willfully and knowingly possessed PCP. Coming into accidental contact with PCP without any knowledge of illegal activity could be grounds for a lack of knowledge defense.
  2. Lack of power and intent to control: In cases of constructive possession, the prosecution must prove that you intended to control the PCP. Even if you were aware of the presence of drugs, if you never intended to come into contact with it and you had no power or control over the PCP or the situation, it could lay the groundwork for a lack of power or control defense. This includes being involuntarily drugged by someone else.
  3. Lack of use of narcotics: If law enforcement officers never found you in possession of PCP and did not subject you to a blood test to confirm the presence of drugs, your lawyer could argue you were not under the influence. Many other physiological conditions can resemble drug use, including illness and fatigue.
  4. Police misconduct: If law enforcement officers violate California laws of search and seizure or California entrapment laws, your case could be thrown out on grounds of police mistakes and misconduct.

This is not an exhaustive list of legal defenses against heroin possession charges. Contact the Law Office of Peter Blair if you find yourself in this situation and want to know the extent of your options.

Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Being under the influence of PCP at the time of arrest is a violation of Health and Safety Code 11550. If your physical or mental abilities are impaired “in any detectable manner,” you could face a misdemeanor charge and 9-12 months in county jail.

Personal possession of PCP without a valid prescription is illegal under Health and Safety Code 11377. In the state of California, possession of PCP can merit a misdemeanor or a felony designating it as a “wobbler.” Your unique case and criminal history will determine whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. The varying penalties are as follows:

  • Possession of PCP as a misdemeanor: up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine
  • Possession of PCP as a felony: 16 months, two years, or three years in jail, and a maximum $10,000 fine

Possession or purchase of PCP for sale violates California’s Health and Safety Code 11378.5, and it carries more serious consequences than personal possession. Possession of phencyclidine or any analog or precursor of PCP is punishable by three, four, or five years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. An additional 3-15 years in prison can be added if the amount of PCP exceeds one kilogram.

Selling or transporting PCP violates California’s Health and Safety Code 11379.5. This statute includes transporting, importing, selling, furnishing, administering, giving away, or offering to do any of the above with PCP. All of the listed offenses are punishable by three, four, or five years in prison.

Transporting PCP across three or more counties can carry an increased sentence of three, six, or nine years.

Manufacturing PCP violates California’s Health and Safety Code 11379.6. It includes anyone who compounds, converts, produces, derives, processes, or prepares phencyclidine by means of chemical synthesis. Manufacturing PCP is punishable by three, five, or seven years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. Offering to do any of the above can result in three to five years in prison.

Drug Diversion Programs:

Proposition 36 and Penal Code 1000 constitute drug diversion programs. These programs allow nonviolent offenders to avoid prison time through rehabilitation. As such, they only apply in certain situations, usually when the defendant purchased or possessed PCP for purely personal use.

Drug diversion programs are not available to those who are:

  • simultaneously charged with a separate misdemeanor offense not involving drug possession
  • simultaneously charged with a felony
  • convicted of selling or transporting heroin

These programs are designed to reduce the number of nonviolent drug offenders in California prisons. The drug diversion system targets those who could benefit from personal rehabilitation, rather than sellers or distributors of narcotics.

Contact a defense lawyer to find out if one of these programs will work in your situation.

Related Offenses:

Involving a minor in the sale of PCP violates California’s Health and Safety Code 11380. This includes soliciting, inducing, encouraging, or intimidating any minor to participate, as well as furnishing, offering to furnish, or attempting to furnish PCP to a minor. Involving a minor in the offense is punishable by three, six, or nine years in state prison.

Manufacturing PCP in a structure where any child under 16 is present violates California’s Health and Safety Code 11379.7, and it is punishable by an additional two years in state prison. If the offense causes the child to suffer great bodily injury, an additional five years can be added to the sentence.

Committing a PCP-related crime in certain protected areas violates California’s Health and Safety Code 11380.1. This includes a church or synagogue, playground, public or private youth center, day care facility, public swimming pool all during hours that the facility is open for normal functions or when minors are using the facility. This is punishable by one year in state prison.

If the offense occurred within 1,000 feet of a public or private elementary, vocational, junior high, or high school when minors are in the building, an additional two years can be added to the sentence.

If the offense occurred within 1,000 feet of a drug treatment center, a detox facility, or a homeless shelter, an additional one year in state prison can be added to the sentence.

If manufacturing PCP leads to the death or great bodily injury of another person, not counting an accomplice, an additional year can be added to the prison term for each person killed or injured.

Driving under the influence of PCP violates California Vehicle Code 23152a. If the PCP has “so far affected the nervous system, the brain, or muscles as to impair an appreciable degree the ability” to operate a vehicle as a normal person would, you could face a misdemeanor charge and be ineligible for a drug diversion program.