False Compartment Law & Defense
The law on the crime of keeping a false compartment to conceal controlled substances (usually simplified to false compartment) is found at California Health & Safety Code Section 11366.8(a). Building a false compartment for controlled substance is found at HS 11366.8(b).
HS 1136.8(a) Law: In order for the district attorney to prove that a defendant kept or possessed a false compartment to conceal a controlled substance he or she will need to prove that the defendant either possessed, used, or built a secret compartment in his or her vehicle with the intent to either store, conceal, or transport a controlled substance (legal drugs or illegal narcotics) (Abbrev.).
False Compartment Defined: A false compartment can be any hidden box, container, or enclosure, which is designed to hide a controlled substance (illegal drugs or legal drugs without a prescription). The compartment itself does not have to be an addition to the vehicle such as the use of a modified gas tank that is designed to conceal drugs.
Note: More than one person can be in possession of a false compartment at the same time and a defendant does not have to actually be touching the false compartment in order for him or her to have possession of the false compartment. Proof that the defendant knew about a false compartment in his or her vehicle is usually by implication (registered vehicle owner), but other proof of knowledge can be shown by confession, fingerprints on the compartment or toggle switch that opens the compartment, or by witnesses that have knowledge of defendant's use of the compartment.
Punishment for HS 11366.8
The crime of keeping a false compartment to conceal a controlled substance may be charged either as a misdemeanor or as a felony. False compartment is wobbler crime, which means that both misdemeanor and felony false compartment charges are filed under the same California code section (H&S 11368.8(a)).
Note: Whether or not the district attorney charges misdemeanor or felony false compartment charges depends largely on the defendant's criminal history, the sophistication of the false compartment (or lack thereof), and the facts surrounding the discovery of the false compartment by law enforcement.
Felony Sentence: If the defendant is charged with keeping a false compartment to conceal a controlled substance as a felony, he or she may face up to three years in jail. This sentence is subject to good behavior credits that can reduce the sentence by up to 50% (Aka half time credit). Felony false compartment charges are usually filed under the heading HS11366.8(a)-F.
Misdemeanor Sentence: If the defendant is charged with keeping a false compartment to conceal a controlled substance as a misdemeanor, he or she could face up to a year in the county jail. This sentence is subject to good behavior credits that can reduce the sentence by up to 50%. Misdemeanor false compartment charges are usually filed under the heading HS11366.8(a)-M.
Probation: A probation sentence without jail might also be possible after a conviction for HS 11366.8. Every H&S 11368.8(a) case has different facts that support the charge; therefore, every H&S 11368.8(a) case is different and the outcomes will vary. Some probation sentences can include an order to serve some time on house arrest or work release.
Split Sentence: If the defendant is ordered to serve actual jail time that sentence may be split or suspended with court permission. A split sentence is a jail sentence that served partially in jail and partially out of jail on work release or house arrest. A suspended sentence is a jail sentence that is not serve at unless the defendant violates some condition of his or her out of custody sentnce.
Note: HS 11366.8(a) is not considered a strike offense under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law; however, HS 11366.8(a) is considered a crime of moral turpitude, which means that if the defendant is convicted of possession of a false compartment he or she will suffer negative immigration and professional licensing consequence (and may have his or her crdibility impeached in subsequent prosecutions, if any).
In addition to any possible jail or prison sentence, if the defendant is found guilty of the crime of possession of a false compartment to conceal controlled substances he or she may face other penalties, including: forfeiture of the vehicle, penalty fines, harsh probation or parole terms, loss of civil rights to own firearms (for felony HS 11366.8 convictions), denial of entry into the military, and more.
Defenses to H&S 11368.8
Common defenses to possession of a false compartment to conceal or keep controlled substances include: police misconduct, coerced confession, suppression of evidence, lack of intent (the defendant did not know there was a false compartment in his or her vehicle), insufficient evidence to prove the false compartment was used for drugs (as opposed to something other than drugs), mistake of fact, statute of limitations, and more.
Note: Many false compatment prosecutions rely on the statements of unreliable witnesses who claim that the defendant knows of the false compartment in the defendant's vehicle. As a result, law enforcement agencies will sometimes rely on the unreliable informant to substantiate their warrant to search the defendant's vehicle. This can lead to an illegal search and seizure defense based on a defective application for warrant.
If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of, building, or keeping a false compartment to conceal a controlled substance under H&S 11366.8(a) or HS 11366.8(b), contact our drug crimes criminal defense attorneys today. Our attorneys have successfully defended against hundreds of misdemeanor and felony drug charges. Consultations are provided at no cost to the accused and we are available seven days a week to assist you. Call today!
Allow fortification to suppress law enforcement HS 11366.5(b)
Use fortified place to sell controlled substance HS 11366.6
Quick Legal Reference
Crime: False Compartment
Code: HS 11366.8(a) (CalCrim No. 2441)
Wobbler: Yes. HS 11366.8(a) is a wobbler crime. This means that the crime may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.
Incarceration: Felony HS 11366.8(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years jail. Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.
Probation: Probation may be available in HS 11366.8(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.
PC 1170(h)): Yes. Felony HS 11366.8(a) is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:
Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)
Suspended (possibly never served)
Served in county jail (not state prison)
Strike: HS 11366.8(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.
Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.
CIMT: HS 11366.8(a) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:
Professional Licensing problems
Impeachment on credibility
Firearms: Felony HS 11366.8(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm for life (subject to post conviction relief). Misdemeanor PC 32 convictions prohibit the defendant from owning or possessing a firearm for 10 years.
Bail: $25,000 (Felony) $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino County)
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