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Drug Crimes

Drug Crime Attorney in Contra Costa County, CA

Drug Defense Lawyers

Overview of Drug Prosecutions In Contra Costa County

     1. No File Policy - Small Amounts

Contra Costa County drug crime attorneys know that since late 2020, the district attorney rarely files criminal charges for drug crimes involving quantities held for personal use.  For these small cases you do not need a drug crime attorney and most any criminal defense attorney can assist you.

If your case involves an arrest with a larger amount of narcotics, possession for sales charges are possible. California Health and Safety Code § 11351 HS makes it a felony to possess a controlled substance with the intent to sell.  If you are charged with an 11351 a criminal defense attorney may be able to argue that the amount although large was meant primarily for personal use.

     2.  Large Scale Drug Crimes

Larger drug crimes or those involving an informant who details your sales of drugs will require a specialized expertise in criminal defense.  These are difficult cases and if anyone tells you otherwise the are ill informed.

In Contra Costa County (and in many other counties) there is a Special Prosecutions Unit (Drug Enforcement) that has an experienced team of prosecutors and investigators.  They view drug distribution as the root of many evils and they will file a large number of serious drug cases.  You can expect to also see these offices pursue asset seizures as well.  If you are arrested for a larger scale drug case you can expect that when you post bail the court will review the source of your funds to see if there is a “legal” source for the funding.   The bottom line is that the “no file” policy is reversed with large scale seizures and there is a strong file and aggressively pursue approach.  Again, this is not limited to a single county and is common statewide.

Daniel Horowitz and the trial lawyers he works with including Dan Russo, Tom Kensok and Oksana Tyskova have the expertise and experience to give you the best defense for large scale drug cases.  The defense work is not geographically limited to the Lafayette office area.  Daniel Horowitz and the lawyers he works with travel within the State of California on drug cases.  If the case is federal, they have litigated in courts from California to Kansas City to New York and many other U.S. locations.


     1. State Drug Cases Can Become Federal Drug Cases

 Most large scale drug operations involve the use of phones, “wires” such as e-mail and interstate transportation of narcotics.  This triggers federal jurisdiction and many investigations that start at the state level are taken over by the United States Attorney.  Daniel Horowitz has spent many days and months in trial in federal court on high stakes criminal cases.  The penalties for a federal drug conviction are astounding.  If a state case morphs into a federal case the sentencing exposure can explode.  

California Health & Safety Code section 11379.6 (manufacturing of controlled substances)  is one of the state drug offenses that is often taken over by the federal prosecutors.  In state court the penalty is 3, 5 or 7 years. (This goes up with various enhancements but nothing compares to the federal penalties.  In federal court similar crimes with drug kingpin enhancements can carry a life sentence.  

     2. Major Federal Drug Crime Agencies 

 The federal drug cases usually originate from investigations by the U.S. Dept. Of Justice Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (“NDDS”)  or the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF).  We defend these cases looking for dismissals by motion or plea deals involving phone counts or lesser charges.  If the United States Attorney is unreasonable our federal trial attorneys Daniel Horowitz and Dan Russo have taken many major federal cases to trial.

Our main office is in Lafayette, California (Contra Costa County).  Our criminal defense work is not limited to this area.  We travel throughout the State of California and on federal cases, we work nationwide.

      3. Major Federal Drug Crimes

21 USC § 841(a)(1)    (Distribution/Manufacturing/Possession with intent to Distribute)

This has a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years and a possible five year mandatory minimum and maximum 40 years if certain weight standards are met. (21 USC 841(b)(1)(B)).  The ten year mandatory minimum and maximum life sentence is triggered by even larger quantities. (21 USC 841(b)(1)(A))

21 USC § 846 (Conspiracy/Attempt)

The conspiracy involves simply helping the larger drug conspiracy.  The help does not need to be large and the penalty is the same as for distribution.

21 USC § 843(b) (Use of a Communication Facility to Facilitate Drug Felony)

These are often called “phone counts” and they carry a four year maximum for each use of a telephone to arrange a drug transaction.  Plea bargains often end up with “phone counts” because they avoid the labyrinth of mandatory minimum penalties.

21 USC § 848 (Continuing Criminal Enterprise - “Drug Kingpin Statute”)

This is the granddaddy of drug crimes.  It carries a mandatory minimum 20 years year sentence and can have life imprisonment.   It is drug organization oriented but a drug organization need only have a leader and four other people.

     4. Licenses, Business Reputation & Divorce (How Small Crimes Can Have Large Impacts)

Our focus is on the higher stakes drug cases but sometimes a small drug case, a first time driving under the influence (of drugs or alcohol) or other rather minor offense can have major life impacts.

       A. Physicians

If you are a doctor a DUI can derail your career and while less devastating than a potential drug kinpin life sentence, it is daunting.  That DUI can stay with you like a burr in the tail of a cat.

      B. Divorce Custody Disputes

Likewise drug or alcohol cases which are small can greatly impact on child custody.  People involved in a contentious divorce can lose custody, have only supervised custody or be forced to have an alcohol sensor installed in their car following a DUI drug or alcohol arrest.

      C. Corporate Executive

 Another scenario is the startup and the CEO or an important engineer gets arrested.  It may factor into the next funding round.  It certainly will be uncovered if anyone conducts a reasonable level of due diligence.   Likewise moving up the corporate ladder guarantees that any arrest will be used against you.  A conviction will be permanently damaging.

We can add schoolteachers, school coaches, even having your children's friends come to your house.  If you live in Lamorinda, Walnut Creek or any of the areas near our Lafayette office, an arrest will spread quickly and a conviction will interfere with your day to day life.

5. Thinking Out of the Box to Get You Out of the Box

Beware a Google “the best drug lawyers” or “lawyers near me” search.  Many out of town and 1-800 cookie cutter firms turn up.  Contra Costa County has some of the finest drug defense lawyers in the state and most will give your case personal attention.  Personal attention is not just warm and fuzzy.  Drug cases are informant driven and require a very specialized case by case approach.  Except for the smaller cases you truly need a focused and individualized defense.  We think out of the box and give your case the focused attention that it needs.

Both Daniel Horowitz and Daniel Russo are certified as Criminal Defense Specialists.  The State of California does not allow a lawyer to use the word “specialist” unless the lawyer is certified by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization.  Daniel Horowitz is one of only 7 certified specialists in criminal defense in Contra Costa County (as of 1/29/2024). 

 The best lawyer to defend drug charges is a lawyer with both expertise and who is a good personal fit for you. If you believe that Daniel Horowitz and his legal team may meet your needs, please contact us at 925-291-5388

Certified Criminal Defense Specialist 

Daniel Horowitz is a certified criminal defense specialist.  On high stakes cases Daniel works with Dan Russo and Carmela Caramagno who are also certified criminal defense specialists.  This title is not self created.  It is a designation of criminal defense achievement issued by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.  There are thousands of criminal defense lawyers, thousands of federal defense lawyers but only several hundred State Bar certified specialists. 

Published Appellate Decisions

Here are a few published appellate decisions reflecting excellent outcomes for the clients of Daniel Horowitz.

U.S. v. Dutkel - Conviction set aside due to jury tampering.  We took the case after conviction.

Gardner v. Superior Court - Set a key standard in California requiring adequate funding for death penalty cases.

U.S. v. Lazarenko - Former Prime Minister of Ukraine's conviction on counts 26-29 reversed so that every count where Daniel Horowitz represented him at trial resulted in an acquittal. 

Client Testimonials

Contra Costa County Location - National Reputation for Excellence
    “He believed in me and listened to what I had to say.”
    I can not say enough about Mr. Horowitz and his staff. Brook was amazing to myself and my family. My case was very unique. He believed in me and listened to what I had to say. I highly recommend him and his staff. Yvett Bline
    - Yvett Bline
    “I'm an Attorney and would highly recommend him to other professionals (and others alike) because he's the very BEST at what he does”
    Dan Horowitz handled my complex business issue with magnanimity, compassion, care, promptness, and utmost professionalism. I'm an Attorney and would highly recommend him to other professionals (and others alike) because he's the very BEST at what he does and has an uncanny knack at finding unique resolutions with unparalleled speed and efficiency. What is quite outatanding is that he treats each client with kindness and compassion as if a family member
    - Lovely K.
    “What impressed me most was his unwavering dedication to achieving the best possible outcome for me.”
    I cannot express enough gratitude for the outstanding legal services provided by Daniel Horowitz. He not only possesses an in-depth understanding of the law but also demonstrated a genuine commitment to me. He took the time to listen attentively to my concerns, providing clear and concise explanations of the legal processes involved in my case. He made me feel heard and supported during this tumultuous time. What impressed me most was his unwavering dedication to achieving the best possible outcome for me. The attention to detail and strategic approach to my case were evident at every stage. I am eternally grateful towards Daniel for what he has done for me and I wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Dan
    - Kento T.
    “Daniel and his team did an excellent job.”
    Daniel and his team did an excellent job. He was always readily available to take my call and provided peace of mind through a stressful situation.
    - Reid V.
    “I would highly recommend the Law Office Of Daniel Horowitz.”
    My experience with Dan was great. I appreciate the knowledge Dan has and the professionalism they exhibit. I would highly recommend the Law Office Of Daniel Horowitz. My family and I are truly grateful we worked with him.
    - Brandon D.
    “There are lawyers and then there are real lawyers. Dan Horowitz is a real lawyer in every since of the word.”
    There are lawyers and then there are real lawyers. Dan Horowitz is a real lawyer in every since of the word. Dan is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. You will not find very many attorneys having such recognition especially one that hits on all cylinders as Dan. In addition to his knowledge of the law and his experience, which I found to be unmatched, i appreciated the fact that he at all times is genuine, which for me says it all. Thank you Dan.
    - Cory N.
    “The Best Attorney I Could Have Asked For”
    “The Best Attorney I Could Have Asked For.”
    - Katherine Ryken
    “Dan Horowitz was the best attorney I could have asked for during a difficult time in my career.”
    Dan Horowitz was the best attorney I could have asked for during a difficult time in my career. From the moment I met him, I felt believed, respected, and safe. He and his team were endlessly responsive and empathetic to me and my family. He fought for my case day and night, always keeping my best interests at the forefront of his mind. As I learned from Dan, it is never a good time in one’s life to need legal representation - but if you need it, Dan is your person, your advocate, and your best friend. We are forever grateful for his tireless commitment to justice for the people.
    - Katherine R.

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