Aiding and Abetting Use of Drugs in California

In People v. Edwards (1985) 39 Cal.3d 107, the defendant, the victim, and two others purchased heroin, divided it equally, and ingested it together. The victim died from an overdose, and the defendant was convicted of second degree felony murder, with the underlying felony a violation of Health and Safety Code section 11352, subdivision (a). The Supreme Court in Edwards held that under People v. Mayfield (1964) 225 Cal.App.2d 263, the jury could have found that the defendant was a copurchaser and had therefore committed only the misdemeanor of aiding and abetting the victim in her own heroin use. The court explained the Mayfield holding: "The distinction drawn by the Mayfield court between one who sells or furnishes heroin and one who simply participates in a group purchase seems to us a valid one, at least where the individuals involved are truly 'equal partners' in the purchase and the purchase is made strictly for each individual's personal use. Under such circumstances, it cannot reasonably be said that each individual has 'supplied' heroin to the others." (Edwards, supra, 39 Cal.3d at pp. 113-114.) However, in a footnote in Edwards, the court cautioned that it expected "few cases involving a copurchase by truly equal partners. (Edwards, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 114, fn. 5.) The court stated, "Where one of the copurchasers takes a more active role in instigating, financing, arranging or carrying-out the drug transaction, the 'partnership' is not an equal one and the more active 'partner' may be guilty of furnishing to the less active one. Furthermore, one who acts as a go-between or agent of either the buyer or seller clearly may be found guilty of furnishing as an aider and abettor to the seller. " (Ibid.) In Edwards, the court cited with approval People v. Richards (1961) 198 Cal.App.2d 465, 469-471, in four transactions, the defendants, in response to an officer's inquiry about purchasing narcotics, took the officer to another location, took his money, left, and returned with narcotics and gave them to the officer, and People v. Hutcherson (1961) 197 Cal.App.2d 771, 779-780, the defendant directed the purchaser to the home of the supplier, told him how to park so as not to arouse suspicion, went with the buyer to the supplier's house, told the supplier the buyer wished to purchase marijuana, and was present when the sale was made as examples of cases in which persons who acted as agents between the purchaser and seller of drugs were properly found liable as aiders and abettors. (Edwards, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 114, fn 5.)