”Not Knowingly” Selling Drugs to a Minor In California

In People v. Lopez (1969) 271 Cal.App.2d 754, the defendant was charged with offering to furnish a minor (who was an informant) with marijuana. (Health & Saf. Code, § 11352.)

The defendant contended the jury should have been instructed on his mistaken belief that the informant was older than 21.

The court rejected that claim because it was a felony to offer or furnish marijuana to anyone, regardless of age. (Lopez, supra, at pp. 760-761.)

The court noted that because furnishing marijuana is a crime notwithstanding the age of the offeree, the age of the victim only related to the gravity of the offense, and was not a complete defense. (Ibid.)

The same reasoning was applied in People v. Williams (1991) 233 Cal.App.3d 407, where the reviewing court held that ignorance of the age of the offeree did not give rise to a mistake of fact defense to the crime of sale of cocaine to a minor. (Health & Saf. Code, § 11353.)

The court observed that the specific intent for the crime of selling cocaine to a minor is the intent to sell cocaine, not the intent to sell it to a minor. (Williams, supra, at p. 411.)

The court concluded that ignorance of the age of the offeree neither disproved criminal intent nor negated an evil design on the part of the offeror, so it did not give rise to a mistake of fact defense. (Ibid.)