Bringing Contrabands in Jails or Prisons – California Penal Code PC 4573 and PC 4573.5

Posted by Raoul Severo | Oct 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

A criminal surrenders some of his/her rights the moment he/she commits the crime. Depending on the severity of the violation, many, if not all, of the offenses result in jail time or incarceration. When in prison, one is isolated from the society inside the confines of the facility. This isolation means his/her freedom will be temporarily, or permanently, withdrawn based on the length of his/her sentence determined by the severity of the crime he/she committed. Inside the prison, the person is prohibited from doing things that are usually associated with the outside world – this includes the freedom to meet with people anytime and access to many things. Due to the nature of this penalty, some prisoners are desperate enough to bring in contrabands.


Contrabands are things that are illegally sneaked in or smuggled into places where the said items are generally prohibited. In prison, there are many prohibitions set to aid the rehabilitation of criminals. As a part of their punishment for violating the law, the prisoners are restricted access to a plethora of items that are considered as unnecessary, or worst harmful inside the facility.

In California, the California Penal Code PC 4573.5 is the law enacted to implement the “no contraband” rule inside the prison facility. Violating this statute is considered as a criminal offense that can result in criminal charges. This regulation is there to make sure that there will be no contrabands smuggled into the facility.

California Penal Code PC 4573.5

California Penal Code PC 4573.5 declares that any person who knowingly brings into any state prison or other institution under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, or into any prison camp, prison farm, or any other place where prisoners or inmates of these institutions are located under the custody of prison or institution officials, officers, or employees, or into any county, city and county, or city jail, road camp, farm or any other institution or place where prisoners or inmates are being held under the custody of any sheriff, chief of police, peace officer, probation officer, or employees, or within the grounds belonging to any institution or place, any alcoholic beverage, any drugs, other than controlled substances, in any manner, shape, form, dispenser, or container, or any device, contrivance, instrument, or paraphernalia intended to be used for unlawfully injecting or consuming any drug other than controlled substances, without having authority so to do by the rules of the Department of Corrections, the laws of the prison, institution, camp, farm, place, or jail, or by the specific authorization of the warden, superintendent, jailer, or other person in charge of the prison, jail, institution, camp, farm, or place, is guilty of a felony.

Consequences for Bringing Contrabands

In the state of California, binging in contrabands inside prison facilities and violating PC 4573.5 is a felony. A felony is the most severe level of a criminal offense; it usually comes with a longer sentence and jail time in state prisons as opposed to county jails for misdemeanor offenses. The punishment for the time includes:

  • Imprisonment of sixteen (16) months to three (3) years in a state prison; or
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000)

In some cases, a judge may also award a guilty offender with Felony/Formal Probation. This kind of probation is an alternative to serving time in prison. It allows a convicted felon to do his/her sentence out of the prison facility but under a probation officer's watchful supervision.

Legal Defense

Being falsely accused of bringing in contrabands can lead to severe charges – a felony. That is why it would be best if the accused immediately seeks a legal professional's aid, an attorney. A great defense lawyer can lower or dismiss the charges thrown unto his/her client to avoid a lengthy, if not totally avoid, jail time. Some of the best defenses to PC 4573.5 includes:

  • False Accusations
  • Ignorance
  • Duress

False Accusations – When the plaintiff wrongfully accuses the defendant of smuggling contrabands into the facility without clear or real pieces of evidence, that is considered as a false accusation. This can also include situations when the contraband in question was just planted into the accused's being.

Ignorance – To be guilty of PC 4573.5, one must knowingly participate in the smuggling of contrabands. If the accused has proven that he/she did not know about the alleged crime, he/she can be free from liability. A person cannot be guilty of a crime he/she is ignorant of.

Duress – The accused can claim that he/she was blackmailed, coerced, forced, oppressed, and scared to smuggle contraband into the prison.

Related Offenses

PC 4550 – Rescuing a prisoner

PC 4573 – Smuggling Controlled Substances in prison


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