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Name: People v. Heath
Case #: A107676
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 11/28/2005

Appellant was convicted of Health and Safety Code section 11370.1, subdivision (a) which prohibits possession of cocaine or methamphetamine while armed with a loaded, operable firearm. On appeal, appellant argued that due process requires that a defendant knew or should have known that the firearm possessed was loaded and operable, and that his conviction had to be reversed because the court did not so instruct the jury sua sponte. The appellate court rejected the argument. California and federal courts have consistently held that due process does not mandate a scienter requirement for factors which only increase the penalty for already unlawful conduct. Section 11370.1(a) falls under this definition because it simply provides a harsher penalty for the unlawful possession of substances by a defendant who is also armed with a loaded and operable firearm. Since knowledge was not an element of the statute, an instruction requiring such knowledge was unwarranted.