According to California HS 11377(a), it's an offense to possess meth and other narcotics for own use. In the past, California has recorded hundreds of Meth-related deaths. The police are vigilant in cracking down and arresting people for possessing the drug. However, an arrest for possession of Meth in California is not a conviction. You still have some time to fight the charges with the help of an experienced attorney. If you or your loved one is facing charges for meth's possession, The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney can help you develop a convincing defense to fight the charges.
Meth Under California Law
The alternative names for meth are meth, speed, crystal meth, crystal, tina, glass, crank, or ice. Meth is a controlled substance. Controlled substances refer to chemicals or drugs whose possession, manufacture, or use is governed under the United States' Controlled Substances Act. It's illegal to possess meth if you don't have a viable prescription. However, the law allows certain people to possess meth without a prescription. Some of the people who may possess meth include doctors, veterinarians, and pharmacists. However, medical professionals must possess drugs according to the California drug laws.
Meth is a renowned stimulant that helps to speed up your brain and your body. The controlled substance is available in many forms, including powder, pills, crystal rock, or chunky form. There are many ways of consuming meth, including smoking, swallowing, injecting, snorting, and inhaling it in a gas form.
In the 1950S, students and trackers used meth to help them stay alert and awake. However, currently, meth is an illegal substance because of its dangerous implications. Meth should only be prescribed to people suffering from conditions like ADHD or obesity. However, despite the laws prohibiting the possession of meth, people still abuse meth and sell it illegally.
Most meth possessed and used in California is from Mexico. However, California also has numerous meth shops commonly referred to as mom and pop labs or clandestine. People also operate makeshift meth labs from their garages, homes, warehouses, and mobile homes. Central Valley in California is particularly famous for the sale of meth.
Meth has a lower cost, and it's also easy to access. This makes it an attractive option for users, including children getting started with drugs and drug addicts. For this reason, California laws aggressively prosecute the possession of meth.
What the Prosecutor has to Prove
For the prosecutor to accuse you of possession of meth in California, they have to prove several crime elements. Some of the elements that the prosecutor has to prove to include:
You possessed meth
You were aware that you possessed meth
You were aware that the substance you possessed was a California controlled substance, although you were not sure that it’s meth
You possessed enough meth for use as a drug. You didn’t merely possess residue or traces of meth
Possession of Meth
California law outlines possession in three forms:
You have actual possession of meth if you have immediate and direct control over it. For instance, you're in actual possession of meth if you're touching or holding it. If methamphetamine is concealed somewhere in your body, you are in actual possession. You're also in actual possession of meth if it's in something you are wearing like in your pocket. If meth is in something you're carrying, such as your purse, backpack, or suitcase, you're in actual possession.
In most cases, actual possession charges apply when the officers find meth on you. However, the police could also rely on circumstantial evidence to prove actual possession. For instance, you may flush, swallow, or throw away meth to avoid an arrest. In this case, the prosecutor or the police may still prove actual possession of meth.
For instance, law enforcement officers may witness as you buy meth. The police then approach you to investigate the incidence. Upon seeing the police, you panic and swallow the meth. However, as long as the police see you swallowing meth to avoid an arrest, they will arrest you for meth possession.
You don’t require immediate access to meth to possess it. As long as you have control over meth, you’re in constructive possession of the controlled substance. You may exercise direct control of meth if it’s in your house or your vehicle. You could also exercise indirect control of meth through your agents. You could be in direct control of meth if it's in your office desk or a hiding place in a public area. If you have someone purchase meth on your behalf, you're in constructive possession of meth. You also possess the controlled substance if another person holds it for you or in a place you own or rent.
Note that you don’t have to be in the same location as meth to possess it constructively. Having control over the substance is enough, even if you're not there. Will you have constructive possession if you hide meth in a place shared with other people? According to California courts, if you hide something in a public place, you still have constructive control and possession.
Joint possession occurs if two people possess something at the same time. You may be in joint possession of meth if you and more people share either actual or constructive possession.
Possession of meth in either of the three outlined ways could subject your charges under the California HS 11377.
Knowing You Possessed Meth
The prosecutor can’t accuse you of possession of meth under HS 11377 unless it’s evident that you knew that you had or possessed the controlled substance. You must have known of the substance’s presence. You must also have known about the nature of the drug as a controlled substance. You can't violate HS 11377 if you didn't realize that what you possessed was a controlled substance.
For instance, a friend could leave meth in your closet without your knowledge. If you're not aware of the controlled substance's presence, the police can't accuse you of meth possession. If you find the meth and take it to deliver it to your friend without knowing that it’s a controlled substance, you’re still not guilty of the possession of meth.
However, if you know that the substance is a controlled substance and you continue to have it, you could face charges under HS 11377. You could face charges even if you don't know the exact name of the drug as meth. Even if you don't understand the drug's chemical makeup, you may still face charges as long as you know it's a controlled substance.
A Usable or Sizeable Quantity of Meth
You'll only face charges for possession of meth if you had a usable amount of controlled substances. The meth should be enough to swallow, smoke, or snort. The meth does not have to be adequate to make you high for you to face charges. However, you should have had more than mere residues of the drug to face charges. If you only have traces of meth, you may not be guilty of possession of meth under HS 11377.
Simple Possession of Meth and Possession for Sale
After finding you possessed methamphetamine, the police will determine whether you possessed meth for your use or sale. Prosecution under HS 11377 applies to the possession of methamphetamine for own use. Possession of meth under HS 11377 is also known as simple possession. The crime of simple possession of meth under HS 11377 is a lesser crime than the crime of possession of meth for sale under HS 11378. The police may rely on specific evidence to determine whether you possess meth for sale or your use:
Your Word of Mouth
The police may use your statements to determine whether you possess meth for their use or sale. For instance, if the officer or another person overhears you stating that you sell meth, they may conclude that you possessed the controlled substance for sale.
The Amount of Methamphetamine You Possessed
The amount of methamphetamine you possessed could also help the police determine whether you possessed the drug for your use or sale. If you only had a small amount of meth, such as a crystal of meth, it would be easy to convince the police that the meth was for your use. If you possess large amounts of controlled substances, it would be hard to convince the prosecutor and the judges that the meth was for your use.
The Packaging of Meth
The meth packaging can also help determine whether the meth was for your use or sale. If you had packaged the meth in bindles or bags, it could indicate that you had the intent to sell it. A single bindle of meth could indicate that you possessed it for your use. However, several bundles of meth could be an indication that it’s for sale. However, you could have bought the meth packaged in bindles to be arrested by the police for your use.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
The possession of drug paraphernalia alongside meth could also help the police to determine whether you possessed meth for sale or your use. Drug paraphernalia includes items like needles, straws, and pipes. Usually, the assumption is that if you had drug paraphernalia alongside meth, the meth was for your use. However, critics point out that this assumption isn't correct because most people who sell meth also consume it. Therefore, meth sellers could possess drug paraphernalia alongside meth for sale.
Possession Meth by Medical Professionals
Can medical practitioners like doctors possess meth without violating the California Health and Safety Code 11377? Yes, the law allows medics to possess meth. Therefore, a medical professional does not violate HS11377 by possessing meth.
Other Drugs Prohibited Under HS 11377
The California HS 11377 isn’t just against the illegal possession of meth. The statute also covers other anabolic steroids and stimulants. The ban under HS 11377 also covers other party drugs. The California HS 11377 also applies to:
If the prosecutor charges you with the possession of any of the outlined products, you’ll face similar charges to the simple possession of meth.
Penalties for Possession of Meth Under California Law
Simple possession of meth is a misdemeanor offense. The consequences for the crime include jail time of not more than a year in a California jail. The court may also impose a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Under certain instances, the crime of possession of meth may attract felony charges. If charged with a felony, the penalties include imprisonment of 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail. Felony charges for possession of meth will apply if you have a previous conviction on your past criminal record for a serious felony like murder, sex crimes on a child below 14 years, and gross vehicular manslaughter under the influence.
Felony charges for possession of meth may also apply if you have a prior conviction for a crime that requires registration as a sex offender under California law. Before the effect of the U.S voter initiative in 2014, the crime of possession of meth was a wobbler. This means that the prosecutor had the liberty to charge the offense as either a felony or a misdemeanor crime. Therefore, people convicted of a felony for a violation under HS11377 before Proposition 47 could file a petition in court and request a reduction of the conviction to a misdemeanor.
If you have or possess more than a kilogram of meth, you will face an additional 3 to 15 years in prison. The enhanced penalty will apply even though the prosecutor cannot prove that you possessed a large amount of meth for sale.
Eligibility for California’s Drug Diversion after a Conviction under HS11377
According to California law, if you commit a violation under California HS 11377, you might qualify for California drug diversion instead of serving jail time. However, you'll only be qualified for the drug diversion program if you're a first-time or a second-time offender without violence. To be eligible for the drug diversion program, you should have possessed meth for your use and not for sale.
A drug diversion refers to a form of sentencing option, which would allow you to undergo drug treatment and not serve time in jail. The three main diversion programs under California law are:
After a criminal conviction or after you are guilty of selling methamphetamine under HS 11379 or for possessing methamphetamine for sale under HS11378, you’ll not be eligible or qualified for the drug diversion program. However, if the prosecutor offers you a plea bargain and charges you with simple possession of meth under HS11377, you'll retain the drug diversion program's eligibility.
If you enroll in a drug diversion program and complete the program successfully, the court will dismiss your possession of meth charges.
Common Legal Defenses for Possession of Meth
The defenses you use to fight charges for possession of meth under California law will vary depending on your case's facts or circumstances. Several defenses apply to the crime of simple possession of meth:
You can point out that you had a viable prescription for meth. It’s not a crime to possess meth if you have a viable prescription from a recognized doctor. However, for this defense to apply, the amount of meth you possessed must have been consistent with the prescription. You could still face charges for possession of meth if your possessed substance exceeded the prescription amount outlined.
The meth belonged to another person and not you. You can't face charges for possession of meth if somebody else had a legal prescription for the meth, and you possessed the meth at their direction or authorization. For instance, you could be the primary caregiver to a patient with a meth prescription. It must be evident that you intended to deliver or take the meth to the legal prescription holder or dispose of it for him or her in a lawful manner. It should be apparent that you didn't use, distribute, or sell the meth.
You can also fight charges for possession of meth if you are a victim of police brutality or illegal search and seizure. You could use this defense if the arresting officer didn’t have a valid search warrant. The court may rule that the evidence obtained without using a valid search warrant should not be used against you. If the police stopped you and searched you without your consent and did not have probable cause to suspect that you possessed meth, you can fight the charges based on this fact.
Several offenses under California law are almost similar to the crime of simple possession of meth. Some of the associated crimes are:
Possession of Meth for Sale
Under California HS 11378, it’s an offense to possess meth for sale. Possessing meth with intent to sell is a felony offense. Possession of meth for sale can be challenging to prove because the attempted or real sale of methamphetamine is not an element. The prosecutor has to prove your intent even if you hadn’t attempted to sell the meth. The crime of possessing meth drug for sale could attract a jail time of 16 months, two years, or three years in a California county jail. The court could also impose a hefty fine of $10,000.
If you commit a violation under HS 11378, you won't be eligible for the drug diversion program like in simple meth possession. However, your attorney can request a plea bargain and have the prosecutor reduce your charges to simple meth possession under HS 11377.
Sale or Transport of Meth
The California HS 11379 outlines the crime of sale or transport of meth. It's a felony offense to sell or agree to sell meth to get valuables like money or services. You could face charges under HS 11379 if you transport meth crystals to sell the product even for a small distance. You could also violate HS 11379 if you give methamphetamine to another person or administer it to somebody else.
The consequences of a conviction under HS 11379 include 2, 3, or 4 years in county jail. The court may also require you to pay a high fine of not more than $10,000. You could face enhanced penalties if you transport methamphetamine across two or more counties. You could face imprisonment of 3, 6, or 9 months in a county jail in California.
Possessing a Controlled Substance
Under the California HS 11350, it's a crime to possess a controlled substance. This statute is almost similar to that of HS 11377. However, HS 11350 covers a wide range of controlled substances. Some of the controlled substances captured under this statute include cocaine, heroin, peyote, LSD, and opioids like Vicodin.
Just like simple possession of meth, a violation under HS 11350 is a misdemeanor offense. However, if you have a prior conviction for a violent felony, a violation under HS 11350 is a felony. The offense will also be a felony if you have a previous conviction of a felony against a person below 14 years. If you commit a violation under HS 11350 and have a prior conviction for a sex offense requiring registration as a sex offender, it is a felony.
Other crimes that are closely related to the crime possession of meth include:
Possessing a controlled substance for sale
Selling or transporting a controlled substance.
Operating a vehicle while intoxicated with meth
Being under the influence of a controlled substance
Manufacturing a controlled substance
Possessing materials used in manufacturing meth
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
A conviction of simple possession of meth could lead to a jail sentence or hefty fines. If you are facing charges for simple possession of meth, you should contact an attorney. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney can help you create a convincing defense to fight the charges. Contact us at 310-564-2605 and speak to one of our attorneys.