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Possession Of Methamphetamine

Under Health & Safety Code 11377(a), you face charges if you have methamphetamine in your possession or on your person. Possession of methamphetamine in California has serious legal repercussions, including lengthy jail/ prison terms, hefty fines, deportation if you are an immigrant, and revocation of gun/ professional licenses.

Because of the harsh consequences of facing HS 11377(a) violation charges in Pasadena, you want to seek the expertise of a qualified criminal lawyer. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we specialize in handling such cases. Our capable lawyers could help you have your charges lowered or dropped. If you or someone you know is charged with this offense, contact our office for a free and non-obligatory consultation.

Elements of a Health and Safety Code 11377 HS charge

In California, a charge of methamphetamine possession involves several key elements. The prosecutor must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. They include:

  1. Possession - This refers to actual, constructive, or joint possession of the substance.
  2. Knowledge - The accused must be aware of the substance's presence and controlled nature.
  3. Usable quantity - The law stipulates that the substance possessed must be in a usable amount, more than mere residue.

Possession of Methamphetamine

For a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knew the possession and nature of the substance as a controlled drug. For Health and Safety Code 11377, the term "possession" is legally interpreted in three distinct ways:

  • Actual Possession

This form of possession implies that methamphetamine was found on the person. This could mean the individual was holding it or in something they were wearing or carrying. Actual possession is the most straightforward form of possession, as it involves having physical control over the substance​​.

  • Constructive Possession

Constructive possession occurs when you exercise control over the location where the methamphetamine is found, either directly or through another person. This form of possession does not require the drug to be found physically on your person. It is sufficient if you have access to and control over the place where the drugs are located, such as a house or a vehicle​​.

  • Joint Possession

Joint possession, as the name suggests, involves sharing actual or constructive possession with one or more other people. This means that more than one person can be charged with possession if they all had control over or access to the area where the methamphetamine was found​​.

Proving possession, especially in the case of constructive or joint possession, means that each case could significantly impact the prosecution's ability to secure a conviction. This complexity often necessitates specialized legal representation to navigate these legal distinctions and adequately defend against such charges​​.

Knowledge of Possession

Under HS 11377, the element of "knowledge" in drug possession cases, specifically methamphetamine, is a critical aspect of the charge. This element is split into two key components:

  1. Awareness of the drug's presence. You must know that you have the substance in your possession. This does not necessarily require physical possession; it could also encompass situations where you have control over the area where the drugs are found​​​​.
  2. Understanding of its nature as a controlled substance. You must know that the substance you possess is a controlled substance. However, you don't have to know the specific name or the chemical makeup of the drug. General awareness that the substance is controlled suffices for this element of the charge​​.

In practical terms, this means that you can be charged with possession even if the drugs were in another person's possession or stored elsewhere, as long as you were aware and had control over the drugs. The law recognizes several scenarios where you might unintentionally possess drugs, such as borrowing a bag or vehicle containing hidden drugs without their knowledge.

In these cases, demonstrating a lack of awareness of the drug's presence is crucial for a defense strategy. The absence of knowledge or awareness can be a powerful defense, but it requires substantial evidence and legal expertise to effectively argue in court​​​​.

Simply being unaware of the drugs' presence does not automatically negate legal responsibility. However, with a strong defense focusing on a lack of knowledge or awareness, it's possible to effectively challenge the charges and seek a just outcome under California law​​.

Usable Quantity

The concept of "usable quantity," specifically related to methamphetamine possession, is another element that the prosecution must prove. This stipulation ensures that the substance in possession must be more than mere residue or traces and must be in an amount sufficient for actual use, such as smoking, snorting, or swallowing​​.

The California Supreme Court defines what constitutes a "usable amount" of narcotics. According to People v. Leal (1966), the court concluded that the possession of minute traces or residue of a narcotic substance does not constitute sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction. This decision underscored the need for the substance to have the potential for use as a narcotic rather than mere useless traces or residue​​.

The case reinforced that the possession of a substance in a form and quantity that can be used is what constitutes a "usable amount." The court determined that 1/10 of a gram or 100 milligrams of cocaine was considered a usable quantity. This ruling implies that a conviction is not warranted when the substance possessed cannot be used, such as when it is a blackened residue or a useless trace. However, if the substance contains contraband, even if not pure, but is in a form and quantity that can be used, it falls within the ambit of "usable quantity."

Difference Between Simple Possession And Possession For Sale

California laws classify drug possession crimes into two broad categories: simple possession and possession with the intent to sell. "Simple" possession refers to the possession of methamphetamine for personal use. It is distinguished from Health and Safety Code 11378, which deals with possession for sale. The key factors differentiating these include:

  • Statements by the accused that suggest an intent to sell.
  • Quantity of meth possessed, with lesser amounts typically indicating personal use.
  • Method of packaging, where multiple packages might suggest intent to sell.
  • The presence of drug paraphernalia can indicate personal use​​.

Can Medical Professionals Possess Methamphetamine?

Medical professionals, such as doctors, pharmacists, and veterinarians, are exempt from violating HS 11377 when they possess methamphetamines in compliance with California and federal law. This allowance recognizes the legitimate medical use of controlled substances under regulated circumstances​​.

Other Drugs Covered By The Statute

HS 11377 not only addresses methamphetamine but also other substances, including stimulants, anabolic steroids, and commonly used "party drugs" like GHB, ecstasy, PCP, and ketamine. The punishment for simple possession of these substances are similar to those for methamphetamine possession under the same statute​​.

How to Fight HS 11377 Charges

Fighting charges of methamphetamine possession can be approached through several key defenses, including:

You Had A Valid Prescription

The defense of possessing a valid prescription for methamphetamine possession involves showing that you held a valid prescription for the substance and that the amount in your possession was consistent with the prescription's purpose.

This defense is based on the premise that no crime occurs if the possession is lawful due to a valid medical prescription. Essential evidence in such cases includes medical records and potentially the assessment of forensic experts to verify the quantity and nature of the methamphetamine found by police​​.

However, methamphetamine is not a drug commonly prescribed, and the law specifically prohibits the illegal possession of methamphetamine. This means that, unless a medical practitioner gives you a valid prescription for methamphetamine, possessing it is almost always illegal​​.

You Never Possessed The Meth

The "lack of possession" defense is based on demonstrating that you never knowingly possessed the substance and that it belonged to someone else. This defense aims to establish reasonable doubt about your knowledge and control of methamphetamine.

Key evidence in such cases can include surveillance videos and eyewitness accounts, which help in proving that the controlled substance was planted on you or left in your vicinity without your knowledge. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you were aware of and had control over the methamphetamine​​.

The Police Found The Meth Through An Unlawful Search And Seizure

The defense of "unlawful search and seizure" is centered around the argument that the methamphetamine was discovered through a search that violated your constitutional rights. For a search to be constitutional, police typically require a valid California search warrant supported by probable cause.

However, there are exceptions to this requirement, such as evidence in plain view, searches incident to an arrest, or exigent circumstances. If it can be successfully argued that the search was unlawful, the evidence obtained through such a search, including the methamphetamine, might be suppressed. This suppression could significantly weaken the prosecution's case, potentially leading to the dismissal of charges​​.

You Were Lawfully Delivering The Meth Or Disposing Of It

The legal defense of "lawful delivery or disposal" pertains to situations where you possess methamphetamine solely to deliver it to someone who holds a valid prescription for it or to dispose of it legally on their behalf. This defense is applicable if all the following conditions are met:

  • Another person had a valid prescription for methamphetamine.
  • Your possession of the meth was at the direction of or with the authorization of the prescription holder.
  • Your sole intent was to either deliver the methamphetamine to the prescription holder or to dispose of it lawfully for them.
  • You did not personally use, distribute, or sell the methamphetamine.

This specific defense underlines the importance of the intent behind possession and distinguishes between unlawful possession and possession for lawful purposes​​.

Sentencing, Punishment, and Penalties for an HS 11377(a) Violation

Under HS 11377(a), the penalties for possession of methamphetamine are typically structured as follows:

General Penalty

Possession of methamphetamine is usually charged as a misdemeanor. The potential consequences include up to one year in county jail and a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000). However, the offense can escalate to a felony with enhanced penalties, including 16 months, two, or three years in jail if you have certain prior convictions, severe felonies such as murder, sex crimes against a child under 14, sexually violent offenses, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that mandates sex offender registration in California​​.

Possession Of More Than One Kilogram

Under California Health & Safety Code 11377(a), possessing more than one kilogram of methamphetamine carries significantly increased penalties. If convicted, you face an additional three to fifteen years in prison. This substantial increase in prison time applies even if the prosecutor cannot prove an intent to sell the methamphetamine.

Am I Eligible For Drug Diversion?

California's Penal Code 1000 outlines the pretrial diversion program for drug crimes, specifically for cases involving simple possession for personal use. This program allows eligible non-violent drug offenders to opt for treatment and education instead of serving jail time. Upon successful completion of the drug diversion program, the charges against the individual are generally dismissed, leaving no criminal record for most purposes​​​​.

Under PC 1000, to be eligible for pretrial drug diversion, the charge(s) must generally be for simple possession of drugs, meaning possession for personal use only. Charges related to selling, transporting, or possession of a controlled substance for sale, as outlined in HS 11351, typically disqualify individuals from pretrial diversion​​.

Additionally, there are specific requirements to qualify for drug diversion:

  • No convictions for non-PC 1000 eligible drug crimes within the previous five years.
  • The charged offense must not have involved violence or threatened violence.
  • There is no evidence of more serious drug crimes, such as drug sale or possession for sale.
  • No felony convictions within the preceding five years​​​​.

Related Offenses to the Possession of Methamphetamine

Several offenses are closely related to California HS 11377, which pertains to the simple possession of methamphetamines. These include:

Possession Of A Controlled Substance, California Health And Safety 11350

An HS 11350 violation, usually a misdemeanor, involves the unlawful possession of a controlled substance, including both illegal narcotics and legal prescription drugs, without a doctor’s prescription. It is often referred to as "simple possession" or "possession for personal use." Most drug possession charges under this statute may be dismissed by completing a PC 1000 drug diversion program or drug court. A conviction carries standard misdemeanor penalties, such as a fine not exceeding $1,000 and/or up to 1 year in jail or summary probation​​.

Possessing A Controlled Substance For Sale, California Health And Safety 11351

This felony charge is for possessing a controlled substance with the intent to sell, including illicit street drugs like cocaine, heroin, and LSD, and common prescription drugs such as oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and codeine. Penalties for conviction include two, three, or four years in jail or a maximum fine of $20,000​​.

Transporting Or Selling Controlled Substances, California Health And Safety 11352

Another felony offense, this statute prohibits selling, transporting, furnishing, administering, or importing a controlled substance. A conviction can lead to up to nine years in jail or prison and fines not exceeding $20,000.00. This statute applies to street drugs like peyote, cocaine, LSD, heroin, and commonly prescribed drugs such as codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), and oxycodone (Oxycontin)​​.

Methamphetamine Possession For Sale, California Health And Safety 11378

This statute makes it a felony to possess methamphetamine with the intent to sell it, punishable by up to 3 years of jail time and fines not exceeding $10,000. A conviction also counts as a deportable offense for non-citizens. Common defenses against charges under this statute include demonstrating a lack of intent to sell the drug, not possessing meth, and challenging the legality of law enforcement's search and seizure​​.

Methamphetamine Sale Or Transport, California Health And Safety 11379

California HS 11379 addresses the illegal sale or transportation of methamphetamine. This statute criminalizes not only the sale and transportation of methamphetamine but also acts such as giving away or administering the drug to others. Even the mere offer to engage in any of these activities violates this law. The legislation defines a range of prohibited actions, including:

  • Selling or exchanging methamphetamine for money, services, or anything of value.
  • Transporting methamphetamine from one location to another with the intent to sell it.
  • Giving away or providing methamphetamine to others.
  • Administering methamphetamine to someone else.

To secure a conviction under HS 11379, the prosecutor must prove the defendant's engagement in one of these specific acts, their knowledge of the drug’s presence and nature as a controlled substance, and that a "usable amount" of methamphetamine was involved in the offense.

The sentencing for violating HS 11379 is severe, as it is a felony offense. Upon conviction, you could face up to four years in jail or prison and/or a fine not exceeding $10,000. Enhanced penalties are applicable in certain situations, such as transporting meth across county lines with intent to sell, violations occurring on the grounds of a drug treatment center, possession of more than one kilogram of meth, or utilizing a minor’s assistance in the offense. Notably, legal immigrants or aliens convicted under this statute could face deportation​​.

You have several legal defenses at your disposal. Common defenses include a lack of intent to sell the drug, entrapment by law enforcement, or an unlawful search and seizure. Entrapment typically arises in cases where the crime was committed due to overbearing police conduct, especially in undercover operations. Asserting that meth was transported without the intent to sell, possibly for personal use, is another viable defense strategy​​.

Manufacturing A Controlled Substance, California Health And Safety 11379.6

Under HS 11379.6, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, deriving, processing, or preparing controlled substances is a felony. This can lead to a sentence of three, five, or seven years in jail. The crime covers a range of activities, from operating a meth lab to mixing precursor chemicals for other narcotics. Common defenses include lack of intent, illegal search and seizure, and mistaken identity. Penalties can also include a fine of no more than $50,000​​.

Possessing Materials For Manufacturing Methamphetamine, California Health And Safety 11383.5

Possession of certain chemicals with the intent to manufacture methamphetamines is a felony under HS 11383.5. This includes possession of both methylamine and phenyl-2-propanone (phenylacetone) simultaneously. The penalties include up to six years in county jail and a fine not exceeding $10,000. Defenses might involve proving a lack of intent to manufacture meth, not possessing the specified chemicals or an illegal search and seizure by law enforcement​​.

Under The Influence Of A Controlled Substance, California Health And Safety 11550

California Health and Safety Code 11550 prohibits the use of or being under the influence of a controlled substance without a legitimate prescription. This law categorizes such an offense as a misdemeanor, subjecting the defendant to a potential sentence not exceeding one year in county jail. The statute applies to various controlled substances, including but not limited to cocaine, heroin, and unlawfully prescribed oxycodone​​.

However, the justice system offers avenues for charge dismissal through diversion programs. Penal Code 1000 PC and Proposition 36 are programs designed to provide an alternative path focusing on rehabilitation rather than traditional punitive measures. These programs typically involve drug counseling and rehabilitation, allowing individuals charged with non-violent drug offenses to undergo treatment as opposed to serving time in jail or prison​​​​.

California can employ several methods to establish that you were under the influence of a controlled substance. Key evidence can include the testimony of arresting officers, results from chemical tests, and assessments by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) officer.

Driving Under The Influence Of Drugs (“DUID”), California Vehicle Code 23152(F) 

California Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC specifically addresses driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). This law makes it a misdemeanor offense to drive while impaired by drugs, including methamphetamine. However, under certain circumstances, such as causing injury to someone or having prior DUI convictions, the offense can escalate to a felony. For a first-offense misdemeanor, the penalty includes up to six months in county jail and a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000​​​​.

Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me

Facing charges for possession of methamphetamine is a serious matter that could see you serve time in jail, among other consequences explained above. If you are charged with methamphetamine possession, you should consider retaining a specialized criminal attorney to navigate the California justice system.

At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we offer experienced legal guidance and defense. With a deep understanding of California drug laws and a commitment to client advocacy, our skilled lawyers can provide the necessary support and representation. You can reach us at 626-689-2277 for a consultation and personalized legal assistance.

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