In California, drug possession in general is a criminal offense, but possession of certain particular drugs (including methamphetamine) are handled under a separate statute. Possession of methamphetamine is normally a misdemeanor offense, but it can carry relatively harsh penalties upon a conviction nonetheless. Additionally, having a drug crime on your police record would affect your ability to find gainful employment and pursue college and other life goals.
Thus, it's well worthwhile to do everything possible to fight a meth possession charge. At Leah Legal, we bring the highest caliber of legal expertise and experience in methamphetamine possession criminal defense. We will know how to build you a solid defense and win your case!
Contact Leah Legal today by calling 818-484-1100, and we will give you a free, no obligation consultation!
California Meth Possession Law
Under California Health & Safety Code Section 11377, it is specifically prohibited to possess a methamphetamine controlled substance. The exact bounds of what constitutes "meth" are outlined in the US Controlled Substances Act, and California law simply piggy backs on US law here and borrows those parameters.
There are exceptions where you can get a valid prescription for a methamphetamine, and pharmacists and other medical professionals can't be prosecuted for possessing meth in a legal manner in accord with the boundaries of their license. And, of course, police who possess meth while confiscating it as a part of their law enforcement duties are not violating the law. But for everyone else, it is a serious drug crime to even possess, much less use, manufacture, transport, sell, or intend or attempt to sell, any form of methamphetamine in California.
What Exactly Is "Meth"?
Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that accelerates body/brain activity in the user. It can be found in powder or "crystal-rock" form, and it can be taken as a pill, sniffed in through the nostrils, inhaled as a gas, or smoked like a cigarette.
The majority of meth in California is illegally shipped in from Mexico, but some is still grown in our state's Central Valley Region or elsewhere and then manufactured locally in meth labs. Because meth is so easy and cheap to manufacture, and because of its highly addictive nature, illicit meth trafficking is all too common in California and elsewhere in the US.
The Elements of the Crime
To gain a conviction for meth possession (HSC 11377), the prosecution must prove all of the following elements of the crime beyond all reasonable doubt:
- The defendant did, in fact, possess methamphetamine.
- The defendant knew he/she possessed it and was aware of its nature as a controlled substance.
- The drug was possessed in "usable quantities," as opposed to mere useless traces.
Note that "possession" of meth can be actual, as in on your person; constructive, meaning not on your person but nonetheless under your control; or joint, where two or more people possessed the drug either actually or constructively. Also, you must have had knowledge of the drug's presence AND of the fact that it was an illegal, controlled substance. You do not, however, have to have known of the exact identity (or name) of the drug or of its chemical makeup. Finally, realize that "usable amount" doesn't mean "large amount." It could be a very small quantity, but it can't be just a residue or mere traces of the drug, or else you are not guilty of violating HSC 11377.
One more point: there are some other drugs covered by HSC 11377 besides just meth, which would be prosecuted and punished in the same way. These "other drugs" are:
- Anabolic steroids
- Other stimulants
Possible Penalties for Meth Possession
Simple possession of methamphetamine or another drug covered by HSC 11377 is a misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in county jail.
- A fine as high as $1,000.
For those with a previous serious felony or sex crime conviction, meth possession becomes a felony, punishable by from 16 months to 3 years in state prison. However, also note that if you possessed more than 1 kilo of meth, you can get an extra 3 to 15 years in state prison added to your sentence. The exact number of years would depend largely on how large a quantity of meth you possessed.
Common Defense Strategies
At Leah Legal, we have longtime experience in defeating possession of methamphetamine charges. We understand the details of the law and the inner workings of the California legal system. We anticipate the moves of the prosecution and counter them. We know the kind of courtroom dynamics involved in these types of cases. And we know how to customize your defense strategy to the exact details of case.
Here are some of the most common defenses we use against a charge of meth possession:
- Valid prescription. There are people in California who legally possess and use meth by prescription. Police may assume you possessed the drug illegally, but we can verify the validity of your prescription in court and show you possessed and used only the amount and kind of meth prescribed to you.
- Delivery of meth to a prescription holder. If you only possessed meth because you were bringing it to someone with a valid prescription at his/her request OR disposing of it for him/her, AND you did not use or sell the meth, you are not guilty.
- Lack of possession. It may be it wasn't you but a friend or family member who possessed the meth. You may have been arrested simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Lack of knowledge. You didn't know the meth was present OR you didn't realize it was meth or any other illegal drug.
- Police misconduct. If the evidence being used against you was obtained through an unconstitutional search and seizure, through police planting of evidence, falsification of police reports, or other violations of your rights, we can get it suppressed and probably get your case dismissed.
We always fight first and foremost for a complete victory (acquittal or dismissal), but we at Leah Legal are also skilled negotiators. We know when and how to obtain the most favorable plea deal possible, to get a reduced charge and sentence. Plus, we can often get you into a drug diversion program if you're convicted of meth possession and it's your first/second offense and you possessed the meth only for personal use. Drug diversion under Prop 36, Penal Code Section 1000, or California Drug Court can keep you out of jail and may ultimately get the charge against you dismissed if you abide by the terms of probation and of diversion program.
Finally, if you were convicted of HSC 11377 before 2014 when Prop 47 was passed, and you were convicted of it as a felony, we can likely get your charge and sentence reduced to a misdemeanor.
Possession of Methamphetamine for Sale
Thus far we have been speaking only of "simple possession" or "possession for personal use alone." If, however, you are charged with possession of meth for sale under HSC 11378, you face a felony charge, punishable by 16 months to 3 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. And you won't be eligible for a drug diversion program.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, we at Leah Legal may be able to get a meth possession for sale charge reduced to a simple possession charge, in which case you would be eligible for drug diversion, and have a lighter overall sentence. Since it's rather difficult to prove "intent to sell," it's not uncommon for this kind of a reduction from HSC 11378 to HSC 11377 to take place.
Also note that no actual sale or even attempted sale is necessary for HSC 11378 to be charged. Police and prosecutors generally look at the amount of meth possessed, the way it was packaged, the presence of scales and other drug paraphernalia, the presence of large sums of cash in small bills, and other "clues" to decide if they'll charge possession for sale. But, in fact, such circumstantial evidence alone cannot "prove" the intent to sell meth or any other drug.
Transport or Sale of Methamphetamine
Under HSC 11379, it is a felony offense to sell, give away "free," transport with intent to sell, or administer methamphetamine to another person. This is a more serious crime than even possession with intent to sell and is punishable by 2 to 4 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine. If you transported meth over three or more county lines or imported it into California from out of state or out of country, it is drug trafficking and can add 3 to 9 years in prison to your sentence.
At Leah Legal, we know how to successfully contest the prosecution's evidence and testimony that they use to try to establish you sold, attempted to sell, or transported with intent to sell, meth.
Manufacture of a Controlled Substance
Under HSC 11379.6, the manufacture of any illegal drug, including methamphetamine, is prohibited and penalized. Note that manufacturing compounds to be later used in meth production also violates this statute, but not merely possessing the materials (that's a separate offense covered under HSC 11383.5). As meth is an easy drug to manufacture, a large proportion of drug manufacturing charges are for meth production specifically. This crime is a felony and can be punished by 3 to 5 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Possession of Materials for the Manufacture of Meth
Under HSC 11383.5, it is a crime to possess the materials necessary to manufacture methamphetamine. Possession of such chemicals must be accompanied by the intent to use them to produce methamphetamine illegally. This is a felony crime, punishable by 2 to 6 years in state prison.
Also, note that possession of drug paraphernalia is a separate, though closely related, offense. HSC 11364 addresses the possession of equipment needed to make and use meth, while HSC 11383.5 addresses the possession of chemicals needed to manufacture it. Possession of drug paraphernalia (HSC 11364) is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
DUI Meth (VC 23152f)
It is a specific crime in California to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of methamphetamine. This is a particular instance of DUID, and it is punished in the same way as DUI alcohol.
DUI Meth is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in jail.
- A fine of $390, plus additional court fees and other penalty fees.
- Loss of your California driver's license for at least 6 months.
- Mandatory completion of a state-approved DUI Class.
Many times, if the meth was with you in the vehicle, you can be charged with both DUI Meth and simple possession of meth. At Leah Legal, we are experienced in defending against DUI charges and meth charges - and against their combination in the charge "DUI Meth."
Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance
California Health & Safety Code Section 11550 deals with being under the influence of any controlled substance, including methamphetamine and the other drugs, such as GHB and PCP, covered under HSC 11377 Meth Possession. This is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in county jail. You can be charged with possession of meth but not "UI Meth" or vice versa. And note that to be convicted of HSC 11550 charge, it need only be shown that any measurable amount of meth was found in your system.
Contact Us Today for Help!
At Leah Legal, we have deep experience in defending our clients against the charge of possession of methamphetamine (HSC 11377) and all related offenses. We will know how to build you a solid defense and win the best possible outcome to your case. We have won a dismissal, acquittal, or favorable plea deal for numerous others and we can try to do the same for you! Do not hesitate to contact us anytime 24/7/365 by calling 818-484-1100 for a free consultation and immediate attention to your case!