California Drug Laws re Possession or Sale of Ecstasy

Charged with possessing or selling ecstasy?  Let us help.  Our California drug crimes defense attorneys1 excel at fighting bogus drug charges.  As a law firm comprised of former cops and prosecutors, we have the inside knowledge that is essential to defending against drug crimes.

We know how the other side thinks, gathers evidence and prosecutes their cases, giving us invaluable tools as we defend these cases.

In this article, our California criminal defense lawyers will explain the California laws that regulate ecstasy's possession and sales by addressing the following:

1. What is Ecstasy?

1.1. The history of ecstasy

1.2. Use as a "club drug"

2. California Laws Regulating the Possession and Sales of Ecstasy

2.1. Health and Safety Code 11377 HS -- California's "personal possession of ecstasy" law

2.2. Health and Safety Code 11378 HS -- California's "possession or purchase of ecstasy for sale" law

2.3. Health and Safety Code 11379 HS -- California's law against "transporting or selling ecstasy"

2.4. Driving under the influence of ecstasy

3. Legal Defenses to California Ecstasy-Related Charges

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. What is Ecstasy?

3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).more commonly known as ecstasy, "X", "E" and "XTC".is a controlled substance.  A "controlled substance" is a narcotic whose use, possession and manufacture are all regulated by the government under the United States "Controlled Substances Act".

The Controlled Substances Act classifies ecstasy as a Schedule I drug,2 which means that it has

  1. a high potential for abuse, and
  2. no currently accepted medical use in the United States.3

1.1. The history of ecstasy

Ecstasy was developed in 1912.  The pharmaceutical company, Merck, manufactured the drug in the process of trying to find a substance that would stop bleeding.  During the 1970s and 1980s, U.S. psychiatrists began using ecstasy as a psychotherapeutic tool to help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder despite the fact that the drug never received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.4

During this same time, ecstasy became a popular street drug as well.  Then, in 1985, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency banned the narcotic and declared it a Schedule I drug with no proven legitimate medical value.5

Ecstasy is primarily available as a tablet, although it is sometimes sold as a powder.  Rarely is it smoked or injected.  Ecstasy tablets sometimes contain additional drugs, including (but not limited to):

1.2. Use as a "club drug"

Ecstasy is most popular as a club drug.  A "club drug" is a name given to a variety of recreational drugs that are typically used by "partygoers" to enhance their experiences at clubs/raves (all-night dance parties)/concerts/parties/bars.  Club drugs generally provide a stimulating and psychedelic affect which makes many users feel euphoric.

In particular, ecstasy acts as both a stimulant and a hallucinogen.  This combination produces an energizing effect coupled with enhanced sensitivity to physical sensations.7 These sensations typically take effect about 20 to 40 minutes after taking the drug.  The user generally "peaks" about 60 to 90 minutes after ingestion.  These effects subside after about three to five hours.

And while these euphoric effects are the reason for ecstasy's popularity, there are extreme dangers associated with this narcotic as well.  The biggest problem is that users suffer from severe dehydration or heatstroke as a result of dancing for extended periods of time without replenishing lost body fluids.  This condition.known as hyperthermia.can cause

  • organ failure,
  • arrhythmia (an irregular heart beat),
  • seizures, and even
  • death.

Other undesirable side effects include (but are not limited to):

  • disorientation,
  • blurred vision, and
  • anxiety and panic attacks.

In addition, many ecstasy tablets contain other drugs which can increase adverse reactions.  Similarly, mixing ecstasy with alcohol or other drugs can trigger negative reactions as well.8

2. California Laws Regulating the Possession and Sales of Ecstasy

Since there is no accepted medical use for ecstasy, its possession and sale is always illegal.  As such, there are a variety of laws that penalize these activities.  Below are some of these laws that are prosecuted most frequently.

2.1. Health and Safety Code 11377 HS -- California's "personal possession of ecstasy" law

If the police find you in possession of ecstasy, you will most likely face charges for violating Health & Safety Code 11377 HS California's law against possessing a controlled substance.9

This offense is what's known as a wobbler.  A "wobbler" is a crime that the prosecution may choose to file as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on

  1. the facts of your case, and
  2. your criminal history.

A misdemeanor conviction for possessing ecstasy in California subjects you to up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.  A felony conviction for this offense is punishable by 16 months, or two or three years in the California state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.10

The good news is that a conviction for this offense allows eligible defendants to participate in a California drug diversion program in lieu of prison.  "Drug diversion" is a program where qualified defendants participate in drug treatment instead of being incarcerated.  Those who successfully complete diversion are then entitled to a dismissal of their charge(s).

Drug diversion is authorized through

It is important to understand that HS 11377.and the other California drug crimes listed below.are not only applicable to ecstasy but to other narcotics as well.  Some of these include:

2.2. Health and Safety Code 11378 HS -- California's "possession or purchase of ecstasy for sale" law

If you violate Health and Safety 11378 HS California's "possession or purchase of a controlled substance for sale" law, you face a felony, punishable by 16 months, or two or three years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.12

This offense is more serious than HS 11377 above because it involves possessing enough ecstasy such that the amount indicates an intent to sell the drug.not just an intention to consume it personally.  And because this act involves potential sales.and not a personal addiction.drug diversion is not available in connection with this offense.

But as Oakland criminal defense attorney Cameron Bowman13 explains, "If your California drug crimes defense lawyer can either (1) negotiate a plea bargain that includes a plea to a personal possession charge instead of a possession for sales charge, or (2) convince the judge/jury that you only possessed the ecstasy for your personal use.and that you didn't intend to sell it.you may be entitled to participate in drug diversion.  This is one of the reasons why having an attorney who is experienced with California drug defense is so vital."

2.3. Health and Safety Code 11379 HS -- California's law against "transporting or selling ecstasy"

You violate Health and Safety Code 11379 HS California's "transporting or selling a controlled substance" law when you sell or transport ecstasy.or engage in any of the other prohibited activities listed under this code, which include

  • importing (that is, bringing ecstasy into California),
  • furnishing (supplying by any means -- sale or otherwise),
  • administering (giving ecstasy directly to another person by any means that results in that person ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise consuming the narcotic), or
  • giving away

the drug.14

A conviction for this offense is a felony, subjecting you to a maximum $10,000 fine and two, three or four years in the state prison.and to three, six or nine years if you transport ecstasy across more than two county lines.15

And if the judge believes that you knew.or reasonably should have known.that the recipient of the ecstasy

  1. was pregnant,
  2. had previously been convicted of a violent felony, or
  3. was being treated for a mental health disorder or for a drug problem,

he/she will likely impose the harshest term available under the law.16 This means that if, for example, you face a two, three or four-year prison term, the judge will likely impose the four-year term if he/she finds one of these aggravating circumstances to exist.

Finally, a conviction for any of these California ecstasy-related offenses could lead to your deportation or removal if you are a legal immigrant or legal alien.17 For more information about how California drug offenses affect aliens, please review our article on California Crimes that Lead to Deportation.

2.4. Driving under the influence of ecstasy

If you drive under the influence of ecstasy, you violate Vehicle Code 23152(a) California's driving under the influence of drugs law.18Driving "under the influence" of ecstasy means that the ecstasy has "so far affected the nervous system, the brain, or muscles as to impair to an appreciable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner like that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties."19

Most convictions for this offense are misdemeanors, subjecting you to possible jail time and fines.  Drug diversion is not available in connection with a California conviction for driving under the influence of ecstasy.

3. Legal Defenses to California Ecstasy-Related Charges

Fortunately, there are a variety of legal defenses to California ecstasy-related charges that an experienced drug crimes defense attorney can present on your behalf.  The specific defenses applicable to your case will, of course, depend on the exact circumstances of your offense.  That said, there are still a handful that are common to many California drug offenses.

Some of these defenses include:

  • the fact that you were not under the influence of ecstasy (a legal defense to a California driving under the influence charge when, perhaps your alleged impairment was due to fatigue, sickness or another "innocent" explanation and was not ecstasy related),
  • the legal defense of entrapment (that is, you only possessed or sold the ecstasy because the police lured or coerced you into doing so),
  • the fact that you possessed ecstasy for personal use and not for sale (which may seem counterintuitive, since you're admitting guilt to a crime.however, doing so will not only subject you to less severe penalties but may also allow you to participate in California drug diversion),
  • mistaken identity (that is, the seized ecstasy didn't belong to you), and
  • you were the victim of police misconduct, because the police
a) violated California's search and seizure laws when they discovered and/or seized the ecstasy,                   

b) "planted" ecstasy on you or fabricated other evidence in an effort to cover up their own wrongdoing, or

c) engaged in any other illegal activity that violated your constitutional rights.
Call us for help.
Img-call-help

If you or loved one is charged with possession of ecstasy and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Las Vegas Nevada Possession of Ecstasy Laws.  For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.20

Legal References:

1Our California drug crimes defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Health and Safety Code 11054 HS -- Schedule I; substances included.  ("(a) The controlled substances listed in this section are included in Schedule I.(d) Hallucinogenic substances. Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation, which contains any quantity of the following hallucinogenic substances, or which contains any of its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of those salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within the specific chemical designation (for purposes of this subdivision only, the term "isomer" includes the optical, position, and geometric isomers): (1) 4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxy-amphetamine--Some trade or other names: 4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxy-alpha-methylphenethylamine; 4-bromo-2,5-DMA. (2) 2,5-dimethoxyamphetamine--Some trade or other names: 2,5-dimethoxy-alpha-methylphenethylamine; 2,5-DMA. (3) 4-methoxyamphetamine--Some trade or other names: 4-methoxy-alpha-methylphenethylamine, paramethoxyamphetamine, PMA. (4) 5-methoxy-3,4-methylenedioxy-amphetamine. (5) 4-methyl-2,5-dimethoxy-amphetamine--Some trade or other names: 4-methyl-2,5-dimethoxy-alpha-methylphenethylamine; "DOM"; and "STP." (6) 3,4-methylenedioxy amphetamine.")

See also California Health and Safety Code 11056 HS -- Schedule III; substances included.  ("(a) The controlled substances listed in this section are included in Schedule III.(c) Depressants. Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of the following substances having a depressant effect on the central nervous system:.(11) Gamma hydroxybutyric acid, and its salts, isomers and salts of isomers, contained in a drug product for which an application has been approved under Section 505 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sec. 355).")

321 U.S.C. Section 812 -- The United States Controlled Substances Act.  ("(a) Establishment. There are established five schedules of controlled substances, to be known as schedules I, II, III, IV, and V. Such schedules shall initially consist of the substances listed in this section. The schedules established by this section shall be updated and republished on a semiannual basis during the two-year period beginning one year after October 27, 1970, and shall be updated and republished on an annual basis thereafter. (b) Placement on schedules; findings required Except where control is required by United States obligations under an international treaty, convention, or protocol, in effect on October 27, 1970, and except in the case of an immediate precursor, a drug or other substance may not be placed in any schedule unless the findings required for such schedule are made with respect to such drug or other substance. The findings required for each of the schedules are as follows:(1) Schedule I [this is where California ecstasy-related offenses fall]. - (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. (2) Schedule II. - (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.(B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.(C) Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.(3) Schedule III - (A) The drug or other substance has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II. (B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.(C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. (4) Schedule IV. - (A) The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III.(B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. (C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III.(5) Schedule V. - (A) The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule IV.(B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.(C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule IV.(c) Initial schedules of controlled substances Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V shall, unless and until amended pursuant to section 811 of this title, consist of the following drugs or other substances, by whatever official name, common or usual name, chemical name, or brand name designated.").

4About.com - Alcoholism - What is MDMA?

See also WiseGEEK - What is Ecstasy?

5See WiseGeek, above.

6See same.

7See websites listed in endnote 4, above.

8DanceSafe - Ecstasy

See also "WiseGEEK - What is Ecstasy?", endnote 4, above.

9California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS - Possession of a controlled substance.  ("(a) Except as authorized by law and as otherwise provided in subdivision (b) or Section 11375, or in Article 7 (commencing with Section 4211) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, every person who possesses any controlled substance which is (1) classified in Schedule III, IV, or V, and which is not a narcotic drug, (2) specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11054 [this is where California ecstasy-related drug offenses lie], except paragraphs (13), (14), (15), and (20) of subdivision (d), (3) specified in paragraph (11) of subdivision (c) of Section 11056, (4) specified in paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, or (5) specified in subdivision (d), (e), or (f) of Section 11055, unless upon the prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian, licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year or in the state prison. (b)(1) Any person who violates subdivision (a) by unlawfully possessing a controlled substance specified in subdivision (f) of Section 11056, and who has not previously been convicted of a violation involving a controlled substance specified in subdivision (f) of Section 11056, is guilty of a misdemeanor. (2) Any person who violates subdivision (a) by unlawfully possessing a controlled substance specified in subdivision (g) of Section 11056 is guilty of a misdemeanor. (3) Any person who violates subdivision (a) by unlawfully possessing a controlled substance specified in paragraph (7) or (8) of subdivision (d) of Section 11055 is guilty of a misdemeanor. (4) Any person who violates subdivision (a) by unlawfully possessing a controlled substance specified in paragraph (8) of subdivision (f) of Section 11057 is guilty of a misdemeanor. (c) In addition to any fine assessed under subdivision (b), the judge may assess a fine not to exceed seventy dollars ($70) against any person who violates subdivision (a), with the proceeds of this fine to be used in accordance with Section 1463.23 of the Penal Code. The court shall, however, take into consideration the defendant's ability to pay, and no defendant shall be denied probation because of his or her inability to pay the fine permitted under this subdivision.")

10See same.

See also California Penal Code 18 PC -- Punishment for felony not otherwise prescribed; alternate sentence to county jail.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a felony, or to be punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, is punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons for 16 months, or two or three years; provided, however, every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to be a felony punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons or by a fine, but without an alternate sentence to the county jail, may be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine, or by both.")

See also California Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment.  ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

11See California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS - Possession of ecstasy, endnote 9, above.  The drugs listed in this section are all contained in the subsections referred to under this law.

12California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS - Possession of a controlled substance for sale; punishment.  ("Except as otherwise provided in Article 7 (commencing with Section 4211) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, every person who possesses for sale any controlled substance which is (1) classified in Schedule III, IV, or V and which is not a narcotic drug, except subdivision (g) of Section 11056, (2) specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11054 [this is where California ecstasy-related offenses lie], except paragraphs (13), (14), (15), (20), (21), (22), and (23) of subdivision (d), (3) specified in paragraph (11) of subdivision (c) of Section 11056, (4) specified in paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, or (5) specified in subdivision (d), (e), or (f), except paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) and subparagraphs (A) and (B) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (f), of Section 11055, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison.")

See also See also California Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed, endnote 10, above.

13Oakland criminal defense attorney Cameron Bowman defends clients throughout Northern California which includes (but is not limited to) the Santa Clara, Contra Costra, San Francisco and Alameda County courthouses.

14California Health and Safety Code 11379 HS -- Transportation, sale, furnishing, etc. of a controlled substance; punishment.  ("(a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (b) and in Article 7 (commencing with Section 4211) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, every person who transports, imports into this state, sells, furnishes, administers, or gives away, or offers to transport, import into this state, sell, furnish, administer, or give away, or attempts to import into this state or transport any controlled substance which is (1) classified in Schedule III, IV, or V and which is not a narcotic drug, except subdivision (g) of Section 11056, (2) specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11054 [this is where California ecstasy-related offenses lie] except paragraphs (13), (14), (15), (20), (21), (22), and (23) of subdivision (d), (3) specified in paragraph (11) of subdivision (c) of Section 11056, (4) specified in paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, or (5) specified in subdivision (d) or (e), except paragraph (3) of subdivision (e), or specified in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (f), of Section 11055, unless upon the prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian, licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of two, three, or four years. (b) Notwithstanding the penalty provisions of subdivision (a), any person who transports for sale any controlled substances specified in subdivision (a) within this state from one county to another noncontiguous county shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or nine years.")

15See same.

16California Penal Code 1170.82 PC -- Controlled substances; sale or transfer; aggravation of crime.  ("Upon a conviction of a violation of Section 11352, 11360, 11379 [this is where California ecstasy-related offenses lie], or 11379.5  of the Health and Safety Code, the fact that the person who committed the offense knew, or reasonably should have known, that any of the following circumstances existed with regard to the person to whom he or she unlawfully sold, furnished, administered, or gave away a controlled substance, shall be a circumstance in aggravation of the crime in imposing a term pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 1170: (a) The person was pregnant at the time of the selling, furnishing, administering, or giving away of the controlled substance. (b) The person had been previously convicted of a violent felony, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5. (c) The person was in psychological treatment for a mental disorder or for substance abuse at the time of the selling, furnishing, administering, or giving away of the controlled substance.")

178 U.S. Code Section 1227 -- Deportable aliens. ("(a) Classes of deportable aliens. Any alien (including an alien crewman) in and admitted to the United States shall, upon the order of the Attorney General, be removed if the alien is within one or more of the following classes of deportable aliens.(2) Criminal offenses.(B) Controlled substances. (i) Conviction. Any alien who at any time after admission has been convicted of a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 802 of Title 21), other than a single offense involving possession for one's own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana, is deportable.  And because ecstasy is a controlled substance, it is a California crime that could lead to deportation.

18California Vehicle Code 23152(a) -- VC Driving under the influence of drugs.  ("(a) It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.")

19People v. Enriquez (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 661, 665.  ("The term "under the influence" differs for the purposes of section 23152, subdivision (a) and Health and Safety Code, section 11550. "To be 'under the influence' within the meaning of the Vehicle Code, the ... drug(s) [in this case, ecstasy] must have so far affected the nervous system, the brain, or muscles as to impair to an appreciable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner like that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties. [Citations.] In contrast, 'being under the influence' within the meaning of Health and Safety Code section 11550 merely requires that the person be under the influence in any detectable manner. The symptoms of being under the influence within the meaning of that statute are not confined to those commensurate with misbehavior, nor to those which demonstrate impairment of physical or mental ability.")

20Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse for any questions relating to Nevada's drug crimes. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

Save

Save

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Regain peace of mind...

Our defense attorneys understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most difficult times of your life. Rely on us to zealously and discreetly protect your rights and to fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California and Nevada. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370