California Health & Safety Code 11377 HS
Possession of Methamphetamines

HS 11377 – methamphetamine possession in California

California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS makes it a crime to possess methamphetamines without a valid prescription. HS 11377 also applies to additional stimulants and other drugs including:

Simple possession versus possession for sale

HS 11377 applies to possession of meth for personal use—also known as “simple” possession. It is a less serious crime than Health and Safety Code 11378 possession of methamphetamines for sale.

Evidence the meth was for personal use may include:

  • You possessed only a small quantity of methamphetamines,
  • The meth was in a single package (rather than lots of small packages such as baggies or small envelopes of folded paper known as bindles), and/or
  • The police also found drug paraphernalia such as a pipe, needles, or a straw for snorting the meth.

However, even if you are charged with possession of crystal meth for sale, an experienced California drug crimes attorney may be able to negotiate a reduced plea to HS 11377 simple possession.

As Riverside drug crimes lawyer Michael Scafiddi2 explains:

"An experienced California defense attorney can often convince a prosecutor, judge or jury that you possessed meth for your personal use only. Not only does simple possession carry less severe penalties than possession for sale, but you will be entitled to go to drug rehab instead of jail if you qualify."

For more on drug treatment in lieu of jail time, see Section 4.2 Drug Diversion, below.

Penalties under California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS

Simple possession of methamphetamines is usually a misdemeanor. Consequences of a California Health and Safety Code 11377 conviction can include:

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

However, under HS 11377 possession of crystal meth can be charged as a felony if you have a prior conviction for:

The sentence for a felony violation of Health and Safety Code 11377 can include 16 months or two or three years in jail.

Am I eligible for drug rehab under HS 11377?

You may be eligible for drug diversion (treatment) instead of jail time for a 11377 HS violation if:

  1. You are a first- or second-time non-violent offender, and
  2. The meth was for your personal use alone.

You are not eligible for drug rehab instead of jail if you were convicted of or pleaded guilty to:

You may still be eligible for drug rehab, however, if you are charged with one of these more serious crimes but plead to HS 11377 as part of a plea deal.

How do I defend HS 11377 meth possession?

The best defense to California methamphetamine possession will depend on the facts of your case. However, common defenses to HS 11377 often include (but are not limited to):

  • you held a valid prescription for the methamphetamines and possessed an amount consistent with the prescription's purpose,
  • the crystal meth actually belonged to someone else,
  • you didn't know the drugs you possessed were a controlled substance, or
  • the police found the meth during an illegal search.

The best California drug lawyers to fight HS 11377 charges

Methamphetamines are some of the most abused drugs in California. As California's "war on drugs" continues, overzealous officers and prosecutors often arrest and prosecute innocent people on bogus charges.

That's where we come in.

Our California drug crimes defense lawyers3 are experts when it comes to fighting meth possession charges. We know the most effective ways to fight California drug charges so that you are not labeled and stigmatized as a "drug offender."

In this article, our California drug attorneys further explain HS 11377 by addressing the following:

1. What are methamphetamines?

2. Health & Safety Code 11377 HS -- Possession of methamphetamines

2.1. Possession
2.2. Knowledge
2.3. Sufficient quantity to use as a controlled substance
2.4. Simple possession vs. possession of meth for sale
2.5. Exception for medical professionals
2.6. Other drugs covered by HS 11377

3. HS 11377 legal defenses

4. HS 11377 penalties, punishment and sentencing

4.1. Possession of more than one kilogram
4.2. Drug diversion

5. Related Offenses

5.1. Health and Safety Code 11378 – possession of meth for sale
5.2. Health and Safety Code 11379 – possessing or transporting meth
5.3. Health and Safety Code 11350 HS -- possession of a controlled substance
5.4. Health and Safety Code 11351 HS -- possession of a controlled substance for sale
5.5. Health and Safety Code 11352 HS -- transporting or selling a controlled substance
5.6. California Vehicle Code 23152(a) -- driving under the influence of meth
5.7. Health and Safety Code 11550 HS -- being under the influence of a controlled substance
5.8. Health & Safety Code 11379.6 - manufacturing a controlled substance
5.9. Health & Safety Code 11383.5 – possession of materials for manufacturing methamphetamine

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

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1. What are methamphetamines?

Methamphetamine--commonly referred to as meth, crystal, crystal meth, speed, blow, rock, tina, chalk, ice, glass, or crank--is a controlled substance.  A "controlled substance" is a drug or chemical whose manufacture, possession and use are regulated under the United States "Controlled Substances Act".

Possessing methamphetamines is typically illegal without a valid prescription. An exception is a medical professional (pharmacist, veterinarian, doctor, etc.) who possesses such drugs in accordance with California's drug laws.

Methamphetamine--a part of the phetamine family--is a stimulant. It speeds up your body and brain. Meth is available as pills, powder or a chunky crystal "rock" form. Methamphetamines can be smoked, injected, swallowed, snorted, or "huffed" (that is, inhaled in a toxic gas form).

Methamphetamines were primarily used in the 1950s to help keep truckers, college students and athletes stay awake and alert. Today it is considered dangerous and is typically only prescribed for treating:

Despite its legal use, methamphetamines are frequently abused and made / sold in an illegal manner.  Most California meth currently comes from Mexico. But California still has many "meth labs,” also known as clandestine or "mom and pop" labs. They are particularly common in California's Central Valley. People run these (often) makeshift "labs" out of their homes, garages, mobile homes, and warehouses.

Methamphetamine's easy accessibility and relatively low cost make it attractive to everyone from addicts to children experimenting with drugs. As a result, meth is one of the most troublesome drugs in California and possession of it is an aggressively prosecuted crime.

2. Health and Safety Code 11377 HS -- possession of methamphetamines

In order to convict you of meth possession under Health and Safety Code 11377, the prosecutor must prove the following four "elements" of the offense:

  • you possessed methamphetamines;
  • you knew you possessed the meth,
  • you knew what you had was a controlled substance (even if you didn't know specifically that it was meth), and
  • there was enough  meth to be used as a drug--not merely useless traces or residue.

Let's take a closer look at these elements:

2.1. Possession

California's criminal law defines "possession" in three ways:

  • "actual” possession: the meth was on your person, meaning you were holding it or it was in something you were wearing or carrying;
  • “constructive” possession: you exercised control over the location where the crystal meth was (either directly or through another person); or
  • "joint" possession: you shared actual or constructive possession with one or more other people.

Possessing meth in any of these three ways can subject you to a Health and Safety Code 11377 prosecution.

2.2. Knowledge

For you to be guilty under HS 11377, the prosecutor must prove:

  1. you knew of the drug's presence, and
  2. you knew of its nature as a controlled substance.

 If you didn't know you had the drugs--or you didn't know they were a controlled substance--you haven't violated 11377 HS.

Example: You have not violated Health and Safety Code 11377 if someone leaves a bindle of meth at your house and you don't know it. Or perhaps you find the bindle and decide give it back to your friend, not knowing that it contains a controlled substance. In either case, you have not violated HS 11377.

However, you do not need to know the name of a drug or its precise chemical makeup in order to be guilty of meth possession. It is enough that you know generally that what you have is a controlled substance.4

2.3. Sufficient quantity to use as a controlled substance

You do not violate Health and Safety Code 11377 unless you have enough meth to smoke, snort, swallow, etc.5 You don't have to possess enough meth to get high. It just means that you must have more than mere residue or traces in order to be guilty under HS 11377. 6

2.4. Simple possession vs. possession of meth for sale

In deciding what California meth crime to charge you with, a prosecutor will consider whether the drugs were for your personal use or for sale.

The difference between HS 11377 and HS 11378 often comes down to:

  • Your statements. If someone overheard you saying you intended to sell the meth, your statements could be used to show you violated HS 11378.
  • The quantity of meth you possessed. The less crystal meth you had, easier it will be to convince the prosecutor, judge or jury the drugs were for your personal use.
  • How the meth was packaged. Multiple bindles or baggies might indicate you intended to sell the methamphetamines. A single baggie, bindle or bottle would tend to prove the meth was for your personal use.
  • Presence of drug paraphernalia. When the police also find a pipe, needles or straws for snorting, it can be evidence that the meth was for personal use.

2.5. Exception for medical professionals

Medical professionals--such as doctors, pharmacists and veterinarians--do not violate HS 11377 when they possess methamphetamines in accordance with California and federal law.

2.6. Other drugs covered by HS 11377

HS 11377 is not exclusive to methamphetamines. It also applies to other stimulants and to anabolic steroids, as well as to commonly used “party drugs.”

For additional information on laws relating to these controlled substances, please see our pages on:

Note that many commonly abused controlled substances—including marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and hallucinogens --are covered by other code sections. For more information, see Related Offenses in Section 5, below.

3. HS 11377 legal defenses

The specific legal defenses that apply to your case will vary depending on the circumstances of your case. However, common defenses to Health and Safety Code 11377 meth possession include (but are not limited to):

  • you held a valid prescription for the methamphetamines and possessed only an amount consistent with the prescription's purpose,
  • the crystal meth actually belonged to someone else, or
  • the crank was discovered in a manner that violated California's search and seizure laws--perhaps because:
    • the officer didn't have a valid California search warrant or
    • you were stopped and searched without your consent and there was no probable cause.

4. HS 11377 penalties, punishment and sentencing

Possession of meth in violation of HS 11377 is usually a misdemeanor. Consequences of possessing meth can include:

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

However, you will face felony penalties--including 16 months or two or three years in jail--for meth possession if you have a prior conviction on your record for:

  • any of a small list of especially serious felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or
  • a sex crime that subjects you to California's sex offender registration requirement.

Prior to passage of the voter initiative Proposition 47 in November 2014, 11377 HS was a wobbler--which meant that it could be charged as a misdemeanor OR a felony. If you were convicted of this offense before the passage of Prop 47 and received a felony sentence, you may petition the court to reduce your sentence to a misdemeanor.

4.1. Possession of more than one kilogram

If the weight of the meth that you are convicted of possessing exceeds one kilogram, you face an additional three to fifteen years in prison—even if the prosecutor can't prove you intended to sell it.7

4.2. Drug diversion

"Drug diversion" is an alternative sentencing option that allows a drug abuser to receive drug treatment instead of jail time. You may qualify for drug diversion (rehab) if:

  1. You are a first- or second-time non-violent offender, and
  2. You are convicted of or plead guilty to simple possession of meth for personal use.

California's has three drug diversion programs:

Drug diversion is not available if you are convicted of or plead guilty to selling meth under HS 11379 or possessing it for sale under HS 11378. However, if your California drug lawyer negotiates a reduced plea to a more serious charge you retain eligibility for drug diversion. As California criminal defense lawyer Neil Shouse explains:

“When circumstances make outright dismissal of a case seem unlikely, a plea bargain can often get people with drug problems the help they need rather than a jail sentence. And if you successfully complete a drug diversion program, your drug charges will most likely be dismissed. This is why retaining an experienced drug defense attorney is a must if you are charged with any California methamphetamine offense.”

 5. Related Offenses

A number of offenses are closely related to California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS. Some of the most common are:

 5.1. Health and Safety Code 11378 – possession of meth for sale

California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS makes it a felony to possess methamphetamines with the intent to sell them. Since no actual or attempted sale or transportation of the drugs is required, this offense can be difficult to prove.

Health and Safety Code 11378 carries a potential penalty of 16 months or two or three years in county jail. You may also—or instead—be fined up to $10,000.

And unlike HS 11377, if you violate HS 11378 you are not eligible for drug diversion instead of jail time. But, as noted above, you may be able to obtain drug treatment if your California criminal defense lawyer can negotiate a plea deal in which the prosecutor drops the HS 11378 charges in return for your pleading guilty to simple possession.

5.2. Health & Safety Code 11379 HS -- transporting or selling methamphetamines

You commit a felony under Health and Safety Code 11379 HS when you:

  • Sell or agree to sell meth in exchange for money, services or anything else of value,
  • Transport crystal meth (even a short distance) with the intent to sell it,
  • Give meth to someone else, and/or
  • Administer the drugs to another person.

Consequences of an HS 11379 conviction can include two, three, or four years in jail, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

And if you transport drugs covered by this section across more than two counties, the sentence can increase to three, six, or nine years in jail.

5.3. Health and Safety Code 11350 HS -- possession of a controlled substance

Health and Safety Code 11350 HS, California's law against possession of a controlled substance is almost identical to HS 11377.

However, HS 11350 applies to a wider variety of controlled substances, including (but not limited to):

Like possession of methamphetamine, HS 11350 is a usually a misdemeanor. It is a felony only if you have one of the above-listed serious felonies or sex crimes on your record (or if you were convicted prior to the passage of Proposition 47 in November 2014).

5.4. Health and Safety Code 11351 HS -- possession of a controlled substance for sale

Health and Safety Code 11351 HS California's law against possessing a controlled substance for sale is HS 11378's counterpart. It applies to cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and prescription opioids, among other drugs.

Violation of HS 11351 is a felony and is a slightly more serious offense than Health and Safety 11378 HS. Consequences under HS 11351 can include:

  • two, three or four years in jail, and/or
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.

5.5. Health and Safety Code 11352 HS -- transporting or selling a controlled substance

Health and Safety Code 11352 HS California's law against transporting or selling controlled substances mimics HS 11379 except that it applies to a broader number of controlled substances.

This offense is more serious than its meth counterpart. Consequences under HS 11379 include:

  • three, four or five years in county jail, or
  • three, six or nine years (if you move the drugs across more than two county lines).

You may also (or instead) be fined up to a maximum of $10,000.

5.6. California Vehicle Code 23152(a) -- driving under the influence of meth

If you are caught driving under the influence of meth (or any other drug)--whether or not you possess the drug at the time--prosecutors can charge you with driving under the influence of drugs ("DUID").

Although driving under the influence of drugs is more difficult to prove than driving under the influence of alcohol, the penalties are the same.  A typical "first offense" subjects you to

  • up to one-year in a county jail,
  • a maximum $390 fine before penalty assessments,
  • a court-imposed driver's license restriction for a minimum of six months, and
  • a minimum three-month drug education class.

5.7. Health and Safety Code 11550 HS -- being under the influence of a controlled substance

If you are under the influence of certain drugs (whether you are driving or not), prosecutors can additionally charge you with Health and Safety Code 11550 HS California's "under the influence of a controlled substance law".

The drugs addressed in this law include controlled substances that are also covered by Health and Safety Code 11377 such as

  • meth,
  • GHB, and
  • PCP.

A conviction for this misdemeanor drug offense subjects you to up to one (1) year in county jail.  However, eligible defendants may be able to participate in a drug diversion program instead.

5.8. Health & Safety Code 11379.6 - manufacturing a controlled substance

Health & Safety Code 11379.6 (Manufacturing a controlled substance) makes it a felony to manufacture, compound, produce, derive or process an illegal controlled substance. Methamphetamine is one of the few major street drugs derived from local ingredients and "cooked" in underground meth labs. Consequently a fair number of prosecutions under this section tend to be for manufacturing meth.

A conviction for HS 11379.6 subjects you to:

  • three, five, or seven years in jail, and
  • a fine of up to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).

The sentence can be much longer if:

  • large quantities are being produced,
  • children are involved or nearby,
  • someone is injured or killed, or
  • you have a prior drug conviction.

5.9. Health & Safety Code 11383.5 – possession of materials for manufacturing methamphetamine

Possession of materials for manufacturing methamphetamine is a felony under Health and Safety Code 11383.5 HS. You can be convicted of this crime if you possess certain chemicals or combinations of chemicals with the intent to use them to cook meth.

Possession of materials for the manufacture of methamphetamine carries a jail sentence of two (2), four (4) or six (6) years.

Call us for help...
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If you or loved one is charged with Health & Safety Code 11377 11378 & 11379 HS methamphetamines 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.

We also invite you to watch our video on possession of meth in California (Health & Safety Code 11377)and our video on possession for sale of meth (Health & Safety Code 11378).

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada possession of methamphetamine 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.9

¿Habla español? Visite nuestro sitio Web en español sobre el delito de posesión de metanfetamina de California.

Legal References:


1 These drugs—as well as methamphetamines--are all contained in the subsections referred to under Health and Safety Code 11377 HS - Possession of methamphetamines: ("((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, 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, except that such person may instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 11701170. of the Penal Code if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 of the Penal Code or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290 of the Penal Code. (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.")

2 Riverside criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi uses his former experience as an Ontario Police Officer to represent clients throughout the Inland Empire including San Bernardino, Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, Hemet, Banning, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Barstow, Palm Springs and Victorville.

3 Our California criminal 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.

4 People v. Guy (1980) 107 Cal.App.3d 593, 600-601.

5 People v. Rubacalba (1993) 6 Cal.4th 62, 66.

6 People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 512. 

7 California Health and Safety Code 11370.4 HS -- Convictions under specified sections with respect to Methamphetamines.

8 Drug crimes lawyer Neil Shouse uses his experience as a former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney to defend clients accused of drug crimes throughout Los Angeles county, including Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Burbank and the San Fernando Valley.

9 Please 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.

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