California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS
Possession of Methamphetamines for Sale

Possessing meth for sale in California

California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS makes it illegal to possess methamphetamines with the intent to sell them. The law also apples to certain other drugs, including gamma hydroxybutyric acid ("GHB"), phencyclidine ("PCP"), ketamine ("special K" or "K") and anabolic steroids.

How does a prosecutor prove intent to sell meth?

Three main factors distinguish California personal possession of meth from possession for sale:

  • the quantity of crystal meth you possessed,
  • the way the meth was packaged, and
  • the presence of drug paraphernalia.

A large amount of meth or other drugs in lots of small packages (bindles, baggies, etc.) might indicate you planned on selling the drugs. Drug paraphernalia tends to indicate the meth was for your personal use.

What are the consequences of California meth possession for sale?

Possession of crystal meth with intent to sell it is a California felony. The sentence under 11378 HS is 16 months or two or three years in county jail. You may also face a fine of up to $10,000.

Just as importantly, you are not eligible for drug diversion (treatment) instead of jail time if you are convicted of possessing meth with intent to sell it.

How do I defend a charge of possessing meth for sale in California?

The best defense to charges under HS 11378 will depend on your specific case. However legal defenses to possession of methamphetamine for sale often include (but are not limited to):

  • the meth was for your personal use (you didn't intend to sell it),
  • the drugs weren't yours,
  • you didn't know the crystal meth was there,
  • you didn't know that what you possessed was a controlled substance,
  • you were a medical professional selling methamphetamines in accordance with California and federal drug laws,
  • the police discovered the drugs during an unlawful search, or
  • there was other police misconduct (such as coercion or falsifying evidence).

What drugs are covered by California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS?

Health and Safety Code 11378 HS covers methamphetamines and most other stimulants (except cocaine). HS 11378 also covers illegal anabolic steroids and “party drugs” such as GHB and ketamine.

For additional information on laws relating to these controlled substances, please see our pages on California GHB laws, California ecstasy laws, California PCP laws and California ketamine laws.

Note that Health and Safety Code 11378 does NOT apply to marijuana, or other commonly used and abused drugs including:

  • marijuana,
  • cocaine,
  • heroin,
  • prescription opiates (Vicodin, Oxycontin, codeine, etc.), or
  • hallucinogens such as LSD or peyote.

California's possession for sale of marijuana law is Health and Safety Code 11358 HS.

California's possession for sale of narcotic drugs and hallucinogens is Health and Safety Code 11351 HS.

How do I find the best California meth lawyer?

California has some of the strictest anti-methamphetamine enforcement in the country.

As a result, cops and prosecutors eager for convictions often arrest and charge innocent people. Sometimes they push for long sentences when what someone really needs is treatment.

That's where we come in.

Our California drug lawyers know how to fight back against trumped-up drug charges. Often we can get HS 11378 possession for sale reduced to simple possession (or even dismissed).

As Riverside criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi1 explains:

"If your attorney can convince the prosecutor/judge/jury that you possessed the drug for personal use only you will face less severe penalties. Just as importantly, instead of going to jail you will most likely be entitled to participate in a drug diversion program."

To further answer your questions about Health and Safety Code 11378, our California drug defense lawyers2 address the following below:

1. What drugs does Health and Safety Code 11378 apply to?

2. How does the prosecutor prove I am guilty of intending to sell meth?

2.1. Possession
2.2. Knowledge
2.3. Sufficient quantity to use as a controlled substance
2.4. Intent
2.5. Exception for medical professionals

3. Legal defenses to 11378 HS possession for sale

4. Penalties under Health and Safety Code 11378 HS

4.1. Basic felony sentence under HS 11378
4.2. Aggravating factors

4.2.1. Additional jail time based on location of intended sale
4.2.2. Prison for more than one kilogram of meth
4.2.3. Using a minor to help you violate HS 11378

4.3. Possession of meth for sale and deportation
4.4. Drug diversion not available for possession with intent to sell

5. Related offenses

5.1. Health & Safety Code 11377 HS -- personal possession of methamphetamines
5.2. Health & Safety Code 11379 HS -- transporting or selling methamphetamines
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. Vehicle Code 23152(a) -- driving under the influence of drugs
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 and Safety Code 11383.5 – possessing materials for making methamphetamine

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1. What drugs does Health and Safety Code 11378 apply to?

11378 HS makes it illegal to possess for sale non-narcotic controlled substances, including stimulants, “party drugs” and illegal steroids. This includes many types of amphetamines in addition to meth, as well as drugs such as GHB, PCP and ketamine.3

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.

2. How does the prosecutor prove I am guilty of intending to sell meth?

For you to be convicted under Health and Safety Code 11378, the prosecutor must prove each of the following:

  1. you possessed meth or another prohibited controlled substance,
  2. you knew that you possessed a drug,
  3. you knew that the drug was a controlled substance,
  4. you possessed enough of the drug to sell it for consumption, and
  5. you possessed the drug with the specific intent to sell it.4

Let's take a closer look at each of these elements.

2.1. Possession

California's criminal law defines "possession" in three ways: "actual,” "constructive,” or "joint" possession. Possessing methamphetamines in any of these ways is illegal.

"Actual” possession usually means that you were holding the drugs or they were in something you were wearing or carrying.

“Constructive” possession means the drugs were in a location over which you exercised control (either directly or through another person).

"Joint" possession simply means that you shared actual or constructive possession with one or more other people.

Examples of possession include (without limitation):

  • You are holding a bag of crystal meth,
  • You have a bottle of Xyrem (GHB) in your backpack,
  • You are hiding a vial of PCP in a body cavity,
  • You leave some meth in the drawer your office desk while you are out of town on a business trip,
  • There is a bag of crystal meth underneath the sofa in the living room you share with your roommate,
  • Your partner in a drug dealing operation has a stash of crank in a briefcase,
  • You just swallowed drugs in order to avoid getting busted.5

You don't have to be holding or touching the drugs yourself in order to violate Health and Safety Code 11378. If someone else possesses methamphetamines for sale on your behalf, you might still be convicted.

2.2. Knowledge

For you to be guilty of violating HS 11378, the prosecutor must prove:

  1. you knew of the drug's presence, and
  2. you knew of its nature as a controlled substance as defined by the United States "Controlled Substances Act".

If you didn't know you had the drugs or you didn't know they were a controlled substance, you haven't violated 11378 HS.

Example: An overnight guest accidentally leaves a bottle containing illegal amphetamine pills at your house and you don't know it. Or perhaps you find the bottle and decide to hold onto the pills for her, not knowing they are a controlled substance.

You do not need to know the name of a drug or its precise chemical makeup in order to violate Health and Safety Code 11378. It is enough that you know generally that what you have is a controlled substance.6

2.3. Sufficient quantity to use as a controlled substance

To be guilty of California possession of meth for sale, you must have enough so that it can be used as a controlled substance.

This does not mean that you have to possess enough meth for someone to get high. 7 There just has to be enough of the drug so that it can be used in the way someone would normally use methamphetamines (smoke, snort, swallow it, etc.).8  Being found with mere residue or traces of meth does not make you guilty of possession for sale.

2.4. Intent

Often the most important factors under HS 11378 is: were the drugs for personal use or sale?

Ways the prosecutor can prove you intended to sell drugs might include:

  • Your statements. If someone heard you saying you had meth for sale, your statements would be evidence that could be used to prove you violated HS 11378.
  • The quantity of drugs you possessed. Sometimes a case comes down to one simple question: how much meth is too much for personal use? There is no “one size fits all” answer. The more of the drug there is, the harder it will be to convince a judge or jury the drugs were for your personal use and not for sale.
  • How the meth was packaged. Were the drugs in baggies or bindles? A bindle is a small envelope of folded paper used for carrying powdered drugs.  Multiple bindles or baggies is often evidence that you planned to sell the drugs.
  • You had no drug paraphernalia. Pipes, needles or straws for snorting might indicate you intended to use the drugs yourself. The absence of drug paraphernalia alone does not prove you intended to sell drugs, however. Rather it is just one of the factors a prosecutor may use to prove you possessed meth for sale.

2.5. Exception for medical professionals

You do not violate California Health and Safety Code 11378  if you are a medical professional—such as a pharmacist or veterinarian—selling methamphetamines in accordance with California and federal law.

3. Legal defenses to 11378 HS possession for sale

People discovered with meth in California often get charged with possession for sale even though they possessed drugs for personal use only.

Ways to prove you possessed drugs for personal use and not for sale might include:

  • You possessed only a small quantity of meth.
  • The drugs were found in one—or at most a few—containers.
  • You also possessed drug paraphernalia--such as a pipe, straws or needles--so that you could personally use the drug.

Other common defenses to California meth charges often include (but are not limited to):

  • You didn't possess any meth.
  • You held a valid prescription for the drugs.
  • You didn't know the crystal meth was there.
  • You thought the methamphetamines were a different, legal drug (such as over-the-counter diet pills).
  • The meth was found during an illegal search and seizure.
  • The police coerced your confession or falsified evidence.

4. Penalties under Health and Safety Code 11378 HS

4.1. Basic felony sentence under HS 11378

Violation of Health and Safety Code 11378 HS is a felony. The sentence for possession for sale under 11378 HS is16 months, or two, or three years in jail.

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

4.2. Aggravating factors

4.2.1. Additional jail time based on location of intended sale

You face an additional year in jail if you possessed meth for sale within 1,000 feet of--or on the grounds of--

  • a drug treatment center,
  • a "detox" facility or
  • a homeless shelter.9
4.2.2. Prison for more than one kilogram of meth

Your sentence may increase if you possessed more than one kilogram of meth for sale. In such a case, potential consequences of a 11378 conviction include an additional three to fifteen years--in prison instead of jail.10

4.2.3. Using a minor to help you violate HS 11378

If a minor (someone under 18)  helps you commit possession for sale or is the intended buyer, you face an additional three, six or nine-year prison sentence.11 You may also face additional charges under Penal Code 272 PC California's contributing to the delinquency of a minor law.

4.3. Possession of meth for sale and deportation

If you are a legal immigrant or legal alien, a conviction under HS 11378 could lead to deportation. For more information about how California drug offenses affect aliens, please review our article on California Crimes that Lead to Deportation.

4.4. Drug diversion not available for possession with intent to sell

"Drug diversion" is an alternative sentencing option that allows a drug abuser to receive drug treatment in lieu of a jail or prison sentence. It is available only if you are convicted of simple possession of a controlled substance—that is, possession for personal use.

However, if your California meth crimes lawyer negotiates a reduced plea to simple possession rather than possession for sale, you may be eligible for diversion. Drug diversion is not offered to everyone and has some limitations. But if you are eligible and successfully complete the program, the charges against you will usually be dismissed.  

To find out if you qualify for this alternative sentencing, consult with an experienced California drug attorney.

And for more information about California's specific drug diversion programs, please see our pages on:

5. Related offenses

Certain other California offenses are closely related to Health and Safety Code 11378 HS possession for sale. Depending on the substances involved and the purpose of the possession, these may be charged in addition to, or instead of, 11378 HS.

Some of the most common of these code sections are:

5.1. Health & Safety Code 11377 HS -- Possession of Methamphetamines for Sale

California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS governs simple possession of stimulants, "party drugs" or anabolic steroids for personal use.

HS 11377 possession is usually a misdemeanor. It can be punished by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

5.2.. Health & Safety Code 11379 HS -- Transporting or Selling Methamphetamines

Health and Safety Code 11379 HS is similar to 11378 HS. However, under this code section you must actually:

  • Sell the drugs (exchange them for money, services or anything else of value),
  • Transport the drugs (move them even a short distance) with the intent to sell them,
  • Give the drugs away or provide them to someone else, and/or
  • Administer the drugs to another person.

 A conviction under HS 11379 subjects you to two, three, or four years in jail, and/or a maximum $10,000 fine.

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 possession of a controlled substance is similar to HS 11377.

However, HS 11350 does not cover methamphetamines. It applies to a wider variety of controlled substances including (but not limited to):

In some situations, it may also apply to GHB.

HS 11350 is usually a misdemeanor, unless you have a prior conviction for a serious felony or a sex crime on your record. If it is your first or second conviction for personal possession, you may be eligible for drug rehab instead of jail.

Otherwise, you face up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

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

California Health and Safety Code 11351 HS  possession of a controlled substance for sale is almost the same as 11378 HS.

The substances covered under Section 11351, however, make it a more serious felony violation than Health and Safety Code 11378.

Drugs covered by California Health and Safety Code 11351 include such commonly abused drugs as:

  • Cocaine,
  • Heroin,
  • Prescription opiates, and
  • LSD.

A conviction under HS 11351 subjects you to 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-- applies to the same drugs as 11351 HS.

Violation of Health and Safety Code 11352 is a serious felony. Conviction subjects you to:

  • 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);
  • and/or
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.

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

If you drive while under the influence of meth or another substance covered by 11378 HS, prosecutors could charge you with driving under the influence of drugs ("DUID"). This is true even if you do not possess the meth at the time of your arrest.

Although DUID under Vehicle Code 23152(a) is more difficult to prove than driving under the influence of alcohol, the penalties are the same. A first offense usually 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 a controlled substance, prosecutors can also charge you with Health and Safety Code 11550 HS California's "under the influence of a controlled substance law".

11550 HS is a misdemeanor offense. If you are not eligible (or choose not to do) drug diversion, you face up to one (1) year in county jail.

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

Health & Safety Code 11379.6--manufacturing a controlled substance is a felony. Under 11379.6 HS, it is illegal to manufacture, compound, produce, derive or process a controlled substance such as methamphetamines.

A conviction under HS 11379.6 subjects you to three, five, or seven years in jail and a fine of up to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).

And that sentence can be increased 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 and Safety Code 11383.5 – possessing materials for making methamphetamine

Possession of materials for manufacturing methamphetamine is a felony. You can be convicted of Health and Safety Code 11383.5 HS if you possess certain chemicals with the intent of using 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 a drug crime such as possessing meth for sale, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We provide free consultations in office or by phone.

Our California drugs lawyers 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) .

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.12

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

Legal References:

1 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.

2 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.

3 California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS.  Except as otherwise provided in Article 7 (commencing with Section 4110) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, a person who possesses for sale a controlled substance that meets any of the following criteria shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code:

    (1) The substance is classified in Schedule III, IV, or V and is not a narcotic drug, except the substance specified in subdivision (g) of Section 11056.

    (2) The substance is specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11054, except paragraphs (13), (14), (15), (20), (21), (22), and (23) of subdivision (d).

    (3) The substance is specified in paragraph (11) of subdivision (c) of Section 11056.

    (4) The substance is specified in paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054.

    (5) The substance is 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.

4 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) 2016, Instruction 2304.

5 People v. Palaschak (1995) 9 Cal.4th 1236, 1242.

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

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

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

9 California Health and Safety Code 11380.7 HS.

10 California Health and Safety Code 11370.4 HS. 

11 California Health and Safety Code 11353 HS.

12 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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