California Laws re "Operating a Meth Lab"

Most of the nation's clandestine methamphetamine labs are right here in California.  While there are many "super" meth labs that can produce ten pounds of meth in a single cooking cycle, most tend to be less sophisticated, producing much smaller quantities of meth.  And these "mom and pop" labs are everywhere...in homes, garages, sheds and motel rooms.

For every ten pounds of meth produced, there are 50-60 pounds of hazardous waste products that are leaked into the environment, which is simply one reason government officials prioritize finding and shutting down illegal meth labs.  Add to this the facts that methamphetamines are

  • highly addictive,
  • linked to other types of criminal activity, and
  • prone to explosions as they are being manufactured,

and you see why operating a meth lab can subject you to severe penalties...penalties that are described under Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS California's law against manufacturing narcotics.

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Simply put, California law prohibits manufacturing methamphetamine during any state of the manufacturing process.  This process includes

  • compounding,
  • deriving,
  • producing,
  • extracting, or
  • preparing

methamphetamine. Furthermore, this law even forbids offering to engage in any stage of this process.1

Defenses
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The good news is that there are a variety of legal defenses that an experienced California drugs crimes defense attorney can present on your behalf to help fight your manufacturing charges.  These include (but are not limited to):

  • you weren't actually operating a meth lab, but instead were merely "preparing" to do so,
  • your meth lab was discovered pursuant to an illegal search and/or seizure
  • you had nothing to do with manufacturing meth, but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or
  • you are the victim of mistaken identity and/or of false accusations.
Penalties

Operating an illegal meth lab in California is a felony offense, punishable by up to seven years in the California state prison. Offering to help the operation is punishable by up to five years.2 And because of the dangers associated with clandestine meth labs, your sentence may increase if you

  • produce "crystal" meth,
  • manufacture meth in the presence of or in the same structure as children,
  • cause another person to suffer death or great bodily injury, or
  • have certain drug-related prior convictions.

In this article, our California criminal defense attorneys3 will explain California's laws that prohibit operating a methamphetamine lab by addressing the following:

1. California Laws Regulating Manufacturing Methamphetamine in Illegal Meth Labs

1.1. Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS California's law against manufacturing methamphetamine

1.2. Health and Safety Code 11366.5 HS California's law against allowing others to manufacture narcotics in your home or other structure

2. Legal Defenses

2.1. Your acts were merely preparatory

2.2. Illegal search and seizure

2.3. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time

2.4. Mistaken identity/false accusations

3. Penalties, Punishment and Sentencing for CA Meth Labs

3.1. Crystal meth

3.2. Injury or death

3.3. Manufacturing narcotics in the presence of children

3.4. Prior drug-related convictions

3.5. Drug diversion

4. Related Offenses

4.1. Conspiracy and Health and Safety Code 11366.5 California's law against allowing another person to operate a meth lab in your home or other structure

4.2. Health and Safety Code 11377 HS, 11378 & 11379 HS California's laws against possessing, selling and/or transporting methamphetamine

4.3. Health and Safety Code 11550 HS California's law against being under the influence of a controlled substance

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

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California Drug Crimes; California's Law Against Manufacturing Narcotics; Health and Safety Code 11350 HS California's Law Against Possession of a Controlled Substance; Health and Safety Code 11351 HS California's Law Against Possession of a Controlled Substance for Sale; Health and Safety Code 11352 HS California's Law Against Transporting or Selling a Controlled Substance; California's Law Against Possessing, Selling and/or Transporting Methamphetamine; Health and Safety Code 11550 HS California's "Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance" Law; Penal Code 452 PC California's Reckless Burning Law, A Less Serious Offense than Penal Code 451 California's Arson Law; California Legal Defenses; California's Search and Seizure Laws; Mistaken Identity; Wobblers; Misdemeanors; Felonies; Great Bodily Injury under California Law; California's Conspiracy Law; California's Laws Against Aiding and Abetting; California's Laws Regarding Attempt Crimes; California Laws Regarding Police and Private Informants; Probable Cause; California Search Warrants; Proposition 36; Penal Code 1000 PC Drug Diversion; and California Drug Courts.

1. California Laws Regulating Manufacturing Methamphetamine in Illegal Meth Labs

Most clandestine or illegal drug labs in California manufacture methamphetamine.  Commonly referred to as "meth labs," these secret operations pose a safety risk to the public, by

  1. releasing toxic chemicals into the surrounding area,
  2. creating major fire hazards due to the risk of explosion when mixing the necessary chemicals, and
  3. being a place where illicit drugs are used, made and sold.

As a result, state and federal law enforcement agencies invest vast amounts of resources into locating and disabling these outfits.

One of the major problems for law enforcement is that methamphetamine can easily be illegally manufactured...using common over-the-counter chemicals such as pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in many cold and allergy medications. Moreover, meth can be "cooked" in almost any location: in houses, garages, apartments, hotels, motels, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, storage sheds, etc.

And because many people who operate meth labs conceal their activities from the public, they are oftentimes virtually undetectable unless and until there is an explosion.  These are just some of the reasons why California has such strict laws when it comes to operating a meth lab...laws that are found in Health and Safety Code sections 11379.6 and 11366.5 HS.

1.1. Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS California's law against
manufacturing narcotics

Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS California's law against manufacturing narcotics is a broad statute that prohibits manufacturing controlled substances.  A "controlled substance" is one whose manufacture, possession and use are regulated by the government under the United States "Controlled
Substances Act"
.

One of the controlled substances that this law refers to is methamphetamine.  This means that California law makes it illegal to do any of the following with respect to meth:

  • manufacture,
  • compound,
  • convert,
  • produce,
  • derive,
  • process,
  • prepare...
  • or offer to do any of the above.4

Simply put, Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS prohibits operating a California meth lab.

To be convicted of this offense, it isn't necessary that you completely finish manufacturing the methamphetamine.  If you are engaged in any part of the manufacturing process...even an initial or intermediate stage...the crime is complete.5

However, acts that are merely preparatory are insufficient to sustain a conviction for operating a California meth lab (a legal defense that is discussed below in
Section 2.1.)

Examples:

In a public storage locker, the police smell a noxious odor associated with producing methamphetamine and discover a large quantity of chloropseudoephedrine (a substance that cannot be purchased and is exclusively used to manufacture meth), two catalyst chemicals used to manufacture meth, filer cartridges, vacuum pumps, heating mantles, condenser columns, tubing, a triple-beam scale, heavy-duty plastic containers, safety gloves and a variety of other objects...all of which are commonly used to manufacture meth.  The defendant claims that...despite the presence of all this equipment...manufacturing meth is physically impossible without a hydrogenator and alcohol, neither of which were in the locker, and both of which are necessary for the final step of the manufacturing process.

The court disagreed, stating that manufacturing meth involves a multistep process which can be interrupted and moved at various stages and that the odor that the police detected only takes place once the process is underway.6

Contrast the forgoing with the following:

In connection with another meth lab investigation, police discover that the defendant is extracting ephedrine in a shed at his house.  Extracting ephedrine is the first step involved in manufacturing methamphetamine.  However, the defendant argues that this evidence, without more, is insufficient to sustain a conviction for manufacturing methamphetamine.

The court agreed, holding that in order to convict the defendant of operating a meth lab, the prosecutor must prove that he also knew that meth was being manufactured, since extracting ephedrine is not a crime in and of itself.  It only becomes a crime under Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS when a defendant engages in this conduct in a deliberate effort to manufacture meth.7

1.2. Health and Safety Code 11366.5 HS California's law against allowing others to manufacture narcotics in your home or other structure

Health and Safety Code 11366.5 HS is also a general law that punishes an individual who has under his/her management or control any building, room, space, etc. and knowingly

  1. allows another person to manufacture, store, sell or otherwise distribute any controlled substance in that space, and/or
  2. allows the space to be equipped in such as manner so as to prevent the police from entering in order to further the sale of certain prohibited drugs and who receives profits that substantially exceed fair market value for doing so.

This law specifically encompasses methamphetamines, which is why it is one of the laws that prohibits operating a California clandestine meth lab.  And on a related note, if you are subject to prosecution for this law or are otherwise involved in manufacturing meth, for example, by

  • cooking the methamphetamine,
  • mixing the chemicals that make the meth,
  • buying the equipment to manufacture the meth,
  • etc.,

you may face additional charges under California's conspiracy laws or under California's aiding and abetting laws.8

2. Legal Defenses

Fortunately, there are a number of California legal defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can present on your behalf in an effort to help fight your California meth lab charges.  The following are some of the most common.

2.1. Your acts were merely preparatory

Even if you intend to operate a California clandestine meth lab, you can only be convicted of this offense for engaging in one of the activities that initiates the process of actually manufacturing the drug...that is, engaging in one of the steps where you begin making meth.  Simply preparing to do so is not a criminal act.

As Riverside criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi9 explains, "This means that, for example, buying the ingredients and equipment to make meth without actually setting them up for use is not enough to convict you under California law.  Preparing to commit a crime is not the same as engaging in a crime - period."

That said, if you initiate the process of actually manufacturing meth...but an outside force interferes with the job...prosecutors could still charge you with attempting to operate a meth lab under California's laws regarding attempted crimes.  But even if this is the case, you would still only face half of the sentence you would otherwise face for manufacturing meth.

2.2. Illegal search and seizure

You could be running the largest illegal meth lab in California. But if the police arrest you in violation of California's search and seizure laws, your charges should be dismissed.

This means that if the police enter your clandestine operation

  1. without a valid California search warrant,
  2. using a warrant that was based on information provided by an unreliable police or private informant,
  3. without probable cause, or
  4. search an area that is beyond that which is identified in the warrant,

California law provides that any evidence that is illegally obtained will be excluded from your case.  The result is that your charges for operating a meth lab will be significantly reduced if not entirely dismissed.

2.3. Wrong place, wrong time

Because meth labs are often run out of garages, sheds, RV's, etc., there may be people living on (or visiting) the premises who are unaware of the illegal activity.  Just because you were on the property at the time when the police busted the operation, does not necessarily mean you were involved with it.

However, the prosecutor can rely on circumstantial evidence to try to prove your involvement.

Example:  The court upheld the defendant's conviction for manufacturing meth where the evidence revealed that the defendant (1) drove up to the illegal lab at 3am, (2) possessed and had been using meth, (3) was in the car with a tote bag that contained a large plastic baggie and three bottles of meth and several damp coffee filters emitting a strong odor of meth, and (4) had fingerprints in the lab on various manufacturing equipment.  There was also testimony by a drug expert that meth users such as the defendant often support their habit by engaging in manufacturing and distributing the drug.

The court held that despite the fact that this was all circumstantial evidence...that is, evidence that "points to guilt but doesn't directly prove it"...it was sufficient for the jury to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant exercised at least some dominion and control over the lab.11

2.4. Mistaken identity/false accusations

There are countless reasons why you could be mistakenly identified and/or falsely accused of running an illegal meth lab.  Perhaps, for whatever reason, your neighbors are suspicious of you and want you out of the neighborhood...perhaps a person who actually operates a lab has provided your name to the cops in an effort to escape his own culpability...perhaps you are in the middle of an ugly custody battle, and your spouse thinks such an allegation would cause the judge to rule in her favor...

Whatever the reason, we can help.  Our experience as former prosecutors and police investigators equips us with the knowledge and resources to uncover the truth behind false allegations and to prevail on your mistaken identity defense.

3. Penalties, Punishment and Sentencing for
CA Meth Labs

Generally speaking, operating an illegal meth lab in California is a felony, punishable by either (a) probation and up to a year of county jail, or (b) three, five or seven years in the California state prison. The maximum fine is $50,000.12

And if you are convicted of offering to help establish, run or otherwise contribute to the operation of a clandestine meth lab, you face a felony, punishable probation and local time, or by three, four or five years in prison.13

In addition, because the government believes that methamphetamine is such a dangerous drug, it has created a number of statutory aggravating factors that could trigger even lengthier sentences.  These include (1) producing the crystalline form of meth, (2) causing death or injury, (3) manufacturing narcotics in the presence of children, and (4) having certain prior drug-related convictions.

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

3.1. Crystal meth

If you are convicted of specifically manufacturing crystal meth, that fact will likely trigger the five or seven-year prison term under Health and Safety Code
11379.6 HS.14

3.2. Injury or death

If you are convicted of operating a meth lab...or of attempting to manufacture meth...and the offense causes the death or great bodily injury of another person other than an accomplice, you face an additional and consecutive one-year prison sentence for each death or injury.15

This enhancement would most likely come into play in the event of a fire or explosion, which could lead to additional charges under Penal Code 452 PC California's reckless burning law, a less serious offense than
Penal Code 451 arson
.

3.3. Manufacturing narcotics in the presence of children

If you are convicted of operating a meth lab...and a child under 16 resided in the structure where the lab was located...the court will likely order you to serve the five or seven-year sentence.16

If you are convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine...and a child under 16 years was present in the meth lab...you face two years in the state prison in addition and consecutive to the term you received for the underlying violation.17

If a child under 16 suffered a great bodily injury as defined under California law, you face a five-year prison term in addition and consecutive to the term you received for the underlying violation.18

And if you

  1. used a minor (that is, a person under 18) to help you manufacture the methamphetamine, or
  2. supplied or offered to supply a minor with meth...or virtually any other illicit drug...

you face a three, six or nine-year state prison sentence.19

3.4. Prior drug-related convictions

If you are convicted of operating a meth lab...or of conspiracy to manufacture meth...and have a prior conviction for (or a conviction for conspiring to commit) a variety of drug-related offenses such as

you face a consecutive and additional three-year sentence for each prior felony conviction, even if the prior conviction did not result in a prison term.20

3.5. Drug diversion

"Drug diversion" is an alternative sentencing option that allows a nonviolent drug offender to receive drug treatment in lieu of a jail or prison sentence.  It is typically only available to offenders who are convicted of personal possession/use cases, not to those who are involved with selling and/or manufacturing drugs.California's drug diversion programs include

If you successfully complete a drug diversion program, your drug charges will ultimately be dismissed.  If your attorney can convince the prosecutor that you only manufactured meth to support your own personal addiction...and should therefore plead guilty to a personal possession charge in lieu of a manufacturing charge...you may be able to participate in one of the drug diversion programs listed above.

However, because of the high societal risks that operating a California meth lab pose, a judge may veto this type of deal if he/she doesn't believe diversion will curb your behavior with respect to manufacturing methamphetamine.

4. Related Offenses

There are a number of offenses that are related to operating a California clandestine meth lab because they are filed in connection with or in lieu of the meth lab charges.  The following are some of the most common.

4.1. Conspiracy and Health and Safety Code 11366.5 California's law against allowing another person to operate a meth lab in your home or other structure

If you knowingly allow another person to operate an illegal meth lab in a building, RV, or other structure that you own, you could face as many as four years in the state prison.23 Depending on the circumstances, prosecutors could also charge you with aiding and abetting under California law and/or
California's conspiracy laws.24

4.2. Health and Safety Code 11377, 11378 & 11379 HS California's laws against possessing, selling and/or transporting methamphetamine

Health and Safety Code 11377, 11378 & 11379 HS are the California laws that regulate the possession, sales and transportation of methamphetamine. many of these offenses commonly take place in a location where a meth lab is being operated, they are often charged together.

Possession of methamphetamine under HS 11377 is a wobbler.  A California wobbler offense is one 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.

If convicted of this offense as a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.  If convicted of this offense as a felony, you face either (a) probation and up to a year in county jail, or (b) 16 months, or two, or three years in the California state prison) and a maximum $10,000 fine.25

Both Health and Safety Code sections 11378 and 11379 HS are straight
felonies.  A "possession for sales" conviction subjects you to either (a) probation and up to a year in county jail, or (b) 16 months, or two, or three years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.26

A "sales/transportation" conviction subjects you to either (a) probation and up to a year in county jail, or (b) two, three, or four years in prison and the same fine.  If, however, you are convicted of transporting meth across more than two counties, your potential prison sentence increases to three, six, or nine years.27

4.3. Health and Safety Code 11550 HS California's law against being under the influence of a controlled substance

Health and Safety Code 11550 HS California's law against being under the influence of a controlled substance prohibits being under the influence of a controlled substance "in any detectable manner."  If...at the time the police discover that you are running a meth lab you are also under the influence of methamphetamine or any other controlled substance...prosecutors could charge you with both offenses.

A conviction for this misdemeanor drug offense subjects you to a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail.  However, most people who are charged with this offense qualify for drug diversion.

But if you are charged with HS 11550 in connection with operating an illegal meth lab, you will be precluded from participating in diversion unless your attorney can convince the prosecutor to dismiss the manufacturing charge as part of a plea bargain.28

Call us for help...
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If you or loved one is charged with operating a meth lab 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 Nevada's 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.29

Legal References:

1 California Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS - California's law against operating an illegal meth lab.  ("(a) Except as otherwise provided by law, every person who manufactures, compounds, converts, produces, derives, processes, or prepares, either directly or indirectly by chemical extraction or independently by means of chemical synthesis, any controlled substance specified in Section 11054, 11055, 11056, 11057, or 11058 shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for three, five, or seven years and by a fine not exceeding fifty thousand dollars ($50,000). (b) Except when an enhancement pursuant to Section 11379.7 is pled and proved, the fact that a person under 16 years of age resided in a structure in which a violation of this section involving methamphetamine occurred shall be considered a factor in aggravation by the sentencing court. (c) Except as otherwise provided by law, every person who offers to perform an act which is punishable under subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for three, four, or five years. (d) All fines collected pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be transferred to the State Treasury for deposit in the Clandestine Drug Lab Clean-up Account, as established by Section 5 of Chapter 1295 of the Statutes of 1987. The transmission to the State Treasury shall be carried out in the same manner as fines collected for the state by the county.")

2 See same.

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 See California Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS - California's law against operating an illegal meth lab, endnote 1, above.

5 People v. Heath (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 697, 703-704. ("The court expressly rejected the suggestion that the defendant had to be engaged in, or even have the necessary equipment for, the completion of the final product in order to be guilty of manufacturing [or of operating an illegal meth lab]. It stated: " '[T]he conduct proscribed by [Health and Safety Code] section 11379.6 encompasses the initial and intermediate steps carried out to manufacture, produce or process [a controlled substance].' " ( People v. Lancellotti, supra, 19 Cal.App.4th at p. 813, italics added, quoting People v. Jackson (1990) 218 Cal.App.3d 1493, 1504 [267 Cal.Rptr. 841].) Similarly, the court stated: " 'The ongoing and progressive making, assembly or creation of [a controlled substance] from its component chemicals may, but does not necessarily by definition, include the culmination of the manufacturing process, the finished ... product.' " ( Lancellotti, supra, at p. 814.)...[and at 705]... It is evident from the Legislature's use of such all-encompassing language that it intended to criminalize all acts which are part of the manufacturing process, whether or not those acts directly result in completion of the final product.")

6 People v. Lancellotti (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 809 [charged with operating an illegal meth lab in California].

7 People v. Pierson (App. 3 Dist. 2001) 103 Cal.Rptr.2d 817, 86 Cal.App.4th 983 [charged with operating an illegal meth lab in California].

See also California Health and Safety Code 11383.5 HS - Possession with intent to manufacture methamphetamine [that is, operating an illegal meth lab] or N-ethylamphetamine; punishment.  ("(a) Any person who possesses both methylamine and phenyl-2-propanone (phenylacetone) at the same time with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, or who possesses both ethylamine and phenyl-2-propanone (phenylacetone) at the same time with the intent to manufacture N-ethylamphetamine, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (b)(1) Any person who, with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine [in an illegal meth lab] or any of its analogs specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11055, possesses ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, or any salts, isomers, or salts of isomers of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, or who possesses a substance containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, or any salts, isomers, or salts of isomers of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, or who possesses at the same time any of the following, or a combination product thereof, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years: (A) Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine, N-methylephedrine, N-ethylephedrine, N-methylpseudoephedrine, N-ethylpseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine, plus hydriodic acid. (B) Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine, N-methylephedrine, N-ethylephedrine, N-methylpseudoephedrine, N-ethylpseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine, thionyl chloride and hydrogen gas. (C) Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine, N-methylephedrine, N-ethylephedrine, N-methylpseudoephedrine, N-ethylpseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine, plus phosphorus pentachloride and hydrogen gas. (D) Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine, N-methylephedrine, N-ethylephedrine, N-methylpseudoephedrine, N-ethylpseudoephedrine, chloroephedrine and chloropseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine, plus any reducing agent. (2) Any person who, with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine [in an illegal meth lab] or any of its analogs specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11055, possesses hydriodic acid or a reducing agent or any product containing hydriodic acid or a reducing agent is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (c) Any person who possesses the optical, positional, or geometric isomer of any of the compounds listed in this section, with the intent to manufacture any of the following controlled substances, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years: (1) Methamphetamine. (2) Any analog of methamphetamine specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11055. (3) N-ethylamphetamine. (d) Any person who possesses immediate precursors sufficient for the manufacture of methylamine, ethylamine, phenyl-2-propanone, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine, N-methylephedrine, N-ethylephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, hydriodic acid or a reducing agent, thionyl chloride, or phosphorus pentachloride, with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (e) Any person who possesses essential chemicals sufficient to manufacture hydriodic acid or a reducing agent, with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine [in an illegal meth lab], is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (f) Any person who possesses any compound or mixture containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine, N-methylephedrine, N-ethylephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, hydriodic acid or a reducing agent, thionyl chloride, or phosphorus pentachloride, with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (g) For purposes of this section, a "reducing agent" for the purposes of manufacturing methamphetamine means an agent that causes reduction to occur by either donating a hydrogen atom to an organic compound or by removing an oxygen atom from an organic compound. (h) This section does not apply to drug manufacturers licensed by this state or persons authorized by regulation of the Board of Pharmacy to possess those substances or combinations of substances.")

8Penal Code 182 PC California's conspiracy law.

See also California Jury Instructions - Criminal "CALJIC" 3.01 -- Aiding and Abetting.  ("A person aids and abets the [commission] [or] [attempted commission] of a crime when he or she: (1) With knowledge of the unlawful purpose of the perpetrator, and (2) With the intent or purpose of committing or encouraging or facilitating the commission of the crime, and (3) By act or advice, [or, by failing to act in a situation where a person has a legal duty to act,] aids, promotes, encourages or instigates the commission of the crime. [A person who aids and abets the [commission] [or] [attempted commission] of a crime need not be present at the scene of the crime.] [Mere presence at the scene of a crime which does not itself assist the commission of the crime does not amount to aiding and abetting.] [Mere knowledge that a crime is being committed and [in the absence of a legal duty to take every step reasonably possible to prevent the crime,] the failure to prevent it does not amount to aiding and abetting.]") Allowing someone to operate an illegal meth lab in a building, structure, etc. that you own could therefore trigger conspiracy and aiding and abetting charges.

See also People v. Sanchez (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 918.

9 Riverside criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi uses his former experience as an Ontario Police Officer to represent clients accused of running meth labs and other drug-related offenses throughout the Inland Empire including San Bernardino, Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, Hemet, Banning, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Barstow, Palm Springs and Victorville.

10 See California Penal Code 664.

11 People v. Small (1988) 205 Cal.App.3d 319.

12 See Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS California's law against operating a meth lab, endnote 1, above.

13 See same.

14 California Health and Safety Code 1170.74 HS - Felony offenses involving crystalline form of methamphetamine; aggravation of crime.  ("Upon conviction of a felony violation of Section 11377, 11378, 11379, or 11379.6 of the Health and Safety Code [that is, running an illegal meth lab], for an offense involving methamphetamine, the fact that the controlled substance is the crystalline form of methamphetamine shall be considered a circumstance in aggravation of the crime in imposing a term under subdivision (b) of Section 1170.")

15 Health and Safety Code 11379.9 HS - Death or great bodily injury of another person; use of methamphetamine or phencyclidine; punishment.  ("(a) Except as provided by Section 11379.7, any person convicted of a violation of, or of an attempt to violate, subdivision (a) of Section 11379.6 [running an illegal meth lab] or Section 11383, as those sections relate to methamphetamine or phencyclidine, when the commission or attempted commission of the offense causes the death or great bodily injury of another person other than an accomplice, shall, in addition and consecutive to any other punishment authorized by law, be punished by an additional term of one year in the state prison for each death or injury. (b) Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under both this section and Section 187, 192, or 12022.7, or any other provision of law. However, a person who is punished under another provision of law for causing death or great bodily injury as described in subdivision (a) shall not receive an additional term of imprisonment under this section.")

16 See Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS California's law against operating an illegal meth lab, endnote 1, above.

17 California Health and Safety Code 11379.7 HS - Convictions for specified violations involving methamphetamine or phencyclidine; structures where underage child present; great bodily injury suffered by underage child; additional punishment.  ("(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), any person convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) of Section 11379.6 [running an illegal meth lab] or Section 11383, or of an attempt to violate subdivision (a) of Section 11379.6 or Section 11383, as those sections relate to methamphetamine or phencyclidine, when the commission or attempted commission of the crime occurs in a structure where any child under 16 years of age is present, shall, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony of which he or she has been convicted, be punished by an additional term of two years in the state prison. (b) Any person convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) of Section 11379.6 or Section 11383, or of an attempt to violate subdivision (a) of Section 11379.6 [running an illegal meth lab] or Section 11383, as those sections relate to methamphetamine or phencyclidine, where the commission of the crime causes any child under 16 years of age to suffer great bodily injury, shall, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony of which he or she has been convicted, be punished by an additional term of five years in the state prison. (c) As used in this section, "structure" means any house, apartment building, shop, warehouse, barn, building, vessel, railroad car, cargo container, motor vehicle, housecar, trailer, trailer coach, camper, mine, floating home, or other enclosed structure capable of holding a child and manufacturing equipment. (d) As used in this section, "great bodily injury" has the same meaning as defined in Section 12022.7 of the Penal Code.")

18 See same.

19 California Health and Safety Code 11380 HS - Adult using minor as agent; inducing minor to violate provisions; furnishing to minor; punishment.  ("(a) Every person 18 years of age or over who violates any provision of this chapter involving controlled substances which are (1) classified in Schedule III, IV, or V and which are not narcotic drugs or (2) specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11054, except paragraphs (13), (14), (15), and (20) of subdivision (d), specified in paragraph (11) of subdivision (c) of Section 11056, specified in paragraph (2) or (3) or subdivision (f) of Section 11054, or specified in subdivision (d), (e), or (f) of Section 11055, by the use of a minor as agent, who solicits, induces, encourages, or intimidates any minor with the intent that the minor shall violate any provision of this article involving those controlled substances or who unlawfully furnishes, offers to furnish, or attempts to furnish those controlled substances to a minor shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of three, six, or nine years. (b) Nothing in this section applies to a registered pharmacist furnishing controlled substances pursuant to a prescription.") Using a child to help run an illegal meth lab by mixing, buying, or participating in the manufacture of meth clearly falls under this law.

20 California Health and Safety Code 11370.2 HS - Sentence enhancements for persons with certain prior convictions.  ("(a) Any person convicted of a violation of, or of a conspiracy to violate, Section 11351, 11351.5, or 11352 shall receive, in addition to any other punishment authorized by law, including Section 667.5 of the Penal Code, a full, separate, and consecutive three-year term for each prior felony conviction of, or for each prior felony conviction of conspiracy to violate, Section 11351, 11351.5, 11352, 11378, 11378.5, 11379, 11379.5, 11379.6 [running an illegal meth lab or  manufacturing narcotics] 11380, 11380.5, or 11383, whether or not the prior conviction resulted in a term of imprisonment. (b) Any person convicted of a violation of, or of a conspiracy to violate, Section 11378.5, 11379.5, 11379.6, 11380.5, or 11383 shall receive, in addition to any other punishment authorized by law, including Section 667.5 of the Penal Code, a full, separate, and consecutive three-year term for each prior felony conviction of, or for each prior felony conviction of conspiracy to violate, Section 11351, 11351.5, 11352, 11378, 11378.5, 11379, 11379.5, 11379.6, [running an illegal meth lab or manufacturing narcotics] 11380, 11380.5, or 11383, whether or not the prior conviction resulted in a term of imprisonment. (c) Any person convicted of a violation of, or of a conspiracy to violate, Section 11378 or 11379 with respect to any substance containing a controlled substance specified in paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (d) of Section 11055 shall receive, in addition to any other punishment authorized by law, including Section 667.5 of the Penal Code, a full, separate, and consecutive three-year term for each prior felony conviction of, or for each prior felony conviction of conspiracy to violate, Section 11351, 11351.5, 11352, 11378, 11378.5, 11379, 11379.5, 11379.6, [running an illegal meth lab or manufacturing narcotics] 11380, 11380.5, or 11383, whether or not the prior conviction resulted in a term of imprisonment. (d) The enhancements provided for in this section shall be pleaded and proven as provided by law. (e) The conspiracy enhancements provided for in this section shall not be imposed unless the trier of fact finds that the defendant conspirator was substantially involved in the planning, direction, execution, or financing of the underlying offense. (f) Prior convictions from another jurisdiction qualify for use under this section pursuant to Section 668.")

21California Penal Code 1210.1 PC (also known as Proposition 36) -- Possession of Controlled Substances; Probation; Exceptions.

22California Penal Code 1000 PC -- Application of chapter to certain violations.

23 California Health and Safety Code 11366.5 HS - Renting, leasing, or making available for use a building, room, space, or enclosure for unlawful manufacture, storage, or distribution of controlled substance; allowing building, room, space, or enclosure to be fortified to suppress law enforcement entry to further sale of specified controlled substances; punishment.  ("(a) Any person who has under his or her management or control any building, room, space, or enclosure, either as an owner, lessee, agent, employee, or mortgagee, who knowingly rents, leases, or makes available for use, with or without compensation, the building, room, space, or enclosure for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, or distributing any controlled substance for sale or distribution [for example, running an illegal meth lab] shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code. (b) Any person who has under his or her management or control any building, room, space, or enclosure, either as an owner, lessee, agent, employee, or mortgagee, who knowingly allows the building, room, space, or enclosure to be fortified to suppress law enforcement entry in order to further the sale of any amount of cocaine base as specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, cocaine as specified in paragraph (6) of subdivision (b) of Section 11055, heroin, phencyclidine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, or lysergic acid diethylamide and who obtains excessive profits from the use of the building, room, space, or enclosure shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for two, three, or four years. (c) Any person who violates subdivision (a) after previously being convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for two, three, or four years. (d) For the purposes of this section, "excessive profits" means the receipt of consideration of a value substantially higher than fair market value.")  Allowing someone to operate an illegal meth lab in a place that you own could therefore trigger conspiracy and aiding and abetting charges.

24 See endnote 8, above.

25 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 [methamphetamines fall under 11055(d)(2)], 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.")  If you possess meth for you own personal use at the time when the police discover your illegal meth lab, you could be charged with both offenses.

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.")

26 California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS - Possession of methamphetamines 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, 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.")  If the police believe you are running your illegal meth lab in order to sell the meth you are manufacturing, you could be charged with both offenses.

See also California Health and Safety Code 11379 HS -- Transportation, sale, furnishing, etc. of methamphetamines; 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 [such as methamphetamines] 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.")  If you are caught selling meth in your illegal meth lab, you will be charged with both offenses.

27 See California Health and Safety Code 11379 HS -- Transportation, sale, furnishing, etc. of methamphetamine; punishment, endnote 25, above.

28 California Health and Safety Code 11550 HS -- Under the influence of a controlled substance.  ("(a) No person shall use, or be under the influence of any controlled substance which is (1) specified in subdivision (b), (c), or (e), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, specified in paragraph (14), (15), (21), (22), or (23) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054, specified in subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11055, or specified in paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (d) or in paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) of Section 11055, or (2) a narcotic drug classified in Schedule III, IV, or V, except when administered by or under the direction of a person licensed by the state to dispense, prescribe, or administer controlled substances. It shall be the burden of the defense to show that it comes within the exception. Any person convicted of violating this subdivision is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced to serve a term of not less than 90 days or more than one year in a county jail. The court may place a person convicted under this subdivision on probation for a period not to exceed five years and, except as provided in subdivision (c), shall in all cases in which probation is granted require, as a condition thereof, that the person be confined in a county jail for at least 90 days. Other than as provided by subdivision (c), in no event shall the court have the power to absolve a person who violates this subdivision from the obligation of spending at least 90 days in confinement in a county jail. (b) Any person who (1) is convicted of violating subdivision (a) when the offense occurred within seven years of that person being convicted of two or more separate violations of that subdivision, and (2) refuses to complete a licensed drug rehabilitation program offered by the court pursuant to subdivision (c), shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than 180 days nor more than one year. In no event does the court have the power to absolve a person convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) that is punishable under this subdivision from the obligation of spending at least 180 days in confinement in a county jail unless there are no licensed drug rehabilitation programs reasonably available. For the purpose of this section, a drug rehabilitation program shall not be considered reasonably available unless the person is required to pay no more than the court determines that he or she is reasonably able to pay, in order to participate in the program. (c) The court may, when it would be in the interest of justice, permit any person convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) punishable under subdivision (a) or (b) to complete a licensed drug rehabilitation program in lieu of part or all of the imprisonment in the county jail. As a condition of sentencing, the court may require the offender to pay all or a portion of the drug rehabilitation program. In order to alleviate jail overcrowding and to provide recidivist offenders with a reasonable opportunity to seek rehabilitation pursuant to this subdivision, counties are encouraged to include provisions to augment licensed drug rehabilitation programs in their substance abuse proposals and applications submitted to the state for federal and state drug abuse funds. (d) In addition to any fine assessed under this section, the judge may assess a fine not to exceed seventy dollars ($70) against any person who violates this section, 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. (e) Notwithstanding subdivisions (a) and (b) or any other provision of law, any person who is unlawfully under the influence of cocaine, cocaine base, heroin, methamphetamine, or phencyclidine while in the immediate personal possession of a loaded, operable firearm is guilty of a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not exceeding one year or in state prison. As used in this subdivision "immediate personal possession" includes, but is not limited to, the interior passenger compartment of a motor vehicle. (f) Every person who violates subdivision (e) is punishable upon the second and each subsequent conviction by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years. (g) Nothing in this section prevents deferred entry of judgment or a defendant's participation in a preguilty plea drug court program under Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 1000) of Title 6 of Part 2 of the Penal Code unless the person is charged with violating subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 243 of the Penal Code. A person charged with violating this section by being under the influence of any controlled substance which is specified in paragraph (21), (22), or (23) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054 or in paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) of Section 11055 and with violating either subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 243 of the Penal Code or with a violation of subdivision (e) shall be ineligible for deferred entry of judgment or a preguilty plea drug court program.")  Being under the influence of drugs in conjunction with operating an illegal meth lab could lead to prosecution for both charges.

29 Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Mike Castillo for any questions relating to Nevada's meth laws. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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