Health & Safety Code 11357(c) is the California statute that defines the crime of possessing marijuana on school grounds. People commit this offense if they are 18 years of age or older and possess marijuana on the grounds of a K-12 school. A violation of this code section is a misdemeanor punishable by a $250 fine.
The language of HS 11357c states:
“Except as authorized by law, a person 18 years of age or older who possesses not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis, or not more than eight grams of concentrated cannabis, upon the grounds of, or within, any school providing instruction in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, during hours the school is open for classes or school-related programs is guilty of a misdemeanor…”
- walking on the grounds of a school during school hours with marijuana.
- hanging out in a grade school parking lot after school, but during a post school program, with concentrated cannabis.
- attending a child’s parent-teacher conference with an ounce of marijuana in a pocket.
People accused of a crime under this statute can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. A few common defenses include defendants showing that:
- they did not “possess” marijuana,
- a school was not open, and/or
- the police conducted an unlawful search and seizure.
The crime is punishable by a fine of $250. A second or subsequent violation of this law can lead to:
- a maximum fine of $500, and/or
- custody in county jail for up to 10 days.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. Is it a crime to possess marijuana on school grounds?
- 2. Are there defenses to Health & Safety Code 11357(c) HS?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. Is it a crime to possess marijuana on school grounds?
Per HS 11357c, people commit a crime if they:
- are 18 years old or over,
- possess not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or not more than eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
- do so while on the grounds of a K-12 school while the school is open for classes or school-related programs.1
Under California criminal law, people possess marijuana if they:
- have it on their person (for example, in a pocket or backpack), or
- have control over it (for example, they carry the drug in the trunk of a car).
Note that on January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows adults aged 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of dried marijuana or eight grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish).
However, marijuana legalization in California does not mean that a person can never be penalized for the use of marijuana or possessing marijuana or concentrated cannabis. For example, a district attorney can prosecute someone for marijuana possession either:
- under this statute, or
- per HS 11357a if they possess more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than eight grams of concentrated cannabis.
Further, a person is guilty of DUI if they operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, per Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC.
2. Are there defenses to Health & Safety Code 11357(c) HS?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help clients contest charges under this code section. Three common ones include a lawyer showing that:
- the defendant did not possess marijuana.
- the accused was not on the grounds of an open school.
- law enforcement conducted an unlawful search and seizure.
2.1. No possession
People are only guilty under this statute if they are in actual possession of marijuana. Further, “possession” has a precise definition under California law. Therefore, a defendant can always use the defense that he/she did not possess a drug. Perhaps, for example, someone else was present and had control over the marijuana.
2.2. School not open
Recall that people are only guilty under this code section if they possessed marijuana while on the grounds of a school open for classes or school-related programs. This means it is always a defense for defendants to show that they were on the grounds of a school that was closed.
2.3. Unlawful search and seizure
This is a popular defense for many drug crimes. California law says that law enforcement can only conduct a search or seize items pursuant to a valid search warrant. If they do not have one, then they must have a valid excuse. If no warrant or excuse, then any evidence gathered from the unlawful search or seizure can get excluded from the case.
If a defendant can show that the police conducted an illegal search or seizure, then a judge could dismiss evidence from a case, reduce a defendant’s charges, or drop the charges entirely.
3. What are the penalties?
The unlawful possession of marijuana under this law is a misdemeanor.2
In the State of California, a first offense under this code section is punishable by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars.3
If a defendant has prior convictions under this law, then a subsequent offense is punishable by:
- a maximum fine of five hundred dollars, and/or
- custody in county jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to 10 days.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to the possession of marijuana on school grounds. These are:
- possession of methamphetamine – HS 11377,
- sale or transportation of methamphetamine – HS 11379, and
- possession of methamphetamine for sale – HS 11378.
4.1. Possession of methamphetamine – HS 11377
Per Health & Safety Code 11377 HS, possession of methamphetamine is the crime where people are in the unlawful possession of methamphetamines as well as certain other narcotics.
The term “possession” under this statute has the same meaning as under HS 11357.
4.2. Sale or transportation of methamphetamine – HS 11379
Per Health & Safety Code 11379 HS, the sale or transportation of methamphetamine is the crime where people sell methamphetamine or transport the controlled substance for sale.
Note that this statute does not criminalize the personal use of meth.
California law treats a violation of this law in a more severe manner than a violation of HS 11357. A conviction under this code section is a felony offense punishable by up to four years in county jail.
4.3. Possession of methamphetamine for sale – HS 11378
Under Health & Safety Code 11378 HS, possession of methamphetamine for sale is the crime where people possess methamphetamines with the intent to sell the drug.
As with charges under HS 11357, people can challenge charges under this statute by showing that police conducted an unlawful search and seizure.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
Our lawyers also represent clients throughout California State, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Glendale, Long Beach, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Sacramento.
- California Health and Safety Code 11357c HS.
- See same.
- California Health and Safety Code 11357c1 HS.