California law makes it a crime to have possession of or be under the influence of ecstasy (MDMA); to sell, transport, traffic or manufacture the drug, or to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of the drug. In most cases, simple possession of ecstasy for personal use is treated as a misdemeanor.
Driving under the influence of ecstasy is also a misdemeanor for first-time defendants under Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC, California’s driving under the influence of drugs law. 1 2
However, a conviction for possessing ecstasy for sale, or selling or transporting ecstasy, will lead to California felony penalties.3
The following table summarizes the penalties for the most common California ecstasy charges:
|California Ecstasy Crime||Code Section||Type of Offense||Penalties||Eligible for Drug Diversion?|
|Possession of ecstasy for personal use||HS 11377||Misdemeanor (for most defendants)||Up to 1 year in county jail; up to $1,000 fine||Yes|
|Possession of ecstasy for sale||HS 11378||Felony||16 months, 2 years or 3 years in prison; up to $10,000 fine||No|
|Sale/transportation for sale of ecstasy||HS 11379||Felony||2 to 9 years in prison; up to $10,000 fine||No|
|Driving under the influence of ecstasy||VC 23152(f)||Misdemeanor (in most cases)||Driver’s license suspension; up to $390 fine; 3 to 5 years DUI probation||No|
|California Ecstasy Crime||Penalties|
|HS 11377 possession of ecstasy for personal use||Misdemeanor penalties: up to 1 year in county jail; up to $1,000 fine|
|HS 11378 possession of ecstasy for sale||Felony penalties: 16 months to 3 years in prison; up to $10,000 fine|
|HS 11379 sale/transportation for sale of ecstasy||Felony penalties: 2 to 9 years in prison; up to $10,000 fine|
|VC 23152(f) driving under the influence of ecstasy||Misdemeanor penalties: driver’s license suspension; up to $390 in fines; 3-5 years of DUI probation|
Fortunately, our California ecstasy attorneys excel at fighting bogus ecstasy and other drug charges. As a law firm comprised of former cops and prosecutors, we have the inside knowledge that is essential to defending against drug crimes.
In this article, our California criminal defense lawyers will answer the following frequently asked questions about ecstasy charges:
- 1. What are the Penalties for Violating California Ecstasy Laws?
- 1.1. What are the penalties for personal possession of ecstasy (Health & Safety Code 11377 HS)?
- 1.2. What are the penalties for possession or purchase of ecstasy for sale (Health & Safety Code 11378 HS)?
- 1.3. What are the penalties for transporting or selling ecstasy (Health & Safety Code 11379 HS)?
- 1.4. What are the penalties for driving under the influence of ecstasy (Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC)?
- 2. How Can I Fight California Ecstasy Charges?
- 3. What is Ecstasy?
If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
Our California ecstasy attorneys have experience with the penalties for the following key California ecstasy laws:
If the police find you in possession of ecstasy for personal use, you will most likely face charges for violating Health & Safety Code 11377 HS, California’s law against possessing certain controlled substances (including methamphetamines and GHB as well as ecstasy/MDMA).4
HS 11377 simple possession of ecstasy is usually a misdemeanor. Consequences of misdemeanor possessing ecstasy can include:
- up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or
- a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).5
However, you will face California felony penalties--including 16 months or two or three years in jail--for California ecstasy possession if you have a prior conviction on your record for either:
- 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.6
The good news is that a conviction for simple possession of ecstasy allows eligible defendants to participate in a California drug diversion program in lieu of prison. “Drug diversion” is a program where qualified defendants participate in drug treatment instead of being incarcerated and are then entitled to a dismissal of their ecstasy possession charge after completing the treatment.
Drug diversion is authorized through
1.2. What are the penalties for possession or purchase of ecstasy for sale (Health & Safety Code 11378 HS)?
If you possess ecstasy for sale rather than for personal use, you violate Health and Safety 11378 HS, California’s “possession or purchase of a controlled substance for sale” law (which also applies to meth and GHB).
Possessing E for sale is a California felony, punishable by 16 months, or two or three years in jail, and a maximum $10,000 fine.7
Possession for sale of ecstasy under HS 11378 involves possessing an amount of ecstasy that indicates an intent to sell the drug, not just an intention to consume it personally.
Drug diversion is not available in connection with possessing ecstasy for sale through any of Prop 36, PC 1000, or California drug courts.
But as Oakland ecstasy and drug crimes defense attorney Neil Shouse8 explains,
“If your California ecstasy attorney can either (1) negotiate a plea bargain to a personal possession charge instead of a possession for sales charge, or (2) convince the judge/jury that you only possessed the ecstasy for your personal use.and that you didn’t intend to sell it, then you may be entitled to participate in drug diversion even if you are initially charged with HS 11378 ecstasy possession for sale.”
You violate Health and Safety Code 11379 HS, California’s “transporting or selling a controlled substance” law, when you sell ecstasy, transport ecstasy for sale, or do any of the following:
- import (that is, bringing ecstasy into California with intent to sell it),
- furnish (supply by any means — sale or otherwise),
- administer (giving ecstasy directly to another person), or
- give away,
A conviction for sale/transport for sale of ecstasy is a felony, subjecting you to a maximum $10,000 fine and two, three or four years in jail (or to three, six or nine years if you transport ecstasy for sale across more than two county lines).10
And if the judge believes that you knew — or reasonably should have known. — hat the recipient of the ecstasy
- was pregnant,
- had previously been convicted of a violent felony, or
- was being treated for a mental health disorder or for a drug problem,
he/she will likely impose the harshest term available under the law.11 This means that if, for example, you face a two, three or four-year prison term for HS 11379 ecstasy charges, the judge will likely impose the four-year term.
Finally, a conviction for any of these California ecstasy-related offenses could lead to your deportation or removal if you are a legal immigrant or another non-citizen.12 For many defendants facing ecstasy charges, deportation is the harshest of the potential penalties they face if convicted.
If you drive under the influence of ecstasy, you violate Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC, California’s driving under the influence of drugs law.13
Driving “under the influence” of ecstasy means that the drug has affected your nervous system, brain, or muscles enough to impair to an appreciable degree your ability to safely operate a vehicle.14
Most convictions for DUI of ecstasy are misdemeanors, subjecting you to possible jail time and fines. Drug diversion is not available in connection with a California conviction for driving under the influence of ecstasy.
Fortunately, there are a variety of legal defenses for fighting California ecstasy-related charges that an experienced drug crimes defense attorney can present on your behalf.
The best legal defenses for your ecstasy/MDMA case will depend on the exact circumstances of your offense. That said, some of the most common ecstasy/drug crimes California defenses include:.
- You were not actually under the influence of ecstasy (a legal defense to a California driving under the influence pf ecstasy charge--perhaps your alleged impairment was due to fatigue, sickness or another “innocent” explanation);
- The legal defense of entrapment (that is, you only possessed or sold the ecstasy because the police lured or coerced you into doing so);
- You possessed ecstasy for personal use and not for sale (a way to avoid HS 11378 ecstasy possession for sale charges in favor of HS 11377 simple possession, which ut may also allow you to participate in California drug diversion);
- You were the victim of mistaken identity (that is, the seized ecstasy didn’t belong to you); and
- You were the victim of police misconduct because the police
- violated California’s search and seizure laws when they discovered and/or seized the ecstasy,
- “planted” ecstasy on you or fabricated other evidence in an effort to cover up their own incompetence or police misconduct, or
- engaged in any other illegal activity that violated your constitutional rights (there is some overlap here with the legal defense of entrapment).
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is more commonly known as ecstasy, “X”, “E” and “XTC.” MDMA/ecstasy is a “controlled substance” under the United States Controlled Substances Act.
The Controlled Substances Act classifies ecstasy as a Schedule I drug, which means that it has
- a high potential for abuse, and
- no currently accepted medical use in the United States.15
Ecstasy is primarily available as a tablet, although it is sometimes sold as a powder.
The history of ecstasy
Ecstasy was developed in 1912 by the pharmaceutical company Merck. During the 1970s and 1980s, U.S. psychiatrists began using ecstasy as a psychotherapeutic tool to help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, despite the fact that the drug never received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.16
During this same time, ecstasy became a popular street drug as well. Then, in 1985, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency banned the narcotic.17
Ecstasy’s use as a “club drug”
Ecstasy is most popular as a “club drug”--that is, a recreational drug often used by “partygoers” to enhance their experiences at clubs, raves, concerts, parties, bars, etc.
Club drugs like ecstasy generally provide a stimulating and psychedelic effect which makes many users feel euphoric. But there are dangers associated with ecstasy as well, including potentially deadly dehydration or heatstroke, blurred vision, anxiety and panic attacks.18
In addition, many ecstasy tablets contain other drugs that can increase adverse reactions (such as methamphetamines, GHB, or heroin). Similarly, mixing ecstasy with alcohol or other drugs can trigger negative reactions.19
Call us for help . . .
If you or a loved one is facing California ecstasy charges and looking for more information from an experienced California ecstasy attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in the 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.
- Health and Safety Code 11377 HS — Personal possession of [drugs including ecstasy]. (“(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 1170. 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.”)
- Vehicle Code 23536 VC — Conviction of first violation of § 23152 [including VC 23152(f) driving under the influence of ecstasy]; punishment. (“(a) If a person is convicted of a first violation of Section 23152, that person shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 96 hours, at least 48 hours of which shall be continuous, nor more than six months, and by a fine of not less than three hundred ninety dollars ($390), nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000).
- Health & Safety Code 11378 HS — Possession for sale of [drugs including ecstasy]. (“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: . . . “) See also Health & Safety Code 11379 HS — Sale/transportation of [drugs including ecstasy]. (“(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, 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 pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for a period of two, three, or four years. (b) Notwithstanding the penalty provisions of subdivision (a), any person who transports any controlled substances specified in subdivision (a) within this state from one county to another noncontiguous county shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for three, six, or nine years. (c) For purposes of this section, “transports” means to transport for sale.”)
- Health and Safety Code 11377 HS — Personal possession of [drugs including ecstasy]. 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 [such as ecstasy simple possession] or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.”)
- Health & Safety Code 11378 HS — Possession for sale of [drugs including ecstasy], endnote 3 above.
- Oakland ecstasy and drug crimes defense attorney and Shouse Law Group managing attorney Neil Shouse uses his experience as a former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney to defend clients accused of ecstasy possession and other drug crimes throughout California.
- See also Health & Safety Code 11379 HS — Sale/transportation of [drugs including ecstasy], endnote 3 above.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 1170.82 PC — Controlled substances; sale or transfer; aggravation of crime. (“Upon a conviction of a violation of Section 11352, 11360, 11379 [ecstasy transportation or sale], or 11379.5 of the Health and Safety Code, the fact that the person who committed the offense knew, or reasonably should have known, that any of the following circumstances existed with regard to the person to whom he or she unlawfully sold, furnished, administered, or gave away a controlled substance, shall be a circumstance in aggravation of the crime in imposing a term pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 1170: (a) The person was pregnant at the time of the selling, furnishing, administering, or giving away of the controlled substance. (b) The person had been previously convicted of a violent felony, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5. (c) The person was in psychological treatment for a mental disorder or for substance abuse at the time of the selling, furnishing, administering, or giving away of the controlled substance.”)
- 8 U.S.C. 1227 — Deportable aliens [including aliens convicted of ecstasy crimes].
- Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC — Driving under the influence of ecstasy. (“(e) It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”)
- People v. Enriquez (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 661, 665. (“The term “under the influence” differs for the purposes of section 23152, subdivision (a) and Health and Safety Code, section 11550. “To be ‘under the influence’ within the meaning of the Vehicle Code, the … drug(s) [in this case, ecstasy] must have so far affected the nervous system, the brain, or muscles as to impair to an appreciable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner like that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties.”)
- California Health and Safety Code 11054 HS — Schedule I; substances included [includes ecstasy/MDMA]. See also 21 U.S.C. Section 812 — The United States Controlled Substances Act [describing schedule system that includes ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug].
- Ecstasy/MDMA Frequently Asked Questions, at verywell.com. See also WiseGEEK – What is Ecstasy?
- DanceSafe – Ecstasy. See also “WiseGEEK – What is Ecstasy?”, endnote 16 above.