Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS is the main statute that makes it illegal to operate a meth lab in the State of California. The law says that it is a criminal offense for you to manufacture methamphetamines or other narcotics. The crime is a serious felony that could lead to a state prison term of seven or more years.
Note that prosecutors can also use Health and Safety Code 11366 HS to file charges regarding operating a meth lab. This law makes it a misdemeanor or felony offense for you to operate or maintain a drug house.
A “drug house” is generally a place for unlawfully:
- giving away, or
- using controlled substances.
- making crystal meth in your home.
- maintaining a storage unit and allowing other people to sell meth out of it.
- storing a large quantity of chloropseudoephedrine (a substance exclusively used to manufacture meth) in your garage.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help clients contest meth lab charges. Some of these include showing that:
- your acts were merely preparatory,
- you were arrested after an illegal search and seizure, and/or
- you were falsely accused.
- custody in state prison for up to seven years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $50,000.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What are the California laws on operating a meth lab?
- 2. Are there common defenses to California meth charges?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses
1. What are the California laws on operating a meth lab?
California has two primary laws that prosecutors can use to file charges regarding operating a meth lab. These are:
- Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS, and
- Health and Safety Code 11366 HS.
1.1. Manufacturing meth – HS 11379.6
HS 11379.6 makes it a crime if you do any of the following in relation to meth or another narcotic:
- process, and
Note that to be convicted of this offense, it is not necessary that you completely finish manufacturing the methamphetamine. If you are engaged in any part of the manufacturing process, even in an initial or intermediate stage, you are guilty of manufacturing meth.2
However, acts that are merely preparatory are insufficient to sustain a conviction for operating a California meth lab.3
1.2. Operating a drug house – HS 11366
HS 11366 makes it a crime for you to:
- open or maintain a place, and
- do so with the intent to sell, give away, or allow other people to use meth or another controlled substance or narcotic drug on a continuous or repeated basis.4
For purposes of this statute, a “place” usually means a house or apartment. But it also includes other structures such as hotel and motel rooms.5
A violation of Health & Safety Code Section 11366 is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
As a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by custody in county jail for up to one year.
As a felony, the crime is punishable by custody in jail or state prison for up to three years.
2. Are there common defenses to California meth charges?
Yes. You have the right to raise a legal defense to challenge a meth lab charge. Three common defenses when it comes to operating meth lab charges include showing that:
- your acts were merely preparatory.
- you were arrested after an unlawful search and seizure.
- you were falsely accused.
2.1. Your acts were merely preparatory
Recall that when it comes to charges under HS 11379.6, you are not guilty of a crime if you merely prepared in the manufacturing of meth. This means you can always raise the defense that you:
- did not significantly contribute to the manufacturing process, and
- never really knew that someone was manufacturing meth.
2.2. The police engaged in an illegal search and seizure
If police arrest you in violation of California’s search and seizure laws, your meth charges should get dismissed.
An unlawful search and seizure includes law enforcement entering an alleged meth lab and doing so:
- without a valid search warrant,
- using a warrant that was based on information provided by an unreliable police or private informant,
- without probable cause, or
- while searching in an area that is beyond that which is identified in the warrant.
2.3. You were falsely accused
Unfortunately, people get falsely accused of meth crimes all the time. Someone might lie and accuse you of a meth offense out of:
- jealousy, or
- an attempt to hide their own illegal acts.
No matter the specific reason, though, you can contest a meth lab charge by saying you were unjustly blamed of a crime.
3. What are the penalties?
Violations of HS 11379.6 are charged as felonies. Depending on the facts of your case, a conviction can result in a jail or prison term of:
- three years,
- five years, or
- seven years.6
But note that California imposes several aggravating factors that can lead to longer sentences. For example, you can receive:
- a five- or seven-year sentence for manufacturing crystal meth,7
- an additional one year in prison if someone was injured or killed in relation to operating a meth lab,8
- additional time in confinement if you are convicted on meth charges and you have certain prior drug-related convictions.9
Please see Section 1.2 for the penalties involving violations of HS 11366.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to operating a meth lab. These are:
- possessing meth – HS 11377a,
- possessing meth for sale – HS 11378, and
- transportation or selling methamphetamine – HS 11379.
4.1. Possessing meth – HS 11377a
Per Health and Safety Code 11377a HS, possessing meth is the crime where you possess methamphetamine or other narcotic drugs.
In relation to operating a meth lab charges, possession charges are les severe. A conviction for carrying meth can result in:
- up to one year in county jail, and/or
- a fine of up to $1,000.
4.2. Possession of meth for sale – HS 11378
Per Health and Safety Code 11378 HS, possession of meth for sale is the crime where you:
- possess methamphetamine, and
- do so with the intent to sell it.
As with violations of HS 11379.6, violations of this statute are charged as felonies. However, the crime is only punishable by up to three years in jail.
4.3. Transportation or sale of methamphetamine – HS 11379
Under Health and Safety Code 11379 HS, transportation or sale of meth is the crime where you sell methamphetamine or transport methamphetamine for sale.
As with meth lab charges, you can challenge a charge under this statute with the defense 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.
- CALCROM 2330 – Manufacturing a Controlled Substance, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2022 edition).
- People v. Heath (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 697.
- People v. Pierson (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 983.
- CALCRIM No. 2440 – Maintaining a Place for Controlled Substance Sale or Use, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2020 edition).
- See, for example, People v. Shoals (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 475. See also People v. Vera (1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 1100.
- California Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS
- California Health and Safety Code 1170.74 HS.
- California Health and Safety Code 11379.9 HS.
- California Health and Safety Code 11370.2 HS.