I've been charged with HS 11378 possession of methamphetamines for sale. Should I accept a plea bargain to simple possession?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Oct 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

This is a scenario our California drug crimes defense attorneys see frequently: A defendant is arrested with a substantial quantity of methamphetamine (or another drug) and charged with, for example, Health and Safety Code 11378 HS possession of methamphetamines for sale.

Possession of meth (or other drugs) for sale is a California felony. If you are convicted of HS 11378, you are not eligible for drug diversion or Proposition 36 drug treatment in lieu of jail.

Prosecutors know that many people facing these kinds of penalties are frightened and desperate. So they may offer a plea bargain to Health and Safety Code 11377 HS personal possession of methamphetamine instead. Having you plead guilty to this offense saves them the time and effort of building a case for HS 11378 possession with intent to sell.

There are real advantages to accepting this kind of plea deal if it is offered to you. For starters, personal possession is only a misdemeanor and carries much lighter penalties than possession for sale. Perhaps even more compellingly, many personal possession defendants are eligible for drug diversion--allowing them to complete a drug treatment program and have the charges dropped from their record at the end of it.

But you should not accept this plea deal without first speaking to a California drug crimes lawyer!

There are several reasons why. One of the most important applies only to defendants who are not U.S. citizens (i.e., immigrants/aliens). For immigrants, even legal ones, ANY controlled substances offense--including simple possession--is a deportable crime. So pleading guilty to even a minor offense like personal meth/drug possession can lead to you being deported.

Even for defendants who are not U.S. citizens, it is possible that a plea to simple possession is not the best deal possible. It could well be that the prosecution's evidence that you possessed usable quantities of the drugs at all--or that you possessed them knowingly, a key element of both HS 11377 personal possession and HS 11378 possession for sale--is weak. Or it could be that the investigation is tainted by police misconduct.

In these sorts of cases, it may be relatively easy for your meth crimes defense attorney to secure an outright dismissal of the charges against you. A plea bargain to a lesser charge may not be necessary to avoid felony penalties.

This reasoning also applies to possession for sale of other controlled substances besides methamphetamine, of course--for example, possession for sale of heroin or ketamine--and to drug trafficking offenses such as HS 11379 transport or sale of methamphetamines.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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