The 7 “Meth” laws that a person can be charged with in California

CA Possession of Methamphetamine (Health & Safety Code 11377)

More info at http://www.shouselaw.com/hs-11377.html A criminal defense lawyer explains California laws on possession of meth (methamphetamine). Health & Safety Code 11377 HS used to be a wobbler, meaning that having any amount of methamphetamine could be filed as a felony, carrying up to 3 years in state prison. However, the law changed in November 2014 with Proposition 47. Now possession of meth under Health & Safety Code 11377 HS is now a misdemeanor. A conviction carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. Even as a misdemeanor, a methamphetamine conviction triggers significant consequences and a stained criminal record. But as we explain in this video, a good criminal defense lawyer can often fight the charges successfully to get the case dismissed. A conviction for simple possession of meth also qualifies for drug diversion per Penal Code 1000 PC. However, possession for sale, sales, transportation, trafficking or manufacturing of methamphetamine are still felony offenses for which drug diversion is not available.


There are seven primary crimes involving methamphetamine, or “meth,” that a person can be arrested for in California, depending on the specific facts of a case. These offenses are:

  1. under the influence of a controlled substance, per HSC 11550,
  2. possession of meth, per HSC 11377,
  3. possession of methamphetamine for sale, per HSC 11378,
  4. sale of methamphetamine, per HSC 11379,
  5. manufacturing of drugs and narcotics, per HSC 11379.6,
  6. transportation of meth, per HSC 11379, and
  7. trafficking of meth, per HSC 11379.

Examples of illegal acts under the above statutes include:

  • Peter uses meth at a concert and is found by authorities heavily under the influence of the drug.
  • Nia operates a methamphetamine lab out of her garage.
  • Marcos puts 20 grams of meth in his car and drives to a “meeting spot” to sell the drugs to customers.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a defendant can raise if accused of a crime under any of California's methamphetamine laws. These include showing that the defendant:

Penalties

A violation of the above laws is largely charged as a felony (as opposed to an infraction or a misdemeanor). Specific penalties may include:

  • imprisonment in county jail or state prison for up to seven years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $50,000.

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may award a defendant with felony (or formal) probation.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

bag containing meth

1. What is the legal definition of “under the influence of a controlled substance?”

Health and Safety Code 11550 HS is the California statute that makes it a crime to be under the influence of a controlled substance or a narcotic drug.1

Controlled substances” subject to this statute are listed in California Health and Safety Code sections 11054-11058 HS and in Health and Safety Code 11019 HS. Some of the most common substances include (but are not limited to):

  • methamphetamine,
  • heroin,
  • cocaine, and
  • PCP.

Marijuana is specifically excluded from HSC 11550. Offenses involving marijuana use and possession are regulated separately under California's marijuana laws.

A violation of HSC 11550 is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.2

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

2. What is the legal definition of “possession of meth?”

Health & Safety Code 11377 HS is the California drug law that makes it a crime to possess methamphetamine and certain other narcotics for personal use.3

Possession” generally means that a person is holding a drug or has access to it.

A violation of HSC 11377 is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.4

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

3. What is the legal definition of “possession of methamphetamine for sale?”

California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS makes it illegal for a person to possess methamphetamine with the intent to sell it.5

A prosecutor must prove five things in order to successfully convict a person under HSC 11378. These are that the accused:

  1. possessed crystal meth or another prohibited controlled substance,
  2. knew that he possessed a drug,
  3. knew that the drug was a controlled substance,
  4. possessed enough of the drug to sell it for consumption, and
  5. possessed the drug with the specific intent to sell it.6

A violation of this statute is a California felony.

The basic penalties for possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell are:

  • 16 months, two years, or three years in jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $10,000.7
meth lab

4. What is the legal definition of the “sale of methamphetamine?”

California Health and Safety Code 11379 HS makes it a crime for a person to sell methamphetamine. The statute also makes it a crime for a person to transport methamphetamine for sale.8

Other illegal acts under HS 11379 include giving away meth or administering it to another person. A person also violates California's sale/transportation of methamphetamine law just by offering to do any of these things.9

Selling, transporting, giving away or administering methamphetamine under Health and Safety Code 11379 HS carries felony penalties in California.

The basic consequences of a meth sales conviction are:

  • two, three, or four years in jail, and/or
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.10

5. What is the legal definition of the “manufacturing of drugs and narcotics?”

California Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS prohibits illegally manufacturing drugs, narcotics or controlled substances.11

Some typical examples of manufacturing narcotics include:

  • operating a meth lab, or
  • mixing "precursor" chemicals that are used to make other narcotics.

A "controlled substance" is one whose manufacture, possession and use are regulated by the government under the United States "Controlled Substances Act". Some commonly manufactured controlled substances include (but are not limited to):

  • meth,
  • heroin,
  • cocaine,
  • PCP, and
  • LSD.

A violation of HSC 11379.6 is charged as a felony in California. The crime is punishable by:

  • three, five or seven years in county jail, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $50,000.12

6. What is the legal definition of the “transportation of meth?”

California Health and Safety Code 11379 HS makes it a crime for a person to transport methamphetamine for sale. The statute also makes it a crime for a person to sell meth.

More specifically, the statute prohibits any person to:

  • sell or exchange crystal meth for money, services or anything else of value,
  • transport meth from one location to another (regardless of distance) with the intent to sell it,
  • give away or provide crank to others,
  • administer meth to someone else, and/or
  • offer or attempt to perform any of the foregoing acts.13

Selling, transporting, giving away or administering methamphetamine under Health and Safety Code 11379 HS carries felony penalties in California.

The basic consequences of a meth sales conviction are:

  • two, three, or four years in jail, and/or
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.14

7. What is the legal definition of “trafficking methamphetamine?”

California Health and Safety Code 11379 makes it a crime for a person to “traffic” methamphetamine.15

The “trafficking” of meth includes:

  • selling the drug,
  • transporting it, and
  • illegally importing it.

A violation of HSC 11379 is charged as a California felony.

The basic consequences of a meth trafficking conviction are:

  • two, three, or four years in jail, and/or
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.16
judge speaking with attorney

8. Are there legal defenses to accusations of violating a California meth law?

A person accused of breaking a California methamphetamine law can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.

Three common defenses to these crimes are:

  1. no meth,
  2. coerced confession, and/or
  3. no probable cause.

8.1. No meth

A person can only be convicted under one of the above laws if he performs some act with actual methamphetamine. This means it is always a solid legal defense for a defendant to show that he was not acting with meth (e.g., he may have had an imitation of the drug).

8.2. Coerced confession

California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession.

If a party can show that the police coerced him into a confession, then:

  1. the judge may exclude the confession from evidence, or
  2. the case could get dropped altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.

8.3. No probable cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a suspect of a crime.

If a person was stopped or arrested for violating a meth law, and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

Were you accused of violating a meth law in California? Call us for help…

meth attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime involving methamphetamine, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

For meth charges in Colorado, please see our article on: “Colorado Methamphetamine Laws.”

And for meth charges in Nevada, please see our article on: “Nevada "Methamphetamine / Crystal Meth" Laws Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers.”


Legal References:

  1. California Health and Safety Code 11550 HS.

  2. See same.

  3. California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS.

  4. See same.

  5. California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS.

  6. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) 2016, Instruction 2304 -- Health & Safety Code 11378 Possession of Methamphetamine for Sale.

  7. California Health and Safety Code 11378 HS.

  8. California Health and Safety Code 11379 HS.

  9. See same.

  10. See same.

  11. California Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS.

  12. See same.

  13. California Health and Safety Code 11379 HS.

  14. See same.

  15. See same.

  16. See same.

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