Health & Safety Code 11377 HS is a California law that makes it illegal for individuals to possess methamphetamines for personal use. This is a drug crime that is charged as a misdemeanor because voters in California passed Proposition 47 in 2014, a measure that requires that possession of methamphetamine and most other illicit drugs be charged only as a misdemeanor. However, it is important to remember that any type of drug crime conviction can have a significant impact on an individual’s life.
What Are Methamphetamines?
Methamphetamines are powerful, highly addictive stimulants that affect the central nervous system. These drugs are commonly known by a number of other names including meth, blue, ice and crystal. It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder, which dissolves easily in alcohol or water. It is designated as a “controlled substance” meaning its manufacture, possession and use are regulated under the federal Controlled Substances Act. It is illegal to possess methamphetamines without a valid prescription.
Methamphetamines today are some of the most abused drugs and are frequently manufactured and sold illegally. Most methamphetamine that results in criminal charges in California comes from Mexico. However, California still has a number of illegal meth labs that manufacture these drugs. Individuals run these makeshift labs out of their homes, garages or even warehouses. Since these drugs are easily available and relatively cheap, they are an attractive option for those seeking to use drugs. Prosecutors in California aggressively prosecute all drug crimes, particularly those involving methamphetamine.
Possession of meth for personal use, a violation of HS 11377, is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, in California, your charge could be escalated to a felony if you have a prior conviction for a serious felony such as sexual assault, murder or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
In meth possession cases, a defendant may be eligible for drug diversion programs instead of jail time particularly if he or she is a first- or second-time non-violent offender and if the meth was only for personal use. Drug diversion programs are essentially alternative sentencing options that allow those who abuse drugs to receive treatment instead of being incarcerated. However, this option is not available to those who are convicted of selling meth or possessing the drug for sale.
Those who have been arrested for possession of a controlled substance should speak with a reputable lawyer to learn more about their options as each case will be unique.
What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove?
As with any crime, prosecutors must prove that the defendant illegally possessed methamphetamines for personal use. In order to obtain a conviction in such a case, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
The methamphetamine was unlawfully possessed. Even though methamphetamine is not a drug that is commonly prescribed, it can be legally possessed with a valid prescription. However, if you don’t have a valid prescription, it is unlawful to possess it. The methamphetamines need not be pure for the prosecutor to get a conviction. Even if the meth has been mixed with other substances, it is still a violation to possess it.
You knew of its presence. In order to be convicted of possessing meth, you should actually have knowledge of its presence on your person, your vehicle or home. For example, if someone you know left the drug in your home and you had no idea it was there, you cannot be found guilty of possessing meth. If you possessed meth, but did not realize that the substance you possessed was a controlled substance, that cannot be considered a violation of section 11377. However, if you knew you were in possession of a controlled substance, but didn’t know it was meth, you are still in violation of law. For example, if you possessed meth, but believed it was heroin, you would still be violating section 11377.
The quantity of drugs was sufficient to be used. The prosecutor must also show that the amount of meth you possessed was usable. For example, if you are found with a negligible amount of meth that cannot actually used as a drug, it can be difficult for the prosecutor to show that you possessed a usable amount of the controlled substance.
Possession Versus Sale Charges
A prosecutor will typically consider whether you possessed the meth for personal use or for sale while considering how to charge you. HS 11377 refers to possession of meth for personal use only. This is also often known as “simple possession.” However, it is a much more serious crime to possess methamphetamines for sale under Health and Safety Code 11378 HS.
So, how does a prosecutor determine whether to charge you with “simple possession” or “possession for sale?” They might go by your statements. They will consider the quantity of methamphetamine that was in your possession. A larger quantity points to an intent to sell the drug. Prosecutors will also look at how the drugs are packaged. If they are in several zipped bags, it might be viewed as intent to sell. However, if it’s in one baggie or bottle, it would seem intended for personal use. In addition, officials often look at the presence of drug paraphernalia. If they find paraphernalia such as needles, pipes or straws, it could serve as evidence that the drugs were for personal use.
Fighting Meth Possession Charges
The legal defenses to fight meth possession charges depend largely on the nature and circumstances of your case. Here are some of the common defenses in such cases:
- The defendant had a valid prescription and possessed only the amount that was prescribed.
- The methamphetamines belonged to someone else.
- The drugs were discovered in violation of California’s search and seizure laws. This is the case if the law enforcement officials did not have a valid search warrant to search your person or property such as a home or vehicle.
- You were stopped and search without probable cause or consent.
If you or a loved one has been arrested of possessing methamphetamine, please contact an experienced California drug crime defense lawyer who will help protect your rights and help you obtain an acquittal, reduce the charges or an alternative sentencing such as a drug diversion program instead of jail time. Get the best care by contacting a local and reputable attorney right away. Our Orange County criminal defense attorney law firm serves people like you throughout Southern California including Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego among others.
Call us now to get a free consultation. (949) 264-2114