Methamphetamine, often referred to as meth, is a dangerous and powerful substance that has the potential to cause serious problems. Because meth is highly addictive, it is a crime to possess or sell it in California. If you are found to have a usable amount of the drug without a valid prescription, you could face an arrest and criminally charged under Health and Safety Code 11377. You can be charged for possession of methamphetamine at both federal levels depending on the circumstances of your case. Either way, a conviction under this statute will result in severe legal penalties.
In addition to jail time and probation, a conviction for possession of meth will remain in a criminal record and potentially ruin your personal and professional relationships. If you or a loved one faces criminal charges under this statute, it would be best to enlist the services of a knowledgeable criminal lawyer. At Darwish Law, we will examine your case and develop the best strategy to move forward in defending against the charges. We serve clients seeking legal insight to fight drug-related charges in Santa Ana, CA.
Overview of California Health and Safety Code 11377
Meth, commonly known as ice, shard, or glass, is a potent stimulant with a serious and negative stigma. In the recent past, meth has been prescribed to individuals suffering from ADHD and obesity. However, with alternative treatment options for these disorders, you are less likely to receive a prescription for meth. Under California Health and Safety Code 11377, it is a crime to have methamphetamine without a valid prescription.
If you face charges for possession of meth, you could face an uphill battle to have your rights respected in the justice system and avoid a conviction. However, before you face a conviction under this statute, the prosecution must prove these elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. You Unlawfully Possessed Methamphetamine
Possession of meth is considered unlawful if you do not have a valid prescription. While the unlawful part of this element may be straightforward, proving possession is not easy. There are three ways through which possession of meth could manifest in the following ways:
- Actual possession. Actual possession of meth means that the substance was on your person at the time of arrest, and you were exercising physical and direct control over it.
- Constructive possession. The prosecutor does not need to prove that methamphetamine was in your person for you to be convicted under this statute. Constructive possession means that you were in control of the substance, and it is also a basis for a conviction for possession of meth.
- Joint possession. Possession of an illegal substance like meth may be considered joint if you are not the only person controlling the substance.
To secure a conviction for methamphetamine possession, the prosecutor does not need to establish your intention to use, sell or distribute the drugs. Since methamphetamine can be used to treat certain disorders, some individuals are an exception to this law. Medical professionals such as pharmacists, veterinarians, and doctors cannot be charged under HS 11377 for possessing methamphetamines.
2. You knew of its Presence and its Nature as a Controlled Substance
Before you face a conviction, the prosecutor needs to prove that:
- You knew that you possessed meth
- You knew that the substance in your possession was an illegal drug
Being in possession of meth is not enough to secure a guilty conviction under Health and Safety Code 11377. Often, this element aims to protect individuals who are in possession of the substance without knowing it. For example, a passenger in your vehicle drops several crystals of the substance from their bag into the floor of your car. If you undergo a police search or stop before realizing that the drug was there, you can still be arrested and charged under this statute. However, the prosecutor will need to prove that you knew of the presence of the drug.
Additionally, the prosecution needs to show that you knew that the substance was illegal in California. While you do need to know the specific name or chemical composition of the substance, your knowledge that the substance was unlawful must be clear. Often, your behavior during the arrest or the search may be used to determine whether or not you knew that you had an illegal substance.
3. The Methamphetamine in your Possession was in a Usable Amount
You do not violate HS Code 11377 unless you have a usable amount of the substance. Therefore, even when the possession and knowledge elements are clear, you cannot be convicted for having traces of meth in your possession. A controlled substance is considered 'usable' if it is enough to be used as a drug. However, you don't have to possess enough meth to make the user high.
How Does Simple Possession and Possession of Methamphetamines Differ?
There are several drug crimes involving methamphetamine with which you could be charged under California law. When determining your charges, the prosecution will consider the purpose of possession. Simple possession is having physical possession or control of the drug for personal use and is charged under HS 11377. On the other hand, possession to sell is addressed under HS 11378 and is a more severe offense.
Some of the differences between these two offenses are based on:
- Your statements. If a witness can testify that you communicated your intentions to sell the drug, you can be charged with possession of meth for sale.
- The quantity of the substance in question. When you have a lower quantity of the substance, it is easy to prove to the court that the drug was for personal use, and you could be charged with simple possession.
- Packaging of the substance. Having a large quantity of methamphetamine packaged in small bags may indicate your intention to sell it.
- Presence of drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia is any item used to consume an illegal substance. Therefore, having paraphernalia like straws, needles or pipes can be evidence of your intent to use the drug and not to sell it.
Whether you face charges for possession or possession for the sale of meth, the consequences of a conviction are grave. Therefore, it is crucial to navigating the case with a skilled attorney's guidance.
Penalties for Possession of Methamphetamine in California
In most cases, simple possession of methamphetamine is a misdemeanor. A conviction under this statute will result in a one-year jail sentence and a fine not exceeding $1,000. However, some situations could cause your crime to be treated as a felony, including:
- You have a prior conviction for felony murder, sex offenses involving children under fourteen years, or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
- You are a registered sex offender.
A conviction for possession of meth as a felony is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from three to fifteen years in prison.
Drug Diversion for Possession of Methamphetamine
If you are convicted under HS 11377, you may be eligible for drug diversion instead of jail time. A drug diversion is the sentencing option that allows drug abusers to benefit from drug treatment instead of spending time in jail. You could qualify for the drug diversion if:
- You are a first or second-time offender. Additionally, your prior convictions should be for non-violent offenses
- The meth you possessed was for personal use
If you face charges under HS 11378 or 11379, you may not be eligible for drug diversion. However, you can seek a plea for HS 11377, making it easier to receive treatment and avoid spending time behind bars.
Defenses against Health and Safety 11377 Charges
Meth is one of the most notorious controlled substances. Its use and addiction have severe consequences on the health and wellbeing of the users. Therefore, California law makes it a priority to prosecute users and dealers of the drug. Why the war on this drug is aimed at punishing criminals may land innocent people behind bars. If you face charges for possession of methamphetamine, you will require the guidance of a skilled criminal attorney.
The following are some of the defense strategies you can use against HS 11377:
You held a Valid Prescription.
As stated earlier, methamphetamine can be used to treat ADHD and obesity. For this reason, it is not uncommon for a doctor or pharmacist to prescribe the drug to a patient. Possession of methamphetamine becomes a crime if you do not have a valid prescription. Therefore, if you can prove that your possession of the substance was legal and you possessed an amount consistent with the prescription, you could avoid a conviction under this statute.
The Methamphetamine Belonged to Someone Else
When the police find this substance in a place where you exercise control, it is easy for you to be charged with the offense of possession. However, you can argue that the drug belonged to another person with whom you shared the space. It is crucial to understand that the prosecution may dispute this defense by claiming that you and the other person ad joint ownership of the drug.
The drug was planted.
Drug possession charges based on planted evidence are not uncommon. A defense for planted evidence against charges of possession of meth is a variation of false accusations. However, it is essential to understand that establishing this defense can be challenging since you need to identify the person who planted the evidence and why they would have to do so.
One of the facts that the prosecutor must prove in court is your knowledge of the drug's presence and that the substance is illegal in California. If you can prove that you did not know of the existence of the drug in the place you control, you cannot be found guilty under this statute. However, you may be required to explain how the drugs came into your possession.
Illegal Search and Seizure
The right to protection against unwarranted searches and seizures is guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the US constitution. Before the police officers come to your premise or vehicle for a search, they must have probable cause and a valid search warrant. Any evidence discovered from an illegal search cannot be used to secure a conviction.
Therefore, if police officers find meth on your property during an illegal search, your attorney could file a petition to exclude that piece of evidence. Since the presence of the drugs is a basis for the charges, you can avoid a conviction.
Offenses Related to Possession of Methamphetamine
Possession of methamphetamine is one of the common drug offenses charged under California law. Several other drug offenses could be charged together with or instead of this offense, including:
1. Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance
Under California HS Code 11379.6, it is a crime for a person to manufacture a controlled substance. If you are involved in the manufacture of methamphetamine found in your possession, you could be charged with possession and manufacture of the drug.
A conviction under this statute requires the prosecutor to establish the following elements:
- You manufactured, produced, or compounded a controlled substance. A controlled substance, in this case, is any substance whose use and possession are regulated by the government.
- You knew of the substance's nature as a controlled substance. You could not be convicted for manufacturing a controlled substance unless you knew that product you were manufacturing was an illegal narcotic
Manufacturing a controlled substance is a felony whose conviction attracts a prison sentence of up to seven years and $50,000 in fines. It is essential to understand that the number of years you spend in prison will vary depending on the amount of substance you produce.
2. Transportation and Sale of Methamphetamine
The sale or transportation of methamphetamine for sale is an offense addressed under California HS Code 11379. Under this statute, it is illegal to engage in any of the following activities:
- Sell meth or change it with money or any other valuable item
- Transport the dug with an intent to sell it
- Give away or provide another person with meth
- Administer the substance to someone
A conviction for transportation or sale of meth will be made after the prosecutor has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you were involved in any of the above activities. Additionally, it should be clear that the amount of meth in question was usable. If you are charged with possession of meth, and the prosecutor presents evidence of your intent to sell, you could be charged with HS Code 11379 instead of HS Code 11377.
Transportation or the sale of methamphetamine is a felony. If you are convicted of this offense, you risk facing a four-year prison sentence and a fine of up to n$10,000.
3. Driving under the Influence of Drugs
Under California Vehicle Code 23152(f) and (g), it is a criminal offense to operate a vehicle while under drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. California law does not have a legal limit for drugs as it is for alcohol. Therefore, you can face an arrest and conviction under this statute if you drive while under drug influence or while addicted to the use of illegal substances.
Drugs such as methamphetamine impair your judgment and conduct while on the road. Therefore, if you are stopped for DUID and a substantial amount of methamphetamine is found in your blood test results, you could be arrested under this statute.
If you are convicted for a first DUID offense, you may not need to spend time in jail. However, your sentence may include formal probation, fines of up to $1800, and a driver's license suspension of six months. Subsequent DUID charges will attract a felony conviction by up to four years in state prison, fines not exceeding $5,000, and driver's license revocation.
If you are found in possession of methamphetamine during a traffic stop, the police officers will likely carry out further investigations to determine whether you were driving under drug influence. If your drug test is positive more meth, you could be charged with possession of the Drug and DUID.
Find a Knowledgeable Criminal Attorney Near Me
Methamphetamine is approved for limited use in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity. However, the substance is highly addictive, and its abuse could result in serious side effects such as anxiety, anorexia, memory loss, and mood swings. For this reason, meth is a controlled substance, and its possession or sale without a valid prescription could attract charges under Health and Safety Code 11377.
California regards possession of methamphetamine as a serious offense, and even though the offense is a misdemeanor, a conviction could land you in jail for up to one year. Facing criminal charges for possession of meth does not mean that all hope is lost. You can use many defense strategies to avoid a conviction or have your sentence reduced. Defending a drug crime can be complicated, especially when you are a first-time offender. Therefore seeking legal guidance is vital.
At Darwish Law, we have extensive knowledge and experience defending against drug possession charges in Santa Ana, CA. Our skilled attorneys work hard to ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today at 714-887-4810.