Methamphetamine, also called meth, ice, shard, or glass, is a highly addictive potent stimulant. The drug is easy to produce, and over the years, it has gained popularity resulting in widespread unlawful use. Possession of methamphetamine can get you in serious trouble because it’s a violation of California HSC 11377(a). The crime also carries a superbly negative stigma, making it challenging to protect your rights in the criminal justice system. Upon sentencing, you may end up in jail and get a permanent drug crime record that will completely change your life.

Thankfully, with a proficient criminal defense attorney by your side, several defenses can be applied to mitigate a conviction’s penalties or get the charges dropped. Therefore, if you are in Los Angeles, CA, and have been arrested or charged with possession of meth, we invite you to reach out to The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm. Our attorneys understand that your future is at stake, so our goal is to protect your rights and freedom.

Understanding Methamphetamines

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substances regulated under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act. The drug was first developed in the 20th century from a drug called amphetamine. However, methamphetamine is a much more potent drug and can have serious side effects like loss of appetite, talkativeness, and euphoria when it gets into the brain in high doses. It is medically used to treat conditions like obesity and ADHD when prescribed by a doctor. However, if you are found in possession of meth without a valid prescription, you will be subject to criminal charges.

Methamphetamine is a stimulant that speeds up your body and brain, increasing the level of activity. The drug is packaged in the form of pills, powder, or crystal rock. Those who take it do it by smoking, injecting, swallowing or inhaling it in toxic gas form.

The drug is affordable and readily available, making it attractive for everyone, including children. Because of the increased abuse of the drug, California law enforcement agencies have become more aggressive in prosecuting those found with illegal possession of meth.

Legal Definition of Possession of Methamphetamine

As per Health and Safety Code Sec 11377(a) of California statutes, it is illegal to possess different types of narcotics methamphetamine included, without a valid prescription. Note that this statute doesn’t punish the sale or distribution of meth. Additionally, the possession of meth is excused if a physician prescribed it for personal use.

If you are found in possession of meth for personal use, the prosecutor will charge you with simple possession, which usually is a misdemeanor. The amount of methamphetamine found in your possession is what determines if you will be charged with simple possession of meth for sale. In case the arresting officers find large amounts of methamphetamine, a lot of cash, drug packaging materials, or scales, they will be convinced you were selling the drugs so you won’t be charged under HSC 11377.

When charged with simple possession, the prosecuting attorney must establish particular elements beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:

  • You illegally possessed methamphetamine.

  • You were aware of being in possession of meth.

  • You knew what you possessed was a controlled substance, even if it’s not meth.

  • You possessed a usable quantity of the drug, not mere traces or residue that can’t be used as a drug.

These elements of California HSC 11377(a) are further discussed below:

  1. You were in Actual, Constructive or Joint Possession of Methamphetamine

In California, possession takes three forms, which are joint, active, and constructive. You are in actual possession of meth if it is within your person or when you have immediate physical control over it. You might have been holding it or have it in something that you were wearing or carrying like a purse or briefcase.

Keep in mind that the prosecutor can successfully prove this element even if the methamphetamine was not on your person at the time of the police search. If you had actual possession right before the police search, that satisfies this element of possession.

When meth is not found in your person but within a location you have physical control over, it is deemed constructive possession. What the prosecutor needs to demonstrate in this kind of possession is that you had access to the location where the meth was found and exercised control over the area. However, you should note that access alone doesn’t prove possession. The prosecutor needs to demonstrate that you, as the defendant, had both access and control over the location.

If you share actual or constructive possession of meth with one or more individuals, this is considered joint possession. If, for instance, you share the same house and closet with your brother and a particular amount of meth is found in the closet, if the evidence points that both of you were aware of the presence of meth, you will face charges for HSC 11377 violation because of joint possession.

  1. Knowledge of Presence of Methamphetamine and its Nature or Character

You may end up with a conviction for HSC 11377 violation if the prosecutor can demonstrate that you had knowledge of methamphetamine’s presence and was aware that the drug is a controlled substance and its illegal possession is a crime. As mentioned earlier, methamphetamine is a controlled substance whose possession without a valid prescription from a physician is illegal. The drug is consumed by snorting, injecting, or swallowing. For this reason, if the drug was found in your presence, and the prosecutor can demonstrate that you knew the material in your possession was methamphetamine, then you will end up with a conviction.

However, if the prosecutor can’t demonstrate that you knew of the presence of the drug or you didn’t recognize the nature or character of the material that was on your person, you will be innocent under HSC 11377.

  1. Usable Quantity

Having traces or residues of meth is not a violation of HSC 11377. The reason being the amount cannot be swallowed, snorted, or injected as a drug. For this reason, the prosecution can only get you convicted if they can show that you had in your possession more than mere residue or traces of the drug. The quantity of the material must be sufficient to make up what is known as usable quantity. If the quantity of meth is sufficient to make the drug cause its effect, then you will violate this California Health and Safety Code.

Besides, it’s worth noting that just by agreeing to purchase meth doesn’t mean you are in physical control of the drug. Again, if you are arrested while drunk and a drug test shows that you have methamphetamine in your body, you can’t be charged with possession of meth because the substance is in your body and not on you person. The court will still find you innocent of HSC 11377 violation because the meth in your blood is not sufficient to prove a usable amount.

Differences between Simple Possession and Possession of Methamphetamine for Sale

Before registering charges against you, the prosecutor must consider whether the meth found in your possession was for personal use or sale. California HSC 11377 is concerned with possession of meth for personal use, also called simple possession. The offense is a misdemeanor and carries fewer penalties than HSC 11378, which applies to possession of meth for sale. The two statutes differ in the following ways:

Defendant’s Statement

If somebody overheard you say that you had plans or intentions to sell the meth, the statement would be used against you to demonstrate that you violated HSC 11378.

Quantity of Methamphetamine Possessed by the Defendant

The larger the quantity of meth that was found in your possession, the more challenging it will be for your criminal defense attorney to convince the prosecutor or the court that you possessed the controlled substance for personal use. However, if the quantity was less, it would be a piece of cake to demonstrate the drug was for personal use, thus resulting in simple possession charges under HSC 11377.

Packaging of the Methamphetamine

If, at the time of the police search, you were found in possession of a single baggie or bottle of methamphetamine, you can easily convince both the prosecutor and the judge that the drugs were for personal use. However, if multiple baggies or bindles were found in your person, it is an indication you planned on selling the drugs. You will be charged under HSC 11378.

Presence of Drug Paraphernalia

In the event police officers come across drug paraphernalia like a pipe, snorting straw, or needles, it is enough evidence to prove the meth was for personal use. Due to this, you will be charged or convicted of HSC 11377 violation.

It’s worth noting that retaining the services of an experienced criminal attorney can benefit you greatly. If you have been charged with HSC 11378 violation, the attorney can negotiate with the prosecution to have the charges lowered to simple possession under HSC 11377. Simple possession carries lesser consequences than the possession of methamphetamine for sale. Additionally, you will be eligible for a drug diversion program.

Medical Professionals and HSC 11377

Medical professionals like physicians, doctors, veterinarians, and pharmacists are allowed to possess methamphetamine but as per California and federal laws without violating HSC 11377.

Other Drugs besides Methamphetamine Covered under HSC 11377

California HSC 11377 doesn’t only apply to possession of meth. Being in possession of party drugs like ecstasy, GHB, PCP, and Ketamine is a violation of this statute. Upon sentencing for possessing these drugs, you will be subject to the same penalties as those of a person charged with meth possession.

Penalties for a Conviction for Possession of Meth

HSC 11377 is filed as a misdemeanor. The consequences upon conviction include:

  • No more than twelve months in a Los Angeles County jail

  • Court fines not exceeding $1000

Note that this sentence will be enhanced to sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months if you have a previous conviction for felony offenses like murder, sex crimes against a minor 14 years or younger, sexually violent crimes, and vehicular manslaughter while drunk or drugged. Consequently, if you have been convicted of a sex crime that requires you to register as a sex offender, you will be subject to felony penalties for an HSC 11377 violation.

Similarly, you should understand that before the recently passed Prop 47, many drug possession crimes, including meth possession, were filed as wobblers. This means the crime could be registered as either a felony or a misdemeanor. However, after the passage of Prop 47, people who had been convicted of felony HSC 11377 can petition the court to lower the sentence to a misdemeanor, which carries fewer penalties.

  1. Possession of more than 1kg of Meth

The prosecutor can convict you for methamphetamine sale if they demonstrate the quantity was large enough. However, under particular circumstances, possessing one kilogram of meth can attract extra penalties. This is regardless of whether there is evidence to show you planned on selling the drug. The extra or additional sentence will range from thirty-six to one hundred and eighty months in state prison.

  1. Drug Diversion Program instead of Jail Time

After a conviction for HSC 11377 violation, the court could issue an alternative sentence that allows you to go for drug diversion treatment instead of serving your jail sentence. Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible for this program. You will qualify for drug diversion treatment if you meet the following conditions:

  • You are a 1st or 2nd-time non-violent offender

  • The meth was solely for personal use

The programs that provide for drug diversion in California are Prop 36, PC 1000, and California drug court.

Take note that if you end up with a conviction or take a plea deal for the sale of meth or possession of meth for sale, you won’t be eligible for drug diversion treatment. If the nature of your case makes it impossible to dismiss the charges under HSC 11377, rather than having to serve time in jail, drug diversion can help you get the treatment you need. And upon completion of the drug rehab program, the drug charges that you were facing will be dismissed.

Fighting Methamphetamine Possession Charges

There are multiple defense strategies applicable in your case if you are facing HSC 11377 violation charges. However, these defenses will vary based on the circumstances of the case. Some of the common legal defenses that you can apply in your case include:

Lack of Knowledge that the Material in your Possession was Methamphetamine

Your defense attorney can begin by arguing that even though you were found in possession of meth, you didn’t recognize what the material was. This defense strategy works best in situations where you didn’t confess to knowing the chemical composition of meth. If the prosecution lacks evidence to demonstrate that you knew that the material on your person was a controlled substance, your attorney can claim that you didn’t know the nature or character of the material. Under HSC 11377, you will be innocent, which means the charges will be thrown out or lowered.

Lack of Knowledge of Methamphetamine Possession

If you lacked knowledge of the presence of meth in your person, the court wouldn’t find you guilty of this crime. Your attorney can assert that you borrowed a car from a friend without knowing that it was meth was hidden or concealed in it. If a police officer conducts a search in such a vehicle and finds meth in which you did not know of its presence, the court can’t convict you of possessing the drug for personal use.

Illegal Search and Seizure

California’s 4th Amendment protects the right to privacy. The police must have a search warrant, expressed consent of the property owner, or justification for searching your house or car. If the meth was discovered after police officers searched your premises or vehicle without a valid search warrant, all the evidence gathered after the search cannot be used against you in court.

The same case will apply if law enforcement officers stopped you in traffic and searched your vehicle without consent or probable cause to make the stop. The initial stop or the search itself will be illegal, meaning all the evidence obtained will be thrown out of the case.

If any of the criteria provided as per the Fourth Amendment was absent during the search, it amounts to police misconduct, which makes the evidence collected inadmissible in court. A proficient defense attorney can challenge the criteria used to obtain the evidence, thus getting leverage to negotiate with the prosecutor to lower the charges or have the case dismissed.

Valid Prescription from a Physician

If the meth found in your possession was consistent with the purpose of prescription by a medical professional or the amount was within the authorized prescription, your attorney can claim that you had a valid prescription. Lawful possession of meth for personal use is not a violation of HSC 11377, which makes you innocent.

Similarly, this statute provides that if another person had a prescription for the drug and you possessed it under the direction of or authorization of the person, you will be innocent of possession of meth. However, you will need to show that you were only delivering the meth to the prescription owner or lawfully disposing it on the instructions of the prescription holder. Also, you must demonstrate that while delivering or disposing of the meth, you didn’t personally use, distribute, or sell it.

Possession of Methamphetamine and Related Offenses

Multiple offenses are closely related to simple possession of meth. Discussed below are these offenses:

  1. Possession of Methamphetamine for Sale

HSC 11378 prohibits individuals from possessing meth with intent to sell. These cases are usually challenging for the prosecutor to prove because no actual sale or attempted sale or transportation is necessary.

Upon sentencing for the crime, you will face a maximum of thirty-six months in jail. The court may impose a fine of ten thousand dollars on or instead of the baseline sentence. Also, under this statute, you are not eligible for drug diversion treatment.

  1. Transportation or Sale of Meth

HSC 11379 prohibits the following:

  • Selling or agreeing to sell meth in exchange for cash, service or something of value

  • Moving or transporting meth even for a short distance with intent to sell

  • Giving or distributing meth to another person

  • Administering the controlled substance on another person

Upon sentencing under this statute, you will be subject to a jail term not exceeding four years and/or a fine of no more than $10,000. Note that if you move drugs provided under this section across two counties or more, the sentence will be increased to a maximum of one hundred and eight months in jail.

  1. Possession of Controlled Substance

HSC 11350 makes it illegal for an individual to possess controlled drugs. The offense can only be excused if you have a valid prescription for the drugs. The offense is very similar to HSC 11377. The only difference is HSC 11350 covers a wide range of narcotics like:

  • Cocaine

  • Vicodin

  • Heroin

  • LSD

  • Peyote

The crime is registered as a misdemeanor and carries severe misdemeanor penalties.

  1. Possession of Controlled Substance for Sale

Controlled substance possession with the intent to sell is codified under HSC 11351. The crime is a counterpart of HSC 11378, which prohibits the possession of meth for sale. The law applies to drugs like cocaine, hallucinogens, and prescription opioids.

The offense is more severe than HSC 11378 because it attracts felony penalties. The penalties include no more than forty-eight months in jail or court fines not exceeding $10,000.

Find a Drug Crimes Attorney Near Me

If you have been charged with possession of meth in Los Angeles, CA, you may feel as if you are in a hopeless situation. Your reputation and freedom are on the line, which is why you need a criminal defense attorney who understands drug crimes. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we will pursue all the legal defenses relevant to your case and present all the available mitigating circumstances for a lenient sentence or case dismissal. We invite you to call us at 310-935-1675 for a free consultation.