The state of California has established stringent laws to control the possession, sale, and transportation of narcotics. One of the drugs that are highly prohibited in California is methamphetamines. Under California Health and Safety Code 11377, it is illegal to possess meth and other narcotics for personal use. Once you are convicted for possession of meth, you might end up facing a maximum county jail sentence of three years and a fine of up to $1000. It is recommendable to seek professional legal help to get your charges dismissed or reduce your sentence. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we are committed to offering a strong defense for your methamphetamine or other drug possession charges.
Understanding Methamphetamine and Its Effects
Methamphetamine is an illegal drug in the same class as cocaine and other powerful narcotics. It has many nicknames such as speed, chalk, meth, or crank being the most common. The drug is a white, odorless, with a bitter-tasting crystalline powder that can dissolve in alcohol or water. It is a highly stimulant drug and can end up affecting the central nervous system.
Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II stimulant by the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration, making it legally available only through a non-refillable prescription. Medically, meth is indicated to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It can also be a short-term component for treating loss weight, but they are used limitedly and rarely prescribed. It was also used mainly in the 1950s to keep college students, athletes, and truckers alert.
Meth is taken by snorting (inhaling it through the nose), injecting it with a needle, and smoking it. Some people take it orally, but this poses a risk of developing a strong desire to continue using the drug and create a false sense of happiness and well-being. The strong false sense of well-being includes a strong feeling of confidence, energy, and hyper activeness. Users also experience a decreased appetite, and the drug effect usually lasts for six to eight hours, although it can last for up to twenty-four hours.
This drug is different from amphetamine if more significant amounts of drugs reach into the brain, it becomes a stronger stimulant with a lasting effect on the central nervous system. This makes it a widely sought drug.
Methamphetamine Use in California
Most of the meth used in California comes from Mexico. However, in California, there are meth labs that are mainly established in California’s Central Valley. It is believed that these meth labs are one of the largest labs in the United States and can produce up to 150 pounds of methamphetamine daily.
The accessibility and low cost of the drug attract many addicts and people trying out new drugs. It is estimated that about half-million Californians are highly addicted to this stimulant drug. This makes possession of meth a crime that is aggressively prosecuted in California.
How Possession of Meth is Defined in California
Every legal aspect of possession of methamphetamine is covered by the California H&S 11377(a). Under this law, the prosecutor should demonstrate several aspects, commonly known as the elements of the crime to charge you with methamphetamine possession. These elements of the crime are as follows:
You possessed methamphetamine
You were aware or knew that you possessed meth
You knew that what you were using was a narcotic even if you did not realize it was explicitly meth
The meth was enough for use, and it was not mere residue or traces
Here is a detailed view of these elements of the crime.
In California, possession is defined in three different ways. These include:
Actual possession: This means that the methamphetamine was on you or was inside something that you are carrying or wearing such as a bag or jacket
Constructive possession: This means that you had authority over the place where the meth was or you have control on the person who is keeping or concealing it on your behalf
Joint possession: This means that you actually or constructively possessed it with several people or an individual
If you possess methamphetamine in any of the above-listed three ways, you will be subjected to prosecution under H&S 11377.
To prosecuted under H&S 11377, the prosecutor should prove your knowledge about:
The presence of the drugs
The nature of the substance as a narcotic
You might be prosecuted even when you were not completely aware that the substance in your possession was meth, but you knew it was a narcotic.
For instance, Raul stays at his cousin’s house for several days, knowing that the bindle in the closet is a narcotic but was not sure whether it is meth. Later on, a search is done in the house, and it is found to be methamphetamine. In this case, Raul will be guilty of methamphetamine possession since he knew that the bindle in the closet is a narcotic but was not sure about its specific nature.
If Raul was not aware that the bundle in his cousin’s closet was a narcotic, he is innocent of any charges made under H&S 11377 since he didn’t know that he possessed methamphetamine.
You do not violate H&S 11377 unless there is enough meth to swallow, smoke, or snort. In most cases, the investigating team confirms that the amount under your possession is usable if the meth is found rolled to be smoked, on a table ready to be snorted, or other equipment that proves its usage.
Please note, you do not need enough meth to get you high. It only means that the amount under your possession is not mere traces or residues that can disapprove of the fact that you are using it.
Differences Between Methamphetamine Possession for Use and Possession for Sale
The prosecutor must have valid proof that your involvement with meth is a simple possession rather than transportation or sale of the drugs to charge you under H&S 11377. Simple possession is a less severe crime compared with meth possession for sale under H&S 11378.
It is recommendable to differentiate between simple possession and possession for sale to be clear about the charges presented against you. The difference between H&S 11377 and H&S 11378 is often agreed on based on the following:
Your statement: If you are overheard saying that you intend to sell the methamphetamine, such statements would be used to demonstrate your violation of H&S 11378
The amount of meth that you possessed: If you possess a less amount of meth, you can persuade the prosecutor, jury, or judge that the drugs were meant for your use. This makes you guilty of simple possession of meth
Packaging: several baggies or bindles might indicate that you are involved in the sale of meth. However, a single bindle, bottle, or baggie would prove that the methamphetamine was for your personal use
Drug paraphernalia: If the police find drug equipment such as snorting straws, pipe, and needles, it might be suitable evidence that the meth was for your use.
In most cases, if the prosecutor charges you with methamphetamine possession for sale, most attorneys may be able to seek a plea bargain to H&S 11377 since it carries lesser penalties H&S 11378.
Other Drugs Under H&S 11377
H&S 11377 does not only prohibit possession of methamphetamine, but it also includes other anabolic steroids and stimulants, commonly referred to as party drugs. These drugs include:
If you are found possessing the above-stated drugs, you will be at risk of facing similar consequences such as those that apply in possession of methamphetamine.
Penalties for Methamphetamine Possession in California
Violation of H&S 11377 (methamphetamine possession) is usually a misdemeanor. The potential consequences of such a crime:
A maximum county jail sentence for one year
A maximum fine of $1,000
You can face a felony penalty which includes 16 months, two or three years in county jail if you have prior convictions for:
Serious felonies such as murder, sex crimes, and sex crimes against a minor gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
A sex crime that subjected you to register as a California sex offender
Please note, before November 2014, when Proposition 47 was passed, H&S11377 was a wobbler. Therefore, an alleged perpetrator would be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. If you were charged under this offense before Prop 47 was passed and received a felony conviction, you might request a plea bargain to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor.
Penalties for Possessing Meth that Exceeds One Kilogram
Once you are arrested for possessing meth, the investigating team will measure the controlled substance to prepare for the prosecution. If the meth under your possession is found to exceed a kilogram, you will face an addition of three to fifteen years in the state prison. You would face these consequences even if you cannot prove your intention to sell the drugs
Drug Diversion after H&S 11377 Conviction
In California, you can be eligible for drug diversion rather than serving your jail or prison sentence. You can qualify for drug diversion if:
This was your first or second offense or you non-violent offender
The methamphetamine was found for your use
Drug diversion is used as an alternative form of sentencing that helps drug abusers through drug treatment rather than serving their jail or prison sentence. In California, there are three types of drug diversion programs that a drug abuser can attend. These drug diversion programs are as follows.
Proposition 36 is one of the drug diversion programs that a drug abuser can attend in California. This program allows eligible defendants to dismiss their charges of conviction if they complete a court-approved drug treatment program. The drug-treatment program is a treatment that includes the following:
Outpatient services or residential treatment
Narcotic replacement therapy or detoxification services
This program does not refer to drug rehabilitation programs that are available in jail or prison facilities. Specifically, Proposition 36 requires a first and second-time defendant convicted for non-violent possession of a specific drug to receive a maximum of twelve months of substance abuse treatment other than serving jail or prison sentences. The period might be extended to two to six months if found necessary.
Penal Code 1000
Penal Code 1000, which is referred to as pretrial diversion law, allows eligible defendants arrested for low-level drug crimes to dismiss their charges if he or she completes a drug treatment session.
As of 1st January 2018, participation in PC 1000 drug diversion was reclassified into a pretrial diversion program. In that case, the defendant can plead not guilty to eligible to participate in the drug treatment.
Once they have completed the program, the court will dismiss the charges against the defendant. However, if the defendant fails to complete the program, he or she will be automatically found guilty, which entitles him or her to a trial before a bench trial.
California Drug Courts
California drug court is another drug diversion program that allows non-violent drug offenders to resolve their cases outside the traditional criminal justice system. The premise behind this kind of court is that the preferable incarceration is attending an alcohol and drug rehabilitation when it comes to non-violent drug offenders. Some of the primary goals of the California drug court are:
Reducing drug recidivism and use
Integrating drug treatment with other rehabilitation services to promote long-term recovery, and
Save the taxpayers’ money. This includes an average per person treatment that costs between $900 to $1,6000. This is unlike the average cost of $5,000 per person for the minimum period of the jail or prison sentence.
Since the California drug courts were established, it has established different programs such as:
Adult courts: This is a drug court that focuses on adult offenders and typically provides intensive drug treatment to such offenders for a minimum of one year
Dependency court: This court provides drug treatment to parents to allow them to take care of their children safely and reduce the number of children placed in the foster care
The juvenile courts: This is the court that treats minors and provides therapy to their families. This kind of court exists to maintain long-term sobriety and avoid further criminal activities by providing immediate intervention
Legal Defense for Methamphetamine Possession
Once you have hired a professional attorney, you will use relevant legal defenses to win your case or reduce your sentence. Here are the common legal arguments that your attorney can use.
Deny that the Meth was Not Yours
There are several ways that you can be falsely accused of possessing meth. For instance, if you mistakenly carry a backpack and eventually find out that there was a bundle of methamphetamine inside, your methamphetamine possession charges should be dismissed. However, you need to prove to the court that you were not aware of the nature of the substance inside the backpack, and it was not yours to rely on this legal defense.
If someone plants methamphetamine in a premise that you have authority over, your charges can be dismissed if you prove to the court that the drugs are not yours. You can verify this through testimonies from eyewitnesses, expert witnesses, and camera footage.
Valid Prescription for the Meth
As we have learned above, methamphetamine can be prescribed to a person experiencing a concentration problem due to a condition like ADHD. Some of the commonly prescribed forms of methamphetamine are Desoxyn. If you are found to be possessing such drugs and charged under H&S 11377, you can disapprove of the charges by showing your drug prescription.
The Prosecution Does Not Define What You Did was Illegal
Sometimes a defendant might be mistaken to possess a particular drug such as methamphetamine, especially those involved in the delivery of drugs. For instance, if you are involved in delivering prescriptions for a specific pharmacy, and you were apprehended without the right documents, you might be charged under H&S 11377. In such a situation, you need to show the proper documents to prove that you are not guilty of methamphetamine possession.
There are several types of police misconduct. Some common police misconduct includes illegal search and seizure, forced confession, planted evidence, and racial profiling. To rely on this legal defense, you need to prove that the officer or law enforcement involved in the misconduct has a history of the specific misconduct. Once you have managed to prove any of the above-stated facts, your case will be dismissed by the court.
Intoxication is not usually a suitable legal defense, especially in a drug crime. However, you can use it if your intoxication was involuntary. For instance, someone might plant methamphetamine on your bag or on you after intoxicating you to get back to you. In such a situation, you should prove to the court that your intoxication was involuntary to use this legal defense.
Find a Drug Crime Attorney Near Me
Hiring the right criminal defense attorney can make a significant difference between a guilty or innocent verdict. You need an attorney who is committed to explaining the law and creating relevant defenses to challenge the case presented by the prosecutor. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we relentlessly fight on behalf of our client by providing the best attorney suited for your lawsuit. Once you have contacted us, we will be with you every step of the way, starting from the arrest to trial. Contact us anytime at 310-502-1314 for a free consultation.