Methamphetamine possession in California is a serious offense. Meth, sometimes referred to as ice, tina, shard, or glass, is a powerful stimulant that carries a particularly negative connotation. As a result, if you have been accused of having meth, it could be challenging to have your constitutional rights upheld by the criminal court system. If you are found guilty, the charges will remain on your record forever, which could prevent you from finding employment, possessing a firearm, or being eligible for financial assistance for your education.

A skilled Los Angeles drug defense attorney could be able to help you avert the implications of a methamphetamine possession charge. With your future on the line, you need to afford yourself the best chance possible by retaining the services of the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney. Contact us today to set up your consultation.

What Is Methamphetamine Or Meth?

Methamphetamine, sometimes known as speed or meth, is a synthesized stimulant with a high addictive propensity. It is authorized for restricted medical usage under the brand name Desoxyn to treat obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

The use, possession, sale, transportation, or manufacture of methamphetamine without a valid prescription or permit is a serious charge punishable by prison and probationary terms, fines, and/or treatment programs.

Usually, people who use meth ingest, inject or snort it. Crystal meth is typically smoked using a meth pipe. This drug causes an initial euphoric feeling and powerful "rush," accompanied by alertness, energy, an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, as well as hypothermia.

Addiction and misuse can cause acute anorexia, terrible dental issues called "meth mouth," itching (as well as skin picking), memory problems, insomnia, anxiety, disorientation, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, emotional disorders, and violent behaviors. Meth can cause an extreme increase in body temperatures at high doses that can result in seizures, strokes, a heart attack, or even fatalities by overdosing.

The History of Methamphetamine

Meth is regarded as one of the most widely abused substances in both California and around the world. Methamphetamine was created in the early twentieth century from the stimulant amphetamine. It was a performance-enhancing drug utilized by both the Allied and Axis soldiers during WWII. In the mid-20th century, Japan also utilized the substance to increase industrial workers ’ productivity.

Methamphetamine was increasingly recommended to patients in the 1950s in America as a treatment for diseases like obesity, depression, and alcoholism, as well as other issues. Meth became popularized among housewives, dieters, truckers, college students, and athletes as pep pills or bennies.

The 1970 Controlled Substances Act put restrictions on the drug's accessibility. Illegal meth labs, typically run by bigger drug cartels and motorcycle gangs, popped up to satisfy the black market demands.

Efforts by the federal and state governments to reduce illicit meth manufacture have resulted in strong limitations and regulations on the importation and distribution of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, two main components used in methamphetamine production. Certain over-the-counter antihistamines for allergies and colds that contain pseudoephedrine are closely regulated and even illegal in some jurisdictions.

Current Legal Situation on Methamphetamine Possession

Methamphetamine is listed as a Schedule II controlled drug. This indicates that it is both highly addictive and that it has potential medical applications. It is uncommon for a person to receive a prescription, and when prescribed, the doses are very few and it's not renewable.

Health & Safety Code (HSC) 11377 states that it is forbidden to have methamphetamine for individual use without a valid prescription. According to the same clause of the HSC, a conviction might result in certain fines.

What Proof Must the State of California Present for a Jury to Conclude That You Are Guilty of Methamphetamine Possession?

To be proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt of possessing methamphetamine, key elements of the crime must be established. However, determining guilt is more complex than most people assume. The prosecution must establish the following elements:

  • You illegally had or controlled methamphetamine (or another substance that contains it)
  • You were aware of the drug's presence
  • You were aware that it was a controlled drug
  • The amount of the controlled drug was sufficient for individual use

These elements are briefly explained below.

Illegal Possession of Methamphetamine

Possession of methamphetamine without a prescription is illegal. So proving the illegal component is rather simple. The hardest part is demonstrating possession. The prosecution must establish that you had meth in your possession; they do not need to show that you meant to use it. Possession could occur in one of three different ways.  Constructive, actual, or joint.

Actual possession denotes either having the meth on one's person or having direct control over the drug. Constructive possession refers to the fact that the methamphetamine was in the defendant's possession even though it wasn't physically present on them or they weren't immediately in the drug's control.

Joint possession indicates that you or other people had constructive or actual possession of the methamphetamine.

Knowledge of Meth's Presence

It takes more than just having meth in your possession to be found guilty. You need to be aware that it is present. This element guards those who unknowingly possess the meth. Perhaps you were driving a colleague to work and he/she left some methamphetamine in your vehicle, either deliberately or unintentionally, and you did not have any idea that it was in the car or even what it was – in this case, you are unaware of the presence of meth in your possession. As a result, you did not violate Section 1137.7 

Alternatively, you will still be in contravention of 11377 if you had the substance but weren't aware that it was methamphetamine since you believed it to be cocaine. You will be charged if you are aware that it is a prohibited substance.

The State simply needs to prove the latter, and not that you were aware it was a certain unlawful substance. Prosecutors usually show this by presenting circumstantial evidence, such as your actions during the occurrence, arrest, or search and seizure, such as attempting to cover up the drug.

Usable Amount

Possession alone does not lead to a guilty verdict; you must also know that the item you own is methamphetamine (or another restricted narcotic). You should also have a sufficient quantity that can be used. The sum of trace amounts does not constitute usable amounts.

The term "usable amount" typically refers to the quantity of meth that can be tested by the prosecutors to establish its identity as meth rather than the quantity needed to intoxicate you.

What distinguishes possession for sale from simple possession?

A prosecutor will take into account whether you were using the substances for individual use or selling them when determining which California meth offense to accuse you of.

Methamphetamine for individual use, usually called "simple" possession, is covered by HSC 11377. HSC 11378, the possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell, is a more serious offense. The distinction between HSC 11377 and HSC 11378 is frequently based on: 

  • Your Statements 

Your words can be utilized to prove you breached HSC 11378 by having methamphetamine in your possession with the intent to sell it if somebody heard you state that you planned on selling the drug.

  • How Much Meth You Had in Your Possession

It will be simpler to persuade the prosecution, judge, or court that the narcotics were for your use and that you're only culpable of simple possession of methamphetamine if you had smaller amounts.

  • How the Methamphetamine Had Been Packaged

The presence of multiple baggies could show that you meant to distribute the meth. It would be easier to demonstrate that a single binder,  baggie, or bottle of meth was intended for your use and you only violated HSC 11377.

  • There was Drug Paraphernalia Present

The presence of other drug-related equipment, including a pipe, knives, or snorting straws, can indicate that the methamphetamine was intended for individual use.

Nevertheless, even if you have been accused of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to sell, a skilled Los Angeles drug crimes and methamphetamine possession lawyer could be able to convince the prosecution to drop the charges to simple possession under HSC 11377. Simple possession of meth qualifies for drug diversion and is subject to less strict consequences than possession with the intent to sell.

Are Medical Practitioners Permitted to Possess Methamphetamine?

When medical professionals possess methamphetamine in conformity with state and federal laws, they do not infringe HSC 11377.

What are California's Penalties for Possession of Methamphetamine?

Possession of methamphetamine was initially considered a wobbler crime. This means someone could face misdemeanor or felony charges for possessing meth - depending on the circumstances and facts of the case. It changed after November 4, 2014. California's Proposition 47 changed the law in 2014 so that instead of being charged with a felony for simple possession, those found with methamphetamine or other illicit drugs are now charged only as a misdemeanor.

Penalties for Simple Possession of Methamphetamine

If you are found guilty of misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine, then you can expect jail time and fines of no more than 1 year. This would also include serving probation and participating in community service.

Most individuals could be eligible to participate in California's Prop 36 program or PC 1000 drug diversion program. Both provisions require the defendant to take part in a mandatory drug treatment class. PC 1000 is a shorter diversion program. It generally requires six months of treatment and then twelve months of informal probation.

The Prop 36 program is longer (around three years) and incorporates stricter drug treatment courses, counseling, and testing. These programs can help you keep your record clean and prevent you from going to jail.

Possession of Large Quantities of Meth

It's worth noting that only possessing small amounts of meth is now considered a misdemeanor offense, while possession of large quantities could lead to severe prison sentences. For instance, if the prosecution can prove that you had possession of more than one kilogram of meth, you would face an extra 3-15 years in prison on top of the original sentence.

The penalties for violating California PC 11377 a can vary based on the quantity of meth found. Someone who possesses a large amount of meth, for example, 1 kg or more, could potentially be sentenced to many years in prison if found guilty.

Penalties for Possession of Methamphetamine With a Qualifying Prior Conviction

If you have a previous conviction, you might be sentenced to up to 1 year in prison. You would also receive probation or participate in community service. Furthermore, those who have been convicted of methamphetamine possession or use can face the following consequences:

  • Difficulty securing a job
  • Difficulty qualifying for student loans or home mortgages
  • Difficulty finding safe rental space
  • Difficulty retaining or securing professional licenses, for example, a nursing license, pilot's license, or real estate license, to name a few

Getting a conviction for simple possession of meth will have a big impact on your life. You'll be criminalized, which can hurt future careers, services, education, and relationships. It also carries emotional and psychological effects. You can settle your debt to the community, but it would not be as easy for the community to forgive you.

This is why challenging the allegations is always in your best interest. Working with an experienced attorney will give you a better understanding of all your options, which in turn will make it easier for you to make the best decision. This would mean having to defend yourself against criminal charges.

Diversionary Sentences for Meth Possession

There are several types of diversionary sentences available to first-time offenders. These sentencing options include deferred entry of judgment and Prop 36 (drug court) which are all found under California PEN 1000.

These types of drug offense sentences normally allow the defendant to secure a dismissal of the case or a reduction in the charges after the successful completion of counseling and drug treatment. For most first-time offenders, diversionary sentences can be the best option as it enables them to retain a clean criminal record as well as receive drug treatment for their addiction at the same time.

Legal Defenses For Methamphetamine Possession Charges

Meth is among the world's most dangerous controlled substances. As such, fighting methamphetamine use and the distribution of the drug has been a priority for the authorities. Their zealous dedication to the war against drugs frequently results in the conviction of innocent persons.

Your lawyer should start by determining whether the first encounter with the authorities that resulted in the methamphetamine discovery was lawful. The prosecutor is unable to use evidence against you that was obtained illegally. Police officers have to follow strict guidelines directed by the Constitution when performing certain law enforcement tasks, for example arresting individuals or searching properties and vehicles.

One of the major issues with the authorities is that they’re sometimes too keen to make an arrest, and would violate the rights of the defendants as a result. When this happens, the accused's defense counsel can request that the charges be dropped before your trial begins. If this defense strategy doesn't work out, there still might be some alternative defenses your attorney could try like:

  • Demonstrating that the said substance was not meth or you only possessed trace amounts of meth
  • To show that you didn’t have constructive or actual possession of the meth
  • Claiming that you weren’t aware that you possessed meth, nor did you know it was a controlled substance
  • If you were found in possession of the drug, but there is no evidence that you were selling them then the prosecution does not have enough evidence to show beyond reasonable doubt that your intention at the time was to sell
  • If you have a weak case, it would be in your best interest to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution
  • You had a valid prescription for the substance. This defense strategy works only if you have evidence that the methamphetamine in your possession was consistent with the purpose of your prescription and that you didn't possess more than your prescription allowed for
  • You were delivering meth to another person with a valid prescription

California PC 11377 states that you would be exonerated of a crime, if:

  1. Another individual other than you had a valid prescription for meth
  2. You had the drugs in somebody else's direction
  3. You wanted to deliver the meth to its intended recipient or get it lawfully disposed of
  4. You did not personally use, sell, or distribute meth

Related Offenses

Several crimes are closely related to California HSC 11377, which covers the possession of methamphetamine. They include the following:

California HSC 11378 – Possession of Meth for Sale

California HSC 11378 makes it a crime to possess meth to sell. Since there is no actual or attempted sale, you can't be convicted of possession of a controlled substance under HS 11378. HSC 11378, possession of methamphetamine for sale, attracts a potential jail time of:

  • sixteen months
  • 2 years
  • 3 years

California HSC 11379 - Transport or Sale of Methamphetamine

Sale or transportation of methamphetamine (HS 11379) is considered a felony offense when a person:

  • Sells or agrees to sell methamphetamine in exchange for anything of value like money or services
  • Transports crystal methamphetamine, even for a short distance, to sell it
  • Administer the drugs to another individual
  • Give methamphetamine to someone else

Potential punishments for violating this law are:

  • Serving 2, 3, or 4 years behind bars, and/or
  • Hefty cash fines of no more than $10,000

California HSC 11350 - Possession of a Controlled Substance

California HSC 11350 is one of the laws governing against possession of a controlled substance. On paper, it’s almost identical to HSC 11377, which is against possession of meth. However, HS 11350 applies to several types of substances, including (but not limited to):

  • LSD
  • Cocaine (and cocaine base)
  • Peyote
  • Heroin
  • Prescription opioids like hydrocodone or codeine.

Possession of methamphetamine, like HS 11350, is usually a misdemeanor. However, if you have any serious felonies or sex offenses on your record, the crime becomes a felony and carries much more weight.

HSC 11351 - Possession of a Controlled Substance For Sale

HSC 11351 is California's law against possession of a controlled substance to sell it. It's the counterpart of California HS 11378, which is possessing methamphetamine for sale. It applies to heroin, cocaine, prescription opioids, and hallucinogens, among other drugs. Violating HS 11351 is a felony crime, and it’s a slightly more serious crime than HS 11378. Penalties under HS 11351 can include:

  • 2, 3, or 4 years behind bars
  • A fine of no more than $10,000

California HSC 11379.6 – Manufacturing a Controlled Substance

Provisions of HSC 11379.6 makes it a felony crime to compound, manufacture, produce, process, or derive, process an illegal controlled substance. Meth is among the few major street drugs that are manufactured and cooked in underground meth labs. Usually, a lot of cases fall under this provision. They are often related to the manufacture of methamphetamine. And possession of meth is sometimes charged along with this violation.

A conviction for California HS 11379.6 subjects you to:

  • 3, 5, or 7 years behind bars
  • A fine of no more than $50,000.

California HSC 11383.5 – Possession of Paraphernalia for Manufacturing Meth

Under California HSC 11383.5, possession of paraphernalia for manufacturing meth is considered a felony crime and thus carries a more serious penalty than simple possession of meth. You can be found guilty of this crime if you have certain chemicals or combinations of them intending to produce methamphetamine. Possession of paraphernalia for the manufacture of meth carries an imprisonment sentence of:

  • 2 years
  • 4 years
  • 6 years

Contact a Los Angeles Drug Crimes Attorney Near Me

If you or your loved one is facing possession of methamphetamine charges in Los Angeles, you can contact the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney for legal counsel. We can help you enhance the odds of a favorable outcome through our aggressive advocacy. Call us today at 424-333-0943.