HS 11377 – California Possession of Methamphetamines

Methamphetamine (sometimes known as crystal meth, ice, crank, speed, or just “meth”) is a controlled substance in California. It is illegal to possess meth without a prescription.

Most of the crystal sold on the street in California has not been manufactured as a prescription drug. It has usually been made in a clandestine laboratory somewhere in the United States, Mexico, or occasionally in some other country.

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Before November 4, 2014, possession of methamphetamine was classified as a wobbler. That means a prosecutor had discretion to charge the crime as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Proposition 47 changed California law so that possessing meth (and possession of most other illicit drugs) can only be charged as a misdemeanor.

What Do Prosecutors Need for a 11377 HS Conviction?

Possessing meth without a valid prescription violates California Health and Safety Code section 11377. To obtain a conviction, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  • unlawfully possessed a substance containing methamphetamine;
  • knew of its presence;
  • knew that was a controlled substance; and
  • possessed a usable amount.

A few other drugs are covered by CA HS 11377 but possession of methamphetamine is the offense usually charged under that law. The possession of many other drugs is covered by California Health and Safety Code section 11350. Except for the identity of the drugs to which the laws apply, the two laws are virtually identical.

Unlawful possession

Methamphetamine can be legally possessed with a valid prescription although it is not a drug that is commonly prescribed. 11377 a HS California only criminalizes the unlawful possession of it. Unless you have a valid prescription for methamphetamine, possessing it is almost always unlawful.

The crystal does not need to be pure. In fact, most meth sold on the street is not pure. If the drug has been cut or mixed with any other substance, possessing it still violates the law.

Knowledge

The phrase “knew of its presence” protects people who possess a drug unknowingly. If someone left meth in your vehicle and you did not know it was there, you did not possess the drug in violation of section 11377.

If you possessed crystal and did not realize that the substance you possessed was a controlled substance (a drug that is regulated by law and listed on a controlled substance schedule), you did not violate section 11377. On the other hand, if you knew you were possessing a controlled substance but mistakenly believed it was something else, your possession still violates section 11377. For example, you would be violating section 11377 if you possessed crystal in the mistaken belief that it was cocaine.

Usable amount

The requirement that possession must be of a “usable amount” protects you from prosecution if you only have trace amounts of the drug. “Usable” does not mean “enough to get you high” but it does mean “enough to use.”

The requirement that the substance be “usable” provides you with a defense under other circumstances. If you are found with residue from the manufacturing process that tests positive for the drug but the residue cannot actually be used as a drug, your lawyer may be able to convince a jury that you did not possess a usable amount of the substance.

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What is “possession”?

Section 11377 applies to simple possession. Possession for sale is a different crime. That offense was not affected by Proposition 47.

Section 11377 is meant to criminalize possession for personal use, although the government is not required to prove that you intended to use it. It is enough to prove that you possessed it.

You can possess a drug in three different ways. How you allegedly possessed the substance may affect the defenses that are available in your case.

Actual possession

Actual possession means that you either had methamphetamine on your person or that you exercised direct physical control of it. For instance, if you place meth in the trunk of your car, you are in actual possession of it.

Constructive possession

Constructive possession means that you had the right to control the crystal even if it was not in your physical possession. For example, if you gave meth to someone else to hold for you and you were entitled to ask that person to return it, you constructively possessed it.

Joint possession

Joint possession means that methamphetamine was possessed by two or more people at the same time. For example, if you and your friends purchased meth together and you intended to share it, you jointly possessed the drug.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR POSSESSION?

Before Proposition 47 passed, a conviction of section 11377 could result in a prison sentence if the prosecutor charged the crime as a felony. Under the law as it now exists, the possession of crystal is almost always a misdemeanor offense. The maximum possible sentence is one year in jail.

The possession of methamphetamine is still a felony for a small group of offenders. They include defendants who have prior convictions for violent offenses and defendants who are required to register as sex offenders. For everyone else, simple possession is now a misdemeanor.

Sentencing options can help you avoid jail

Proposition 47 gives individuals accused of possessing crystal more options for resolving their cases. If you are charged with possessing methamphetamine, you may be eligible for Drug Court or some other drug diversion program. Proposition 47 recognizes that people who possess the drug for their own use probably have a drug problem that is more effectively addressed by treatment than by incarceration.

Drug diversion programs are not only an alternative to jail or probation, they can help some offenders avoid a conviction. Diversion programs usually involve educational classes, treatment, or both. If you are allowed to enter drug diversion before sentencing and you are able to provide proof of program completion, the charges will be dismissed.

Why you should try to avoid a conviction

A drug conviction carries the potential for additional consequences. A conviction for methamphetamine possession can make it more difficult to obtain certain jobs, to enlist in the military, or to apply for professional licenses and permits.

Proposition 47 made an important change in the law but that change does not mean that a drug charge should not be taken seriously. You should always contact an attorney to find out whether a conviction can be avoided in your case.

What Are the Possible Defenses to the Charge?

I use a number of different strategies and defenses on behalf of clients charged with possessing crystal. Most of the time, drug diversion is the best alternative. In cases where diversion is not available or when my client wants to contest the charge, I might raise any of the following defenses:

  • You had a valid prescription for methamphetamine (or the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not have a prescription).
  • The substance was planted in your house or car by someone with a grudge against you.
  • The substance was left in your house or car by someone else and you did not know it was there.
  • Someone handed you a substance and you did not know it was a controlled substance.
  • The witness who claimed the drug belonged to you is lying to protect himself or someone else.
  • You tried to buy methamphetamine but the sale was never completed.
  • You were near some people who possessed methamphetamine but you had no right to use or control it.
  • The alleged crystal was not methamphetamine or any other controlled substance.
  • You did not possess a usable amount of the drug.
  • Whether or not you possessed meth, the police obtained evidence by means of an illegal search or seizure. The evidence therefore cannot be used to prove your guilt.

I will raise these defenses and others in an appropriate case to help you avoid a conviction or to put you in a better position to bargain for a reasonable outcome. Although methamphetamine possession is now a misdemeanor, it is still a serious crime to have on your record.

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If you are charged or suspected of possessing meth, you should talk to a lawyer about your options. I will be happy to review your case and give you a free evaluation that will explain those options in clear terms. Call (888) 250-2865 today to obtain a free consultation .

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  • jose

    I was meeting up with a friend to loan him some money , he told me his girl doesn’t know he spent their rent money so to just go along with whatever he says in front of her. years ago I got arrested for meth and I’ve been clean from it for 11 years now. so when he texted me he was pretending like we were doing some kind of a drug deal so that his girlfriend wouldn’t know that he was borrowing money from me when I met up with him we were standing in a parking lot and I was going to give him the money and all of a sudden the cops popped up I guess they were following him and he threw his bag of meth into my car I know the cop saw him do that so I let them search my car and they found it and I told him that whatever he threw it wasn’t mine cuz I know the cops on him throw it well they arrested both of us and charged me with 11377 proposition 47 . and only gave him a probation violation no new charges . what can I do?

    • AttorneyRandyCollins

      Hi Jose. Your comment is three months old, so I suspect you may have already gone to court. If you’re still looking for info, feel free to give us a call.

  • Anish Arjun

    I am a very tough situation. I was arrested a year ago because a police officer pulled over a person who was hired and paid to pick me up from work. I really didn’t know this guy but the other two people he picked up i did know. Now, before we got pulled over instead of bringing me home, I decided to chill because the person who I stayed with was in the hospital for burning himself and he was the one who hired the driver. Also, because the two people the driver picked up I knew and chilled with 50% of the time. Because that night how I don’t understand a Damm thing about what they vv are saying majority of the time because they like to speak their language majority of the time. See I’m from the Philippines and their from the figi islands. Now I thought we were on our way to someone who is celebrating their birthday at a hotel, a person I did not know and where the hotel was at I didn’t know the area. Now I was wearing a skirt that night because earlier that day I was at work. So the driver put a jacket over my legs I guess to be nice. When he picked up one of the guy from earlier who I know brought a bag of popcorn because the driver was hungry. They offered me some but I was on a diet and popcorn has to much butter so I refused to get eat some. Now when we got pulled over the person in the back who I knew was on probation with search n seizure. I didn’t know that. While the cop is talking to the driver who is still eating the popcorn doesn’t answer the officer so I spoke and told the officer what I thought was going on about visiting the birthday person. After I spoke the officer said that I was trying to be sassy. And I told him no that I wasn’t trying to be. Then he asked if anyone was on probation and the person in the back said yes so the officer tells him to get out of the car. He searches him and puts handcuff on him and bring to the cop car. Then tells the driver to come out searches him and put handcuff on him for reason I didn’t know at that time. Then he comes to me cuz i was sitting in the passenger side and tells me if I had anything on me and I told him no so he tells me to sit on the sidewalk. Then last guy behind me comes out and sits on sidewalk. Now while searching through the car he comes back to us and talks to me first and says he found a pipe in the popcorn that was in the middle council and pipes in the glove compartment and under my seat. He said since I was acting sassy and that it was near me that it was mine. I told him that u can’t do that cuz that is not my things. I didn’t know that there where meth pipes under my seat and in the popcorn and glove. Then he said the jacket that was on my legs look like a description from a burglary that happen earlier that day and while searching it found a bunch of shave keys and pinned that on me when I told him that wasn’t my jacket and that the driver was the one who put it over me but didn’t want to hear what I had to say so they arrested me and search me and found nothing on me but when the officer was searching me, he grab my chest one by one making me feel violated and put me in the car. Took out my bag and was searching all in it and seen my bag of coins that I have collected for my kids and was digging in it. Those coins are really important to me cuz they cost money and I collect them for my kids. So I was yelling from the cop car saying don’t touch my shit because their for my kids. Officer didn’t listen and took my bag of coins and brought my bag back into the car where I had another full of my job stuff and my hair straightener. He is digging and digging. Then he releases the last guy who came out the car and I was like yelling out dude tell him the truth that the things they found wasnt mine so would release me also but dude didnt say a damn thing. So before taking me to the county jail, one of the officer went to get my things that was in the car. He said that he didnt know what things were mine cuz they poured out everything out of my bag so he grab everything that he thought was mine into my bag but made sure at least to get my id. Attempted to get my hair straightener but other officer grab it from him and through it back in the car. I ask the officer who has my bag if he got my bag of coins and he said no snd i was like why that bag is for my kids so that pissed me off but at the same time made me want to cry cuz i should of never been arrested in the first place cuz the things they were charging me with was not mine. Now i was arrested, driver, and one of the person on probation. Now as soon as we get to county the scheriff inside takes everything out my bag again and finds meth in a medicine bottle. And said to me i thought you had nothing on me and i told him of i told you the truth that i had nothing on me. Fighting the case till now driver took a plead where the check found in the back by dude on probation was his, while guy on probation says his charges were dropped but supposely has a warrent for not showing up for court. But did show up the first time that id why charges was dropped. And i missed my court cuz i was at work and i thought it was on another day. So now i am being charged with burglary tools and having meth and paraphanelia. Do you see what i am being accussed for. What shall i do cuz my court is coming in 2 days