Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant notorious for its effects on the central nervous system. The substance is a white, odorless crystalline powder that can quickly dissolve in alcohol or water. It goes by different street names, including meth, crank, crystal, blade, chalk, ice, stovetop, and super ice, just to mention a few. In California, meth is a controlled substance classified as a Schedule II stimulant. This makes it legally available as a non-refillable prescription but a controlled substance under Health and Safety Code §11377(a). If you face charges for the possession of Methamphetamine, turn to the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm for reliable legal representation. We can help you fight the charges and have the best chances of protecting your future.
Violating H&S Code §11377(a) is a serious crime punishable by a hefty fine and jail time. Note that this is a strikeable offense under California's “Three Strikes” laws. Therefore, you may face the full wrath of the law if you have a criminal history of being convicted for any of the “serious” felonies listed under Penal Code 1192.7 PC. Your best chance of enjoying a favorable outcome is to enlist a riverside criminal defense attorney as soon as you are arrested.
Understanding Health and Safety Code §11377(a) — Possession of Methamphetamine
Health and Safety Code section 11377 makes it illegal to possess meth unless you have a valid physician’s prescription. For you to be convicted of meth possession, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a shred of doubt:
You were in illegal possession of meth
You were well aware of the presence of the drug
You were aware that meth is a controlled substance
You only possessed a usable amount of the drug
Generally, the prosecution must prove that you were in actual and constructive possession of the controlled substance. A good example of actual possession is if the police find the drug in your pocket. On the other hand, an excellent example of constructive possession is if the authorities find the controlled substance within an area you have control over. This could be your residence, car, or workplace.
If the police find meth in your possession during a legal search, you have a right to remain silent and consult with your attorney. Confessing that you know about the drug in your possession is one way to doom your case. If you don’t confess, the police can still press charges through circumstantial evidence.
For instance, it could be that you attempted to hide or destroy the drug when you saw the police. It could also be that you portrayed suspicious behavior, and this led to your arrest. Irrespective of the circumstances that lead to your arrest, it makes sense to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
Penalty for Violating Health and Safety Code §11377(a)
Violating Health and Safety Code §11377(a) is a misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted of the crime, the punishment may be as follows:
Imprisonment in a county jail for up to 1 year
A fine not exceeding $1,000
It is in your best interests to have a strong defense team in your corner the instant you are arrested and charged with methamphetamine possession. Even if all evidence shows you are guilty as charged, we could use our good relationships with the prosecutors to obtain the best possible deal on your behalf. With a proper defense strategy or a favorable plea bargain, the judge may reduce the jail time and impose summary probation or a mandatory drug diversion program.
Other Offenses Related To Possession of Methamphetamine
Often, if you are arrested for possession of methamphetamine, the prosecution may also press other charges. The circumstances of your arrest may play a significant role in determining the number of additional charges you may face alongside meth possession.
Here are a few drug crimes closely related to the violation of Health and Safety Code 11377(a):
H&S Code 11378 — Possession of Methamphetamine With Intent to Sell
The Health and Safety Code 11378 makes it a crime to possess meth intending to sell it. To convict you for violating H&S Code 11378, here are five vital elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
You had methamphetamine
You were aware that you possessed the drug
You knew that meth is a controlled substance
The amount of meth you possessed exceeded what is legally considered a “usable amount.”
You possessed a high amount of drugs with the explicit intention to sell or distribute
Violating H&S Code 11378 is a felony. If you are convicted, the punishment may include:
Incarceration for 16 months, 2 or 3 years
A maximum fine of $10,000
Health and Safety Code 11379 — Transportation or Selling Of Methamphetamine
Under H&S Code 11379, it is illegal to sell meth in California. This statute also criminalizes the transportation of methamphetamine for sale. Often, defendants who face charges for violating H&S Code 11379 are caught driving while possessing the drug.
Under this statute, it is illegal to:
Sell meth or exchange the drug for anything of value, such as services
Transport meth (irrespective of the distance covered) with the intention to sell it
Give away methamphetamine or administer it to another person
Attempt or volunteer to perform any of the above acts for someone else
For the prosecution to convict you, they must prove the following elements:
You engaged in at least one of the acts mentioned above
You know about the presence of meth in your possession
You knew the nature of this drug and that it is a controlled substance
You transported or sold the drug
The California legislature revised H&S 11379 in 2014. Before this, a defendant could be convicted even if they were in transit with meth intended for personal use. Following the amendment, you can only be convicted of meth transportation for sale if the prosecution can prove your intent to sell. Note that intent to sell can be established if you possess amounts that exceed what the law deems a “usable” amount. The revision of this statute also applies to various other controlled substances, including cocaine and heroin.
Violating H&S Code 11379 is a felony. If you are convicted, you may face the following penalties:
Incarceration for 2, 3, or 4 years
A fine not exceeding $10,000
Health and Safety Code 11379.6 — Manufacturing a Controlled Substance
H&S 11379.6 criminalizes the illegal manufacture of any substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act. This includes drugs such as meth, ecstasy, cocaine, PCP, and heroin, just to mention a few. A classic example of manufacturing controlled substances is running a meth lab.
It remains imperative to note that you can face charges for engaging or offering your services during any part of the process of manufacturing controlled substances. As long as you “knowingly” take part in the manufacturing process, the law considers you to be just as guilty as the person mixing the chemicals.
Again, the prosecution bears the burden of proof. Here are the elements they must prove before a conviction:
You directly or indirectly participated in processing, preparing, producing, converting, or manufacturing a controlled substance
You knew that the drug in question is a controlled substance
You offered a hand during the manufacturing process of the controlled substance
Defendants who violate H&S Code 11379.6 face felony charges. The punishment for the crime includes:
Incarceration in county jail for 3, 5, or 7 years
A fine of up to $50,000
Health and Safety Code 11379 — Transportation of Meth
Unlike H&S Code 11379.6 that prohibits the transportation or selling of various controlled substances, H&S Code 11379 explicitly illegalizes the transportation or selling of methamphetamine. Again, this is the crime of driving with the drug in amounts considered not for personal use. The prosecution must prove the same elements, the only difference being the penalty a defendant may face.
If the court finds you guilty of transportation or selling of meth, you may face the following penalties:
Jail time for up to 4 years
A fine of up to $10,000
Health and Safety Code 11379 — Trafficking Methamphetamine
The Health & Safety Code 11379 makes it illegal to sell or transport methamphetamine. If the authorities arrest you for driving in possession of the drug, they will likely impose felony charges. The charge of trafficking methamphetamine is often used as a substitute for violating Health & Safety Code 11378 (Possession with Intent to Sell). If the prosecution cannot prove you had the intention to sell the controlled substance, they may settle for trafficking charges.
The prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you:
You know about the presence of meth in your possession
You possessed a usable amount of the drug
If convicted for trafficking meth, the punishment imposed is as follows:
2, 3, or 4 years in jail
A fine of up to $10,000
Health & Safety Code 11550 – Use of Meth
Health & Safety Code 11550 illegalizes the use of meth, among other controlled hallucinogens and narcotics. This offense is charged as a misdemeanor, and the prosecution must prove the following elements:
You illegally and willfully used a controlled substance
You were under the influence of meth at the time of an arrest
Various defenses may come in handy if you face charges for violating H&S 11550. First, your attorney could argue that you have a valid prescription authorized by a licensed practitioner such as a podiatrist, dentist, or physician. For this defense to make sense, you must prove you suffer from an actual ailment that warrants the use of meth as part of the treatment.
Another defense that may come in handy is that you were involuntarily intoxicated. It could be that someone laced your drink with meth without your consent. Again, the prosecution must prove that you “willfully” used the drug to convict you.
If you are convicted of being under the influence of methamphetamine, you may face the following penalty:
Imprisonment for 3 months to 1 year in county jail
You may qualify for a drug diversion program with proper legal representation instead of serving time in jail. This involves committing to a court-ordered drug rehabilitation program.
Vehicle Code 23152(e) — DUID (driving under the influence of drugs)
DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) is a criminal offense. Consequently, you may face charges if the police pull you over for probable cause, and the drug tests indicate that you have methamphetamine in your system. In this case, the prosecution may charge you with DUID alongside violating H&S Code 11550 (use of meth). If you also have meth in your car, you may face charges for violating H&S 11379 (Transportation of Meth).
Officers have a right to pull you over if they notice unusual driving that implies intoxication. They can also confirm that you are intoxicated based on your conduct or physical appearance. Some of the common symptoms of intoxication that may warrant a sobriety test include:
A flushed facial appearance
Red, bloodshot or glassy eyes
Violating VC 23152(e) is a misdemeanor if you are a first-time offender. If convicted, the punishment may include:
Imprisonment in county jail for up to 1 year
A fine not exceeding $390
Driver’s license restrictions
Possible compulsory drug education course
Defenses to Fight Possession of Methamphetamine Charges
If you are arrested for violating Health and Safety Code §11377(a), possession of methamphetamine, some defenses may come in handy. It is in your best interests to enlist an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you build a winning defense strategy. Note that the ideal defenses to use will depend on the unique circumstances that led to your arrest.
It Wasn’t Mine (Lack Of Knowledge)
If the police arrest you for meth possession, one of the elements the prosecution must prove is that you knew about the controlled substance in your possession. Consequently, you don’t have a case to answer if you had no idea about the presence of meth. For instance, it could be that the drug was in what you assumed to be your bag. You only realized that you had grabbed someone else’s bag during an unrelated search.
In this case, your attorney could argue that you grabbed the first bag (which you assumed was yours) because you were in a hurry to catch the bus. If the prosecution cannot verify that the bag belongs to you, your case will likely be dropped.
You Have a Valid Meth Prescription
Methamphetamine is a controlled Schedule II drug. However, it can be used in small amounts to treat a range of conditions, including obesity. While it is illegal to possess an un-prescribed drug, meth remains legally available as a non-refillable prescription. Therefore, you are not guilty of violating H&S Code 11377(a) if you had a valid prescription from an accredited medical practitioner such as a podiatrist, vet, physician, or dentist.
This defense works best if you have an actual condition that justifies the use of meth. Additionally, you may have to produce records confirming that the drug was prescribed by a medical practitioner licensed to practice within California. Note that it can be challenging to claim you are innocent even with a prescription if the amount of meth in your possession isn’t a “usable amount.”
Even a simple possession case that appears pretty straightforward at first may take unexpected turns. Without a skilled attorney in your corner, it is easy to find yourself lost once the prosecution begins to throw rebuttals. Experienced lawyers can anticipate potential challenges and prepare for them ahead of time.
Momentary possession of a controlled substance for an otherwise legal purpose is also an ideal defense your attorney could use. It could be that you work with the local pharmacy and do prescription deliveries for patients. You were simply carrying out your work duties at the time of an arrest, although you forgot to carry your job ID as proof of employment because you were in a hurry.
For your attorney to use momentarily possession as a defense successfully, you must prove a few important facts. They include:
You possessed meth, but the possession was only momentary
You had the intent to abandon the meth, dispose of it or destroy it
You didn’t attempt to prevent the arresting officers from obtaining the meth
Again it takes being tactful to use momentary possession as a defense successfully. It will be imperative for your attorney to prove to the court that your motive was not to use or sell the drug. With solid arguments, you will have higher chances of enjoying an acquittal.
Lack Of Control Or Possession
The court cannot convict you of meth possession if you lack actual or constructive control over the drug. Maybe the controlled substance was found in your building, but the property is also accessible by junkies. It could also be that even though a dealer offered to sell you meth and you agreed, the drug wasn’t in your possession at the time of an arrest.
Providing a valid explanation for a defense is not an easy task. However, a competent lawyer can find a clever way to convince the court of your innocence. The correct argument can help increase the odds of having your charges reduced or dismissed. In any case, it could be that you changed your mind after agreeing to buy the drug. While it is not guaranteed that a judge will turn a blind eye to your charges, there is a likelihood of undergoing mandatory drug counseling instead of serving time behind bars.
The Police Conducted an Illegal Search
No one is above the law, not even law enforcement authorities. The constitution’s 4th Amendment protects you from illegal searches and seizures. As such, the police have no right to stop, search and arrest you without probable cause. They cannot claim that they had a “hunch” that you possessed controlled substances.
Moreover, the police must read you your Miranda rights before interrogations. It is not enough to read a twisted version of the warning, and the police must read your Miranda rights verbatim. If they fail to comply with any set procedures and formalities, any evidence they obtain during a search cannot be used in court.
Your case can only proceed as far if the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to convict you. If you are a victim of an illegal search, your attorney can request the judge to have it suppressed. Depending on the facts of a case, suppressing even one piece of evidence can throw off a case. At the very least, this could increase the chances of having your charges reduced significantly.
How Can A Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
If you are arrested and charged with meth possession, the stakes are high. Often, an arrest paves the way for further investigations, meaning that the prosecution can quickly come up with other reasons to escalate your charges. The best way to protect yourself is to seek legal representation as soon as the authorities honor your right to one phone call.
Sometimes, even the best defense strategies cannot work because of the evidence gathered by the prosecution. Even in such cases, there is much a skilled attorney can do to help. First, the expert can investigate the circumstances leading to your arrest to expose any reckless investigative tactics used by the authorities. Secondly, the expert can plead with the prosecution to give you the best plea bargain.
Another compelling reason to invest in the services of a criminal defense attorney is that the expert can explore the available sentencing options. This ensures that the defense strategy used has your best interests in mind. Generally, a competent attorney can give your case optimal chances of yielding a favorable outcome.
Find Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm Near Me
If the authorities arrest you for violating Health and Safety Code 11377(a), your freedom and future may be at stake. Fortunately, your fate is not sealed until your trial, and you have a chance to fight back the charges. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have decades of combined experience fighting drug crime charges. We have a highly-skilled defense team in Riverside that can help, irrespective of how bad your situation may seem. Call us now at 951-946-6366, and let’s go through the details of your case.