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Possession of Methamphetamine - California Health and Safety Code 11377(a)

Possession of Methamphetamine - California Health and Safety Code 11377(a)
California Health & Safety Code 11377(a) makes it a crime to possess methamphetamines for personal use.

Possession of methamphetamine is described under California Health and Safety Code 11377(a). In order to be convicted under this statue, the prosecutor has to prove that you illegally had possession of controlled substance, knew of its presence, knew the substance's nature as a controlled substance, and it was a usable amount.

This article discusses California Health and Safety Code Section 11377(a), the state crime of possession of methamphetamine. Please note that this section applies to possession of methamphetamine generally. Other provisions address the possession of sale, sale, transportation, or manufacture of methamphetamine which generally subject defendants to more serious punishment.

Prior to the enactment of Proposition 47 by California voters, simple possession of methamphetamine without other aggravating factors could be punished with a felony sentence and state prison time. 

After Prop 47, however, most cases of HS 11377(a) methamphetamine possession are charged as misdemeanors. There are, however, situations in which a felony case will still be charged for methamphetamine possession.

Methamphetamine is commonly known as meth, crystal, crystal meth, and ice. A controlled substance is any drug whose manufacture or possession is regulated under the Controlled Substances Act.

To give readers a better understanding on HS 11377(a) possession of methamphetamine, our California criminal defense attorneys are providing a detailed review below.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove?

In order to convict you of methamphetamine possession under Health and Safety Code 11377, the prosecutor has to be able to prove all the elements of the crime listed under CALCRIM 2304 Jury Instructions:

  • You had possession of methamphetamine
  • You knew the substance was methamphetamine
  • You knew of the substances presence
  • There was a usable amount of methamphetamine

The term "possession" could come in the form of actual possession, constructive possession, or joint possession. This means the illegal possession of the meth could apply if you just exercised control of it or shared possession with other people.

Also, as you can see in the elements of the crime above, it also must be proven you knew of the drug's presence and you knew of its nature as a controlled substance. In other words, if you didn't know you had methamphetamine, or didn't know it was a controlled substance, you should not be convicted for a violation of HS 11377(a). A “usable amount” simply means it was more than residue and enough to get high.

Related California Offenses for HS 11377(a)

Health and Safety Code 11350 – Possession of a Controlled Substance Health and Safety Code 11351 – Drug Possession for Sales Health and Safety Code 11352 - Transporting or Selling Controlled Substance Health and Safety Code 11378 – Possession of Meth for Sales Health and Safety Code 11379 – Transporting or Selling Meth Health and Safety Code 11379.6 – Manufacturing a Controlled Substance Health and Safety Code 11383.5 – Possession of Material to Manufacture Meth

Penalties for HS 11377(a) Methamphetamine Possession

If a defendant has a prior conviction for certain qualifying felonies including murder and some serious sex offenses, including those which require registration under Penal Code Section 290 as a sex offender, a violation of Section 11377(a) can be filed as a felony.

A felony prosecution under Section 11377(a) subjects the defendant to 16 months, two years, or three years in the California state prison. A misdemeanor conviction for Section 11377(a), on the other hand, exposes to defendant to a maximum of one year in the county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.

While most methamphetamine possession prosecutions are now treated as misdemeanors, readers should be aware that possession of large amounts of methamphetamine, even without intent to sell, can trigger extremely high prison sentences. 

If the prosecution can prove the defendant was in possession of more than one kilogram or methamphetamine, the defendant can face an additional three to fifteen years in state prison in excess of the normal sentence.

There are several diversionary sentences which are imposed in cases of especially first-time, personal use amount methamphetamine possession. These include drug court, Proposition 36, and Deferred Entry of Judgment pursuant to Penal Code Section 1000. While the details of these programs differ, the outcome is typically the same. 

The defendant will have the opportunity to earn a reduction in the charges or even an outright dismissal upon successful completion of a treatment and drug counselling program. For many first-time offenders, this type of diversionary sentence is the best option as it allows the defendant to keep their record relatively clean while also taking advantage of likely badly needed drug treatment.

Fighting Health and Safety Code 11377(a) Charges

Defenses to a Health and Safety Code Section 11377(a) allegation of possession of methamphetamine by the defendant will include challenges to the legality of the search and seizure which yielded the narcotics in question.

If law enforcement was acting without a valid search warrant or, in the typical case, with no warrant at all, the burden is only the prosecution to demonstrate that the seizure was lawful. The government will typically rely on one of the many exceptions to the general warrant requirement such as the automobile exception, the search incident to arrest exception, the plain view exception, or others. 

Still, in a substantial number of cases there are non-frivolous objections to be presented which will seek to suppress the methamphetamine on the grounds that it was only discovered via a violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Other defenses include the assertion that the methamphetamine belonged to someone other than the defendant and the defendant was unaware of its presence. Keep in mind that only lack of knowledge of the methamphetamine's presence is a defense. Even possessing methamphetamine knowingly which belongs to someone else is a violation of Section 11377(a). 

In rare cases, a defendant will have a valid prescription from a physician to possess a small amount of methamphetamine. In those cases, the existence of the valid prescription, provided the methamphetamine is possessed correctly according to the prescription, is a complete defense.

Contact a California Drug Crime Lawyer

As you can see, the penalties for a Section 11377(a) violation vary wildly with the amount of methamphetamine possessed. In cases of substantial possession – over one kilogram – there are potentially very long prison sentences associated with a Section 11377(a) conviction. 

If you, or someone you know, has been arrested for, is under investigation for, or has been charged with the serious California drug crime of Health and Safety Code Section 11377(a) – possession of methamphetamine – contact our experienced criminal defense team today for a consultation.

We have the experience in both the prefiling and court representation stages of these cases to help you or your loved one maximize the chances of a successful outcome through aggressive advocacy designed to protect your rights.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We are also located next to the Van Nuys Courthouse at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact us to review the details of your case at (310) 328-3776.

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