Under California law, drug crimes involve the production, manufacture, growth, trafficking, possession, or sales of controlled substances. Most drug crimes are charged as felonies and carry severe punishments and high fines. However, possession of methamphetamine and other controlled substances is charged as a misdemeanor. If you or someone close to you face charges of possession of methamphetamine, it is critical to involve a seasoned criminal defense attorney in your case.
At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we can handle any drug crimes that a client could be prosecuted for committing. We will explicitly tailor a fitting defense for you according to your case's circumstances on visiting our offices. We are tenacious in criminal defense cases ensuring that we deliver quality and client-satisfactory services. Over the years, we constantly prove our proficiency in the criminal defense practice area by providing the best legal representation and consultation, thereby winning numerous court cases. We serve clients in San Jose, California. Contact us for more information on the services we offer.
In this article, we discuss in detail the aspects of the possession of methamphetamine crime.
What the California Law States About Possession of Methamphetamine
To better understand the nature of the crime, we examine the specifics that build it up in detail. Firstly, methamphetamine is a controlled substance in California. Controlled substances are regulated by the law and include drugs that require a prescription or illegal narcotics such as cocaine. Controlled substances are classified into four Schedules of I - IV; methamphetamine is under schedule II. It is a drug that requires a prescription from a licensed medical practitioner such as a nurse, doctor, or veterinarian for it to be used.
Methamphetamine is a bitter-tasting powder that leads to intense stimulation of the user. The drug is also highly addictive. Medically, meth is used as a stimulant to treat patients with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) or rare occasions, assist obese patients in weight loss. When used, the drug affects the central nervous system and can lead to fatal side effects. Methamphetamine is easily manufactured hence making it readily available in California; therefore, it is highly abused. Consequently, stringent laws govern the manufacture, distribution, and intake of methamphetamine to curb its abuse.
California’s Health and Safety Code 11377 is a law that prohibits unauthorized people from possessing methamphetamine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and Gammy hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB); the offenses of holding any of the mentioned drugs carry the same penalties. Anyone found in possession of methamphetamine or any medicines listed under Schedule III, IV, or V is charged under this law. Methamphetamine is also locally known as meth, blue, crystal meth, or crystal.
As stipulated by California and Federal law, doctors, nurses, veterinarians, and other licensed medical practitioners are exempted from this law's limitations. Therefore, if a person is found in possession of methamphetamine, being a medical practitioner, they cannot be charged under the Health and Safety Code 11377 once they provide a license. Additionally, if you are under direct instruction from any licensed practitioner to use, pass, or transport the drug, you cannot be convicted of breaching this law.
Elements of the Crime
For your offense to be within the scope of Health and Safety Code 11377, certain aspects of the crime must be evident. You cannot face charges of possession of methamphetamine if your offense specifics are outside the scope of this crime. These elements include:
The term “possession of methamphetamine" can seem confusing since most people might think you need to hold something to be in its possession. Contrary to that, the law stipulates three ways in which you can be said to have the drug. It includes actual possession, joint possession, and constructive possession.
Active Possession – firstly, you can be charged with violating Health and Safety Code 11377 if methamphetamine is found on your person. That is, the drugs were on you, either you were holding them, they were in your pockets, clothes, backpack, or purse. However, active possession does not include testing positive for meth in your blood. Such a crime will be charged as being under the influence of a controlled substance.
Constructive Possession – secondly, the violation applies if the drug is not necessarily in your physical custody, but it is within your reach. For instance, you could stash it in the gloves compartment of your car, in your car trunk, in your house, or any other place within your control. The aspects of constructive possession can be hard to define since it is a wide scope. If charged with being in constructive possession of methamphetamine, you want to consult your attorney to understand your case's attributes better.
Joint Possession – lastly, supposing you and your roommate hold meth in your apartment, both of you are in joint control of the drug. Consequently, you can both be prosecuted for being in possession of methamphetamine. Typically, a charge on joint possession of a drug applies when the drug is in a shared place where each of you can access it. However, if you did not know of the drug's existence in your space, you can be exempted from the charges.
The Knowledge that You Possessed a Controlled Substance
If you are charged with possessing meth and aware that it was illegal to hold the substance, you can face charges under Health and Penal Code 11377. The law requires the defendant to be aware that the drug they in their possession is illegal to possess without a prescription or to know the drug's character to be prosecuted for the crime.
Also, even if you do not know the drug's name, if you are aware of its presence, you can be charged under Penal Code 11377. For instance, June is found in possession of some tablets in her purse. When asked what the drug is, she says that it is Vicodin, while in the real sense, the drug is meth. June holds no prescription for methamphetamine and obtained it from a local dealer. In such a situation, June can be convicted of being in possession of meth since even though she does not know the drug's name, she knew it was illegal in her possession.
On the other hand, for example, Tim is handed a parcel of methamphetamine by his neighbor to deliver to a college classmate. Tim is not aware of what is in the package. The police are granted a search warrant to search the school since some students in his class are suspected of abusing methamphetamine. During the search, the parcel is discovered in his bag, and the police find that it contained meth. Tim cannot be convicted of having methamphetamine if he proves that he did not know the parcel contained a controlled substance beyond a reasonable doubt.
For a prosecutor to file charges under Health and Safety Code 11337, the quantity of meth discovered on your person or within your control must be enough to either be smoked, swallowed, or administered. Consequently, if only a few traces of the drug is found in your possession, the charges cannot apply.
The Prosecutor Needs to Prove That
- The defendant possessed meth on their person, or the drug was within their control.
- The defendant possessed the drug without a valid prescription or instruction from a physician.
- He/she knew that they held a controlled substance. Note that the defendant need not know the drug; as long as they know that it is a controlled drug, they can be charged with the crime.
- The quantity of meth the defendant possessed was usable and not merely traces.
Penalties For Possession of Methamphetamine
The crime is charged as a misdemeanor under California law. The crime’s penalty includes a one-year jail term or a fine of not more than $1,000. Before California's Proposition 47, the offense was charged as a wobbler, and the prosecutor could file it as a misdemeanor or a felony. After the proposal, possession of methamphetamine became a misdemeanor crime if there are no evident aggravating factors.
Proposition 47 was enacted in November 2014 to help reform offenders of possession of minor drug offenses that do not involve violent crimes. The proposition requires that offenders be charged with misdemeanors if they commit a crime of being in possession of certain controlled substances. Such offenders will be fit for granting diversion programs and probation instead of serving the crime sentence penalties.
However, the offense can still carry a felony charge. Suppose the offender holds a past criminal record of serious felonies such as sex crimes, violent crimes, or murder. In that case, it renders the defendant not fit to be prosecuted under the guidelines of Proposal 47, when they commit a crime of possession of methamphetamine. First-time violators of the law are judged leniently. If the respondent is found guilty of violating the Health and Safety Code felony, they can serve a more than a one-year jail term depending on the circumstances of the commission of the crime.
Hence, equipping yourself with the proficient litigation of a criminal defense attorney early on in the case ensures your defense is robust; your attorney will fight to preserve your best interests aiming for acquittal of your charges or reduction of penalties. It can also help evade other consequences that come with the possession of methamphetamine crime conviction. Additional punishments that could impact your life in the long-term include:
- Students who face a conviction under this crime can be denied college financial funding.
- You can experience problems accessing housing plans.
- If a divorce case is underway, a conviction of possession of methamphetamine could negatively affect your case.
- You may lose a child custodial battle.
- The criminal record affects your eligibility for employment to most jobs.
- For foreigners convicted of the crime, they can face deportation or be deemed as inadmissible in the country.
One of the aspects stipulated by Proposal 47 is that the law should encourage rehabilitation of drug addicts over jail sentences. Under Penal Code 1000, defendants are eligible for a diversion program if they face a minor drug offense charge such as methamphetamine possession.
To qualify for the diversion program, the defendant must meet the following requirements:
- They should not carry any prior criminal records of serious felony convictions such as violent crimes.
- They should not hold a drug offense conviction over the previous five years, which could disqualify them for the program.
- There must be no further evidence that could lead to the defendant being prosecuted for a more serious offense, such as possession of drugs for sale.
Consequently, your attorney can obtain a drug diversion for you, which will relieve you from serving a sentence. You will instead be required to attend a mandatory rehabilitation program for treatment and counseling. If you diligently carry through conditions ordered by the court, you are acquitted of the charge upon your completion of the program.
However, anyone who is granted a drug diversion program and fails to follow its conditions will undergo a trial. If found guilty, you will be subjected to the penalties applicable to this crime.
Sealing of a Criminal Record
Sealing or expunging a criminal record refers to clearing an offender’s offenses, which means that they will no longer hold a criminal file that will not appear in their profile and will not be provided to employers or any other formal or informal setting. A judge can expunge your illegal files if you complete probation without violating its terms.
Legal Defenses to The Possession of Methamphetamine Charge
If you face charges of methamphetamine possession, you want to acquaint yourself with an experienced litigator to ensure your defense is comprehensive. Some possible litigating factors that your attorney can use to fight charges of possession of methamphetamine are:
Illegal Seizure of the Drug
According to California Penal Code 1538.5, a defendant's attorney can file for a motion to question the admissibility of evidence provided against the defendant if obtained during an illegal search. Furthermore, if the evidence against you was obtained after you were arrested without a probable cause, your attorney can request the court to suppress the evidence. Under the law, carrying out a seizure without a California Search Warrant is prohibited. Consequently, any evidence obtained under such circumstances can be dismissed by a judge and the case against you dismissed if no further evidence is provided.
Once the prosecutor files a suit against you, it is their responsibility to prove to the court, beyond all doubt, that you are guilty of the crime. To prove this, they must provide credible evidence against you. In case the prosecutor fails in their duty, your attorney can request the lawsuit to be dismissed due to a lack of enough evidence. Furthermore, when your case's specifics do not fit with the crime elements, you cannot be convicted of this crime.
As mentioned earlier, methamphetamine should be taken only under prescription. Consequently, it is not a violation of Health and Safety Code 11377 if you prove that you held instructions from a doctor for the meth in your possession. If you possess meth under a medic's instruction, you would be exempted from the charges; delivering or giving medication to someone with a prescription is not a crime under this code. Upon discovery that there was a legitimate prescription, your case can be acquitted.
If you did not have methamphetamine, but find yourself falsely accused of the crime, or set-up for the crime, acquiring legal counsel and representation is critical to upholding your rights. You are not guilty of this offense when you were not in actual, constructive, or joint methamphetamine possession. An experienced attorney will know how to find faults in the evidence against you and prove your innocence.
You Were Not Aware that You Possessed a Controlled Substance
One element of this crime is that the offender must be aware that the drug in their possession is a controlled substance. Therefore, if you and your lawyer successfully demonstrate that you did not know the medication you were holding was regulated, the charges against you can be cleared.
Related Crimes to Possession of Methamphetamine
Possession of Methamphetamine for Sale
Health and Safety Code 11378 law prohibit one from holding methamphetamine to sell it to other persons. This law exempts medical practitioners and pharmacists. An example is when you carry meth in your bag and head over to a party and sell it there; consequently, you can face charges of violating HSC 11378. This crime carries more severe penalties than simply possessing meth for personal use.
The prosecutor must prove that you possessed the meth; you were aware of the drug being in your possession; you knew it was a restricted drug; you were selling it or intending to do so or that the meth was in a substantial amount. The crime is charged as a felony; it carries a punishment of sixteen months, two years, or three-year' service in jail. The penalty can also entail a maximum fine of $10,000. If charged with this felony, you will be excluded from being granted a diversion program.
Transporting or Selling Methamphetamine
Health safety code11379 makes it illegal to transport methamphetamine with the motive of selling it. Furthermore, it prohibits the administration of the drug without a prescription. The crime includes trafficking of methamphetamine, which refers to the illegal importation, distribution, and sale of the drug. The offense also entails volunteering to transport the medicine without a permit or giving away the drugs without a prescription.
Breaching of HSC 11379 carries a felony charge with a penalty of a jail term of 16months, two years, or three years. A fine can be issued in place of the sentence, or both can be administered as the punishment.
Possession of Materials to Manufacturing Methamphetamine
Health and Safety Code 11383.5 restricts the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Due to the availability of meth ingredients, it is easily made on a small scale without a permit. Possessing the components or chemical combinations used to manufacture meth is a criminal act. It carries severe punishments, including a jail sentence of two, four, or six years.
Unlawful Manufacturing of Methamphetamine
Violation of Health and Safety Code 11379.6 is a crime that entails producing, extracting or composing a controlled substance. This crime is typically charged alongside the HSC 11383.5. An example of this crime is, Jill obtains methamphetamine ingredients at a local market and processes meth in his garage and sometimes in his basement. Consequently, Jill violates two Health and Safety Codes by possessing meth raw materials and the illegal manufacture of meth.
Being Under The Influence of a Meth
Health and Safety Code 11550 restricts you from being under the influence of meth and other controlled medicine or illegal narcotics unless part of an administered treatment by a medic. Breaching of this law earns the offender a misdemeanor charge. The penalty is a maximum fine of $10,000 or a one-year jail term. You can also choose to join a diversion program instead of serving a jail term.
DUI of Methamphetamine
California Vehicle Code 23152(f) prohibits driving under the influence of methamphetamine. An officer holds a probable cause in issuing a traffic stop when driving suggests that you are under the influence of drugs. Since meth affects your nervous system, it can impair driving. When abused, meth can cause confusion, hallucinations, insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions that will affect your judgment when going, thus qualifies as a DUI crime.
DUI of methamphetamine can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Typically first offenders are accused of a misdemeanor. The penalties include 3-5 years of probation, fines of around $1,500 or more, and a possible jail term depending on whether you hold a criminal record.
CVC 23152 can be charged as a felony if it is a fourth subsequent offense or if it caused an accident that injured other persons. The felony carries a penalty of 16 months, two years or three years state prison sentence. The offender can be required to pay a fine or receive both a fine and a jail term as punishment. Punishment for this crime is aggravated in the presence of a defendant's past criminal record of serious felonies or commit a serious offense while DUI, such as vehicular involuntary manslaughter. Driving under influence convictions can lead to suspension of a driving license as an additional penalty.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Being apprehended for an offense does not automatically render you guilty. Under the guidance of a top-notch attorney, your innocence can be proved, and the charges against you dismissed. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we provide quality representation to our clients and ensure their rights are preserved. We are results-oriented and fierce in fighting for the best interests of our clients. Our law firm is situated in San Jose, California. You can call us at 408-622-0204 for a free consultation.