Review of How to Defend Against California Methamphetamine Charges
In the state of California, there are several different statutes used by prosecutors to charge someone with a methamphetamine related drug crime.
The penalties will depend on whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony and other factors.
California Health and Safety Code 11377(a) HS makes it a misdemeanor crime to have simple possession of methamphetamine.
Health and Safety Code 11378 HS makes it a felony crime to have possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell.
Health and Safety Code 11379 HS makes it a felony crime to sell or transport methamphetamine.
Health and Safety Code 11379.6 HS makes it a felony crime to manufacture drugs and narcotics.
Health and Safety Code 11550 HS makes it a crime to be under the influence of a controlled substance or a narcotic drug.
HS 11377 is one of the most common drug law statutes charged as it makes it a crime to possess any usable amount of methamphetamine, which is widely known as “simple possession.”
Drug possession typically means someone is holding a drug or has access to it, such as:
- actual possession, or
- constructive possession.
A violation of HSC 11377 is charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail and a fine up to $1,000.
It should be noted that a judge could grant probation, rather than jail time, with a drug diversion program where they can receive treatment and a chance to get their criminal charges dismissed.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing a more detailed review below.
History of Drug Prosecutions in the United States
Drug prosecutions follow national and local drug abuse trends as the price, availability, and popularity of various illicit drugs grows or wanes.
In the controversial war on drugs, social and political trends also influence aggressive and sometimes overzealous efforts to prosecute drug crimes.
Methamphetamine prosecutions fall smack in the middle of serious national and local debates over drug-crime policies. For prosecutors nationwide, methamphetamine has been an especially notorious drug.
Its first serious scourge in the early 2000s produced dramatic upswings in hospital trauma admissions, making meth the number one illicit trauma drug.
After a falloff in the ensuing years, U.S. deaths from meth abuse rose to a high of around 13,000 in 2018, making meth the nation's second-most-deadly illicit drug, after opioids.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that U.S. meth deaths rose further in 2019 to 16,500.
Deaths involving methamphetamine overdose
A press report quoting the U.S. assistant secretary for health notes that meth is an especially deadly drug because no medication reverses a meth overdose.
And meth use doesn't just have social, mental, physical, and mortality effects. One recent study published in the National Library of Medicine confirms that meth use leads to increases in crime.
Another study published in the same forum confirms that meth use increases violent behavior even beyond its psychotic effects.
Yet despite public education on these risks of meth drug abuse, meth remains a popular recreational drug. Meth has a severely addictive nature.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, about 1.6 million Americans annually, and about three-quarters of a million in any one past month, use meth, also popularly known as:
The same report indicates that a user's average age is just twenty-four years old, making meth a particular hazard for the young. Use varies regionally, with the Pacific West a hotspot for meth use.
No surprise, then, that state and federal drug-crime laws, including laws in California, add methamphetamines to the list of illegal drugs supporting various charges for drug crimes.
Controlled Substances Act
State and federal laws clearly regard meth as a serious-risk drug. State criminal laws typically refer to five federal Controlled Substances Act schedules to determine what drugs are illegal, why they are illegal, and the seriousness of the abuse risk of each drug.
Among the five federal Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V, the lower the schedule number, the worse the drug.
Schedule I drugs, for example, have no medical use at all but a high potential for abuse.
Federal law, and California law, make meth a Schedule II drug, the second-worst classification. Cocaine and PCP are other Schedule II drugs.
Prosecuting Different Types of Drug Crimes
California and federal authorities frequently prosecute many other types of drug-related activity, including:
- drug trafficking;
- drug possession;
- drug sales;
- manufacturing drugs;
- transporting drugs;
- money laundering;
- prescription fraud;
- counterfeiting prescriptions;
- marijuana sales and transportation;
- operating a drug house.
Clearly, the facts of circumstances of your case will dictate what type of specific charges you will face.
Penalties for California Methamphetamine Crimes
Penalties for meth-related convictions in California vary depending on other circumstances:
- Many meth-possession convictions under California Health and Safety Code 11377(a) are only misdemeanors, punishable by no more than a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
- But other circumstances, including certain prior convictions, can raise a HS 11377(a) conviction from a misdemeanor to a felony punishable by sixteen months, two years, or even three years in a California state prison.
- A large quantity of meth in the defendant's possession, even if not for sale, can increase the felony conviction to a punishment of as much as fifteen years of imprisonment.
Drug Diversion in California
On the other hand, for lesser meth offenses, diversion from criminal court to drug court may be possible, especially for first-time offenders on only a possession charge.
Meth charges may qualify for diversion under:
- California Penal Code 1000 PC pretrial drug-diversion program,
- California Proposition 36, or
- California Drug Court.
Our lawyers will need to review the details of your case in order to determine if you are eligible for a drug diversion program.
How Can I Fight Methamphetamine Charges?
Our top-rated Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have a record of success defending any type of meth related charges.
As with other serious charges, skilled investigation and aggressive advocacy can make the difference in the outcome of a meth charge.
It can also make a difference in avoiding or defeating sentence enhancements while defending the underlying methamphetamine charge.
We know the nuances of the federal and state schedules, procedures, and criminal laws.
We also know particulars of meth manufacturing, distribution, and abuse, and the tendencies of the public officials who investigate, charge, and sentence meth crimes.
We can can use a wide range of strategies to create reasonable doubt and might be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
Some common defenses include:
- illegal search requiring suppression of drug evidence,
- illegal seizure requiring suppression of confessions,
- entrapment of innocent suspects,
- police or lab misconduct fabricating or altering evidence,
- gaps in evidence custody and the chain of evidence,
- police and prosecutor misconduct concealing exonerating evidence,
- unfair lineup procedures requiring suppression of eyewitness identification,
- irregularities testing and determining drug type or form,
- when the drug type or form does not qualify for federal schedules,
- when drug chemistry does not qualify for sentence enhancement, and
- when the drug amount does not qualify for sentence enhancement.
Criminal Defense for California Methamphetamine Charges
You can see how important having an expert and aggressive defense counsel is to defending meth charges.
Our top-ranked Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have successfully defended meth and other drug charges for decades.
If charged with a meth related crime in California, you may be eligible for a drug diversion program that could give you an opportunity to get the charges dismissed.
Also, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid the formal filing of charges before court.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm representing individuals throughout Southern California, including LA County, Ventura County, Orange County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
We are located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our firm for an initial consultation at (877) 781-1570.