Police and prosecutors throughout Los Angeles County and Southern California treat methamphetamine cases very seriously. California is considered to be one of the leading producers of meth. The police, District Attorney’s offices, and the medical community treat it as a dangerous drug.
It is generally illegal in California to possess methamphetamine. California law imposes severe penalties including jail time for certain cases of meth possession and even harsher penalties for possessing methamphetamine with an intent to sell meth, selling it, or transporting it.
At the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg, we use our experience and local knowledge of how different District Attorney’s offices and courthouses in Los Angeles County work to aggressively defend every methamphetamine-related charge.
California Methamphetamine Possession Charges
California Health and Safety Code Section 11377 makes it a crime to possess meth, unless the meth was obtained in connection with a valid prescription.
To be convicted of possession of methamphetamine, the prosecutor must prove each of the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you had methamphetamine in your possession; either on your body or that you had the right to control the methamphetamine
- That you knew you possessed Methamphetamine
- There was a usable amount of Methamphetamine (beyond a trace amount)
In California, a case of simple possession of meth (without the intent to sell or distribute it to others) is generally charged as a misdemeanor. However, if the defendant has been previously convicted of a category of offenses known as “super strikes” or is required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290, the prosecutor then has the discretion to charge a felony or misdemeanor.
If methamphetamine possession is charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. As a felony, the potential prison sentences are 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. A meth possession case that is charged as a felony can later be dropped to a misdemeanor.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, it is also possible that a conviction for simple possession of meth will qualify for California’s Drug Diversion Program. That Program allows someone convicted of simple possession of meth to avoid jail time. In addition, once the Program is completed, the methamphetamine charges are dismissed.
Intent to Sell Methamphetamine in California
California Health and Safety Code Section 11378 makes it a felony to possess meth with the intent to sell it to another person or entity. The penalties for possession with an intent to sell are more serious than for simple possession. Specifically, someone convicted of violating Section 11378 can be sent to prison for 16 months, 2, or 3 years.
Additional penalties may apply if the possession of meth took place on or close to a school, homeless shelter, or drug treatment facility. If the amount of meth weighs more than one kilogram (2.2 lbs.), an additional prison sentence of between three to 15 years can be imposed.
The distinction between a charge of meth possession and possession with an intent to sell is critical. The police and the District Attorney’s Office are more likely to push for jail time in a case involving an intent to sell. To determine possession for sale, police will look at whether there is evidence of sales. Examples of this commonly include:
- Separately packaged
- Scales or other measuring equipment
- Multiple cell phones
- Sales records (commonly called “pay and owes”)
Transporting or Selling Methamphetamine
Section 11379 of the Health and Safety Code makes it a felony to transport or sell meth. Convictions are punishable by a prison sentence of 2, 3, or 4 years. A prison sentence as long as 9 years will be imposed for people who are convicted of transporting meth across more than two counties within the State of California.
California Methamphetamine Manufacturing Charges
Section 11379.6 of California’s Health and Safety Code prohibits the manufacture of a wide range of controlled substances, including methamphetamine. Because much of the country’s meth is manufactured in California, police and prosecutors make it a high priority to arrest anyone who is connected with the operation of a meth lab.
The penalties for the manufacture of methamphetamine apply to any phase of its production, including: compounding, converting, producing, deriving, processing, or preparing meth, either directly or indirectly by chemical extraction or independently by means of chemical synthesis. Someone convicted of violating Section 11379.6 can be imprisoned for 3, 5, or 7 years and fined up to $50,000.
It is also a felony to offer to perform any of the steps that are necessary to manufacture meth. Someone convicted of offering to perform such an act can be sentenced to a prison term of 3, 4, or 5 years. Likewise, Section 11366.5 of the Health and Safety Code makes it a felony to knowingly allow others to manufacture meth and other controlled substances in your home or other structure.
What to Do If You Are Charged With Methamphetamine Possession
Prosecutors have the burden of proving every element of a meth-related charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Defending a methamphetamine case therefore involves challenging the evidence that police and prosecutors rely on. The most common defenses to meth-related charges include but are not limited to:
- Challenging whether the substance that was found is actually methamphetamine
- In a case of meth possession, interviewing witnesses and otherwise undermining the claim that our client had possession of the meth
- Reviewing search warrants and the manner in which the methamphetamine was seized by the police to determine whether evidence of meth possession, sale, or transport can be excluded from trial because the police violated the constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures.
- In cases of simple possession of meth, negotiating with the District Attorney’s office and attempting to convince the prosecutor assigned to our client’s case that the charges should be filed as a misdemeanor rather than as a felony or that that client should be sent to the Drug Diversion Program rather than to prison.
- In cases involving charges of possession with an intent to sell, challenging the evidence of intent.
A successful defense of a methamphetamine case does not just magically happen. It requires examining every aspect of the prosecution case and identifying holes in that case.
How a Methamphetamine Defense Lawyer Can Help
Every Los Angeles County courthouse treats methamphetamine differently. Prosecutors in every courthouse have different priorities and policies when it comes to meth-related crimes. You will benefit from our insider knowledge of how each Los Angeles County courthouse deals with these cases.
Fast action is critical in meth cases. Call Los Angeles methamphetamine defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg at (323) 633-3423 for a free and confidential consultation or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.