Possession of Methamphetamine – 11377 Health and Safety Code

Only certain cases will quality someone charged with possessing methamphetamines for a treatment program.  In many cases, a simple possession can get tied in with other charges or facts that can bar someone from qualifying for a treatment program and therefore takes creative legal maneuvering to qualify for a program. Possessing methamphetamine without a treatment program can punish someone for up to 3 years in prison or up to one year in county jail.  After the passing of Proposition 47, California now punishes simple possession of methamphetamine as a misdemeanor. However, several circumstances exist where a felony charges can still be filed. With some knowledge of California’s drug laws and careful analysis of individual facts, there are ways of making sure somebody can get the best result possible.

Possession of Methamphetamine must be a “Usable” Amount

Because methamphetamine has such a multi-faceted structure (it can be powder-like, liquid, etc.,) a frequent issue is the usable amount.  Two different schools of thought dominate this question.  For years, drug recognition experts (usually drug detective for police agencies) have testified that a usable amount is anything that can be manipulated.  For example, you can play with it in your hand.  This has been acceptable to most judges in different stages of criminal proceedings.

The courts have determined that a usable amount is a quantity of a controlled substance possessed by the defendant that can be usable for consumption or sale. People v. Riley (2010) 100 Cal.Rptr.3d 585.  Essentially, no standard amount is considered usable.  Therefore, a general rule of thumb is something in between what the drug recognition expert testifies to and what the court has established as the general element required to establish the prosecution’s burden.  This may not seem as an important factor in a methamphetamine possession case, but the public would be shocked to discover how many possession cases go forward for nothing but residue left over in a pipe after police have obtained a pipe from a defendant.

What is “Possession” and how does Someone Possess Methamphetamine?

Like other controlled substances, possession does not have to be actual possession like in someone’s pocket.  It can be in a car nobody is in at the moment it is found, on a nightstand of an empty room at the time of arrest, or in a safe when nobody is home.  The key to “possession” is to what degree the person exercised control over that substance.

Where officers found a small amount of methamphetamine on a nightstand in a room the defendant shared with his girlfriend, it was determined to be insufficient to show he had possession of the substance without proof that he knew of its nature as a controlled substance. People v. Tripp (2007) 60 Cal.Rptr.3d 534. The reason for this is because the contraband was found in a place that defendant and others have access and to and nobody has exclusive control over it.  Therefore, no sharp line can be drawn to distinguish which will and which will not constitute sufficient evidence of someone’s knowledge it’s a narcotic.

So the mere opportunity to access a place where narcotics are found will not support a finding of unlawful possession.  People v. Tripp (2007) 60 Cal.Rptr.3d 534.

What to do when charged with Possessing Methamphetamine?

A careful analysis of the case by an experienced drug crime attorney can save heartache where none should be. Before someone must face either incarceration or a mandatory drug treatment program, there are avenues in investigating whether or not lawful police contact was made and whether the charges are to aggressively pursue against the client. If you were charged with possession of methamphetamine, contact our law firm for a free case evaluation.