HS 11377 – California Possession of Methamphetamines

Methamphetamine (sometimes known as crystal meth, ice, crank, speed, or just “meth”) is a controlled substance in California. It is illegal to possess meth without a prescription.

Most of the crystal sold on the street in California has not been manufactured as a prescription drug. It has usually been made in a clandestine laboratory somewhere in the United States, Mexico, or occasionally in some other country.

Facing charges for meth possession? Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Before November 4, 2014, possession of methamphetamine was classified as a wobbler. That means a prosecutor had discretion to charge the crime as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Proposition 47 changed California law so that possessing meth (and possession of most other illicit drugs) can only be charged as a misdemeanor.

What Do Prosecutors Need for a 11377 HS Conviction?

Prosecutor looking for evidence to convict 11377 defendantPossessing meth without a valid prescription violates California Health and Safety Code section 11377. To obtain a conviction, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  • unlawfully possessed a substance containing methamphetamine;
  • knew of its presence;
  • knew that was a controlled substance; and
  • possessed a usable amount.

A few other drugs are covered by CA HS 11377 but possession of methamphetamine is the offense usually charged under that law. The possession of many other drugs is covered by California Health and Safety Code section 11350. Except for the identity of the drugs to which the laws apply, the two laws are virtually identical.

Unlawful possession

Methamphetamine can be legally possessed with a valid prescription although it is not a drug that is commonly prescribed. 11377 a HS California only criminalizes the unlawful possession of it. Unless you have a valid prescription for methamphetamine, possessing it is almost always unlawful.

The crystal does not need to be pure. In fact, most meth sold on the street is not pure. If the drug has been cut or mixed with any other substance, possessing it still violates the law.


The phrase “knew of its presence” protects people who possess a drug unknowingly. If someone left meth in your vehicle and you did not know it was there, you did not possess the drug in violation of section 11377.

If you possessed crystal and did not realize that the substance you possessed was a controlled substance (a drug that is regulated by law and listed on a controlled substance schedule), you did not violate section 11377. On the other hand, if you knew you were possessing a controlled substance but mistakenly believed it was something else, your possession still violates section 11377. For example, you would be violating section 11377 if you possessed crystal in the mistaken belief that it was cocaine.

Usable amount

The requirement that possession must be of a “usable amount” protects you from prosecution if you only have trace amounts of the drug. “Usable” does not mean “enough to get you high” but it does mean “enough to use.”

The requirement that the substance be “usable” provides you with a defense under other circumstances. If you are found with residue from the manufacturing process that tests positive for the drug but the residue cannot actually be used as a drug, your lawyer may be able to convince a jury that you did not possess a usable amount of the substance.

What is “possession”?

Teacher explaining health and safety code 11377 offenseSection 11377 applies to simple possession. Selling drugs is a different crime. That offense was not affected by Proposition 47.

Section 11377 is meant to criminalize possession for personal use, although the government is not required to prove that you intended to use it. It is enough to prove that you possessed it.

You can possess a drug in three different ways. How you allegedly possessed the substance may affect the defenses that are available in your case.

Actual possession

Actual possession means that you either had methamphetamine on your person or that you exercised direct physical control of it. For instance, if you place meth in the trunk of your car, you are in actual possession of it.

Constructive possession

Constructive possession means that you had the right to control the crystal even if it was not in your physical possession. For example, if you gave meth to someone else to hold for you and you were entitled to ask that person to return it, you constructively possessed it.

Joint possession

Joint possession means that methamphetamine was possessed by two or more people at the same time. For example, if you and your friends purchased meth together and you intended to share it, you jointly possessed the drug.

What Are The Penalties for Possession?

11377 hs consequencesBefore Proposition 47 passed, a conviction of section 11377 could result in a prison sentence if the prosecutor charged the crime as a felony. Under the law as it now exists, the possession of crystal is almost always a misdemeanor offense. The maximum possible sentence is one year in jail.

The possession of methamphetamine is still a felony for a small group of offenders. They include defendants who have prior convictions for violent offenses and defendants who are required to register as sex offenders. For everyone else, simple possession is now a misdemeanor.

Sentencing options can help you avoid jail

Proposition 47 gives individuals accused of possessing crystal more options for resolving their cases. If you are charged with possessing methamphetamine, you may be eligible for Drug Court or some other drug diversion program. Proposition 47 recognizes that people who possess the drug for their own use probably have a drug problem that is more effectively addressed by treatment than by incarceration.

Drug diversion programs are not only an alternative to jail or probation, they can help some offenders avoid a conviction. Diversion programs usually involve educational classes, treatment, or both. If you are allowed to enter drug diversion before sentencing and you are able to provide proof of program completion, the charges will be dismissed.

Why you should try to avoid a conviction

A drug conviction carries the potential for additional consequences. A conviction for methamphetamine possession can make it more difficult to obtain certain jobs, to enlist in the military, or to apply for professional licenses and permits.

Proposition 47 made an important change in the law but that change does not mean that a drug charge should not be taken seriously. You should always contact an attorney to find out whether a conviction can be avoided in your case.

What Are the Possible Defenses to the Charge?

defenses for 11377 defendantsI use a number of different strategies and defenses on behalf of clients charged with possessing crystal. Most of the time, drug diversion is the best alternative. In cases where diversion is not available or when my client wants to contest the charge, I might raise any of the following defenses:

  • You had a valid prescription for methamphetamine (or the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not have a prescription).
  • The substance was planted in your house or car by someone with a grudge against you.
  • The substance was left in your house or car by someone else and you did not know it was there.
  • Someone handed you a substance and you did not know it was a controlled substance.
  • The witness who claimed the drug belonged to you is lying to protect himself or someone else.
  • You tried to buy methamphetamine but the sale was never completed.
  • You were near some people who possessed methamphetamine but you had no right to use or control it.
  • The alleged crystal was not methamphetamine or any other controlled substance.
  • You did not possess a usable amount of the drug.
  • Whether or not you possessed meth, the police obtained evidence by means of an illegal search or seizure. The evidence therefore cannot be used to prove your guilt.

I will raise these defenses and others in an appropriate case to help you avoid a conviction or to put you in a better position to bargain for a reasonable outcome. Although methamphetamine possession is now a misdemeanor, it is still a serious crime to have on your record.


If you are charged or suspected of possessing meth, you should talk to a lawyer about your options. I will be happy to review your case and give you a free evaluation that will explain those options in clear terms. Call (888) 250-2865 today to obtain a free consultation .

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  • jose

    I was meeting up with a friend to loan him some money , he told me his girl doesn’t know he spent their rent money so to just go along with whatever he says in front of her. years ago I got arrested for meth and I’ve been clean from it for 11 years now. so when he texted me he was pretending like we were doing some kind of a drug deal so that his girlfriend wouldn’t know that he was borrowing money from me when I met up with him we were standing in a parking lot and I was going to give him the money and all of a sudden the cops popped up I guess they were following him and he threw his bag of meth into my car I know the cop saw him do that so I let them search my car and they found it and I told him that whatever he threw it wasn’t mine cuz I know the cops on him throw it well they arrested both of us and charged me with 11377 proposition 47 . and only gave him a probation violation no new charges . what can I do?

    • AttorneyRandyCollins

      Hi Jose. Your comment is three months old, so I suspect you may have already gone to court. If you’re still looking for info, feel free to give us a call.

      • sherzee

        Wowww. It took you three months to respond to Jose’s inquiry. That would certainly concern me if I was considering hiring you as my attorney!

        • AttorneyRandyCollins

          Hi Sherzee,

          This website has a contact form that goes straight to me, but the comments do not as they are designed to create conversation between those who visit the site.

          • sherzee

            I see. Thank you for the clarification.

  • Anish Arjun

    I am a very tough situation. I was arrested a year ago because a police officer pulled over a person who was hired and paid to pick me up from work. I really didn’t know this guy but the other two people he picked up i did know. Now, before we got pulled over instead of bringing me home, I decided to chill because the person who I stayed with was in the hospital for burning himself and he was the one who hired the driver. Also, because the two people the driver picked up I knew and chilled with 50% of the time. Because that night how I don’t understand a Damm thing about what they vv are saying majority of the time because they like to speak their language majority of the time. See I’m from the Philippines and their from the figi islands. Now I thought we were on our way to someone who is celebrating their birthday at a hotel, a person I did not know and where the hotel was at I didn’t know the area. Now I was wearing a skirt that night because earlier that day I was at work. So the driver put a jacket over my legs I guess to be nice. When he picked up one of the guy from earlier who I know brought a bag of popcorn because the driver was hungry. They offered me some but I was on a diet and popcorn has to much butter so I refused to get eat some. Now when we got pulled over the person in the back who I knew was on probation with search n seizure. I didn’t know that. While the cop is talking to the driver who is still eating the popcorn doesn’t answer the officer so I spoke and told the officer what I thought was going on about visiting the birthday person. After I spoke the officer said that I was trying to be sassy. And I told him no that I wasn’t trying to be. Then he asked if anyone was on probation and the person in the back said yes so the officer tells him to get out of the car. He searches him and puts handcuff on him and bring to the cop car. Then tells the driver to come out searches him and put handcuff on him for reason I didn’t know at that time. Then he comes to me cuz i was sitting in the passenger side and tells me if I had anything on me and I told him no so he tells me to sit on the sidewalk. Then last guy behind me comes out and sits on sidewalk. Now while searching through the car he comes back to us and talks to me first and says he found a pipe in the popcorn that was in the middle council and pipes in the glove compartment and under my seat. He said since I was acting sassy and that it was near me that it was mine. I told him that u can’t do that cuz that is not my things. I didn’t know that there where meth pipes under my seat and in the popcorn and glove. Then he said the jacket that was on my legs look like a description from a burglary that happen earlier that day and while searching it found a bunch of shave keys and pinned that on me when I told him that wasn’t my jacket and that the driver was the one who put it over me but didn’t want to hear what I had to say so they arrested me and search me and found nothing on me but when the officer was searching me, he grab my chest one by one making me feel violated and put me in the car. Took out my bag and was searching all in it and seen my bag of coins that I have collected for my kids and was digging in it. Those coins are really important to me cuz they cost money and I collect them for my kids. So I was yelling from the cop car saying don’t touch my shit because their for my kids. Officer didn’t listen and took my bag of coins and brought my bag back into the car where I had another full of my job stuff and my hair straightener. He is digging and digging. Then he releases the last guy who came out the car and I was like yelling out dude tell him the truth that the things they found wasnt mine so would release me also but dude didnt say a damn thing. So before taking me to the county jail, one of the officer went to get my things that was in the car. He said that he didnt know what things were mine cuz they poured out everything out of my bag so he grab everything that he thought was mine into my bag but made sure at least to get my id. Attempted to get my hair straightener but other officer grab it from him and through it back in the car. I ask the officer who has my bag if he got my bag of coins and he said no snd i was like why that bag is for my kids so that pissed me off but at the same time made me want to cry cuz i should of never been arrested in the first place cuz the things they were charging me with was not mine. Now i was arrested, driver, and one of the person on probation. Now as soon as we get to county the scheriff inside takes everything out my bag again and finds meth in a medicine bottle. And said to me i thought you had nothing on me and i told him of i told you the truth that i had nothing on me. Fighting the case till now driver took a plead where the check found in the back by dude on probation was his, while guy on probation says his charges were dropped but supposely has a warrent for not showing up for court. But did show up the first time that id why charges was dropped. And i missed my court cuz i was at work and i thought it was on another day. So now i am being charged with burglary tools and having meth and paraphanelia. Do you see what i am being accussed for. What shall i do cuz my court is coming in 2 days

    • Mark

      Too bad so sad.
      “Lie down with dogs, expect to get fleas”

    • AttorneyRandyCollins

      Hi Anish,

      Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. This website has a contact form that goes straight to me, but the comments do not as they are designed to create conversation between those who visit the site. If you would like to have your case evaluated for free, please call (888) 250-2865 and one of my staff members will assist you 24/7. I would answer your questions here, but since it is on a public forum, it would not be in your best interest. I suggest refraining from posting information about your case online. Also, please keep in mind that this communication should not be considered legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Best of luck to you, Randy.

  • ShadoeWynd

    My brother was arrested with over 40 pounds of Meth in his car, he’s never been in trouble with the law before this is his first offense. What kind of prison or jail time is he likely to face? Thank you in advance.

    • AttorneyRandyCollins

      Hi ShadoeWynd,

      If you or your brother would like to have your case evaluated for free, please call (888) 250-2865 and one of my staff members will assist you 24/7. I would answer your questions here, but since it is on a public forum, it would not be in your best interest. I suggest refraining from posting information about your case online. Also, please keep in mind that this communication should not be considered legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Best of luck to you, Randy.

  • Matthew M.

    I have a question about the state laws intent on treatment rather than incarceration I currently have been sentenced by the state to complete a prop 36 drug diversion program this is part of our proposition 47 that was passed on November 4th okay let’s back up I’ve been charged with a misdemeanor 11377 possession of methamphetamine a misdemeanor carries a maximum of one year in jail and $1,000 fine remember this is the maximum okay so back to my drug diversion program in this program I am on probation and I have to report once a month I have to go to two groups meetings at the health department twice a week and that program requires that I attend to self-help meetings as well per week so now I have 4 meetings or groups or self-help whatever you want to call them things I have to go to every week now this is kind of an inconvenience for a misdemeanor and I’m being drug tested and if I turn in dirty drug test I am not eligible to complete the diversion program that they have put me in which means I will be on probation forever I guess and again it’s all over a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year in the county and $1,000 fine okay here’s what I’m getting at what if I don’t want the state’s treatment program or the inconvenience of 4 meetings a week probation drug testing search and seizure everything that they were doing to me back when it was a felony years ago is there an alternative to all this how about 30 days in the county or three months of sheriffs parole or something with no probation I don’t feel that a misdemeanor is worth three years of inconvenience to me as far as probation and search and seizure I know multiple people who have been charged with the same position as myself and have had their cases dismissed I have a full-time job sometimes meaning 6 days a week I do a lot of work on the side construction and mechanic work to survive and my misdemeanor possession is becoming quite a burden or it makes my my work life difficult I’m always juggling things around so that I can work and not work and be at my meetings there’s gasoline and finds I don’t even want to talk about the fines they say a maximum of $1,000 for a misdemeanor right let’s add up the (court fees) the( fees for the drug test) the (fees they charge you for the diversion class) the (fees of gasoline)( missed hours of work) I asked am I being treated like a felon have i committed some sort of a felony crime, I have a full-time job where I have been employed for four years never been convicted of a crime other than drugs I have a family and I go to church periodically but the state treats me like a hardened Criminal

    • AttorneyRandyCollins

      Hi Matthew,

      If you would like to have your case evaluated for free, please call (888) 250-2865 and one of my staff members will assist you 24/7. I would answer your questions here, but since it is on a public forum, it would not be in your best interest. I suggest refraining from posting information about your case online. Also, please keep in mind that this communication should not be considered legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Best of luck to you, Randy.

      • Robert Deskins

        Wow, did anybody read this oh so careful lawyer’s response?
        Dont say anything about anything especially not in writing in public, do understand that even though I am a lawyer offering both my advice as a lawyer & my professional services you should not consider this legal advice and it doesnt make me your lawyer….

        This is what became of “the land of the free & the home of the brave”?
        We lock up working men with families or pile on multiple recurring mandatory activities with fee and fines and threaten the people who dont want to pay with the detrimental effect a conviction can have on ones ability to find employment.

        • JJ Bisnar

          Hello Robert,

          The state bar requires attorneys to make sure everyone that comes to their websites understand that the information contained is general in nature and should not be relied upon to make life-altering decisions because each case is different. Some people make the mistake of reading an article online about a general subject and then make decisions about their legal situation without consulting with a certified legal professional. Other people make the mistake of believing that online conversations mean that they have retained the services of the attorney they are speaking with.

          The disclaimers on this site are in place to fulfill requirements set forth by the California Bar Association.

  • sherzee

    I have questions about a specific situation that my daughter’s boyfriend experienced recently. He is a felon, not on probation or parole. He had acquired some guns through an inheritance (his grandpa’s death). I paid him $1000 for the weapons, but lived out of state at the time, so he kept the guns and the ammo for me secured in two large safes. I moved to California in 2014 and changed the combinations on the safes, so he no longer had access to the guns and could no longer get in trouble for securing them for me. Only me and one other friend of my daughter’s boyfriend had the combination to the safe (the friend also had one gun in the safe). Unfortunately, the gang unit somehow got wind of the guns, stopped him on a traffic stop (noted on the blotter as a ‘followup’), said they had a search warrant, took him to his home and entered his home without showing it to him. After the gang unit left from searching his home, my daughter and I went to his home to see what happened. It was at that time that we saw a search warrant. The warrant was dated five days before, but I have a strong suspicion it wasn’t signed by the judge until that night, after they broke into both safes and found the guns/ammo, then formally arrested him. I have several questions.
    1. They entered his home using his house key, without his permission and without showing him the warrant. Is this legal?
    2. They broke into the safes without showing him a warrant. Was that legal?
    3. When we showed up for his court date yesterday, we were told that the DA has yet to file charges. I could be wrong, but it appears they only wanted the guns (what do you think)? Do you think they will be filing charges?
    4. The property they destroyed (two large safes) and confiscated (three guns) were mine. I said nothing to them about my ownership of the confiscated property (guns) at the time he was being arrested, because I assumed they would arrest him regardless and I honestly didn’t realize the warrant was for the guns. I intended on telling them this at his hearing … which has yet to be scheduled. I want my property back and I want the police to replace my damaged safes. How do I do this?

    • AttorneyRandyCollins

      Hello Sherzee,

      It sounds like you would benefit from speaking with an attorney in your area that you trust to get a professional opinion about your situation. Without speaking to an attorney with experience handling these particular types of cases it would be extremely difficult to accurately access the situation. Doing so on a public form like this is not in your best interest. Also, please keep in mind that this communication should not be considered legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Best of luck to you, Randy.

    • April Amerio

      Additionally don’t they have to have a separate warrant all together when opening a safe? Idk… But its food for thought. If so, it renders the search void right?

  • Andrew

    I have court tomorrow for possession of meth. I was arrested jan2015 but it just now been filed. Since my arrest I have been convicted of a DUI pled guilty and now on informal probation and have one more DUI program class left. So my question is can they now violate my dui probation with a case that happened 4 months before the dui arrest but is now being filed almost 9 months later. ( Btw I was convicted of my dui March of 2016)

  • Alicia Navarrete

    I have a question about the possibility of having a conviction withdrawn from 1998 in CA. My uncle was convicted in 1998 in CA with HS 11377 (A) MISD. The records have been destroyed however there is an electronic file stating this code. If the fie exsisted we would have detailed report supporting what he needs to immigration that it was less than 30 gr, which he needs to not be deported. However since those records no longer exists the burden is on him to prove something that is impossible to prove.

    Has anyone heard of these old records being reopened and dismissed or being withdrawn? any guidance is appreciated.

  • Brandee Fordyce

    If it’s now a misdemeanor under law then why us my friend being charged as a felony?

  • Michele Rene’e Sewell Toutant

    If you get busted with a loaded pipe of meth…..can they charge you with transporting??