Getting charged with the possession of methamphetamine is a serious crime. Also known as shard, tina, ice, or glass, meth is a potent stimulant that carries an exceptionally negative stigma. For this reason, if you’ve been charged with possessing meth, you may face an uphill battle to have your rights respected in the criminal justice system. And in the event of a conviction, the permanent record of your drug offense may keep you from getting a job, owning a gun, or qualifying for financial aid for school.
A good California drug defense lawyer working by your side may be able to mitigate the consequences of a meth possession charge. With your future at stake, you should give yourself the best chances possible by hiring a reputable lawyer to handle your case.
How Does a Prosecutor Prove Meth Possession?
According to California Health and Safety Code section 11377, it’s illegal to possess methamphetamines without a valid prescription. The drug may be used as a treatment for obesity and attention deficit disorder, but it is rarely prescribed because safer and more effective drugs have become available.
To convict you of meth possession, a prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You had actual or constructive possession over the methamphetamine
- You knew that the substance was methamphetamine and that it is a controlled substance
- You possessed a usable quantity of the drug, meaning more than just traces of methamphetamines
Actual possession means that the police found the drug on your person, such as in your pocket or your backpack. Constructive possession, on the other hand, means the police found the drug in a place that you have control over and to which you have a right of access, such as your home, garage, or the glove box of your car.
Unless you confess to the police that you knew the substance in your possession was the illegal drug methamphetamine, the prosecutor will need to prove this fact through circumstantial evidence. This might include your behavior during the arrest or search. For example, if you tried to hide, destroy, or lie about the nature of the drugs, it’s reasonable to infer that you knew they were illegal.
What Are the Penalties for Meth Possession in California?
The possession of methamphetamine is a misdemeanor in California, involving a penalty of up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of $1,000. Under California’s drug diversion programs, however, you may be able to have your jail time probated if you attend a substance abuse treatment program. Note that this option is not available to people convicted of possession with intent to sell or of a drug offense involving violence.
Furthermore, you may face additional jail time—up to 3 years—if you have any of the following prior offenses on your record:
- Sexual violence
- Sex crimes against a child under 14
- Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
- Any sex crime requiring you to register as a sex offender
If the police have evidence that you intended to sell or distribute the methamphetamine, you may face felony charges for possession of methamphetamines with intent to sell under California Health and Safety Code section 11378. The prosecutor may be able to convict you of this more serious offense if there is evidence that:
- You had a large amount of methamphetamines
- The drugs were divided into small doses, packages, or baggies
- You had a scale
- You were observed systematically meeting with many different people (your alleged clients) for short periods
- You were found with an abnormal amount of cash
If convicted of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, you may face between 16 months and 3 years in prison along with fines reaching $10,000.
Defending Against Your Meth Possession Charges
Methamphetamine is one of the most notorious controlled substances. Therefore, the authorities make it their priority to catch and prosecute meth users and dealers. Their zealous approach to the war on drugs often leads to innocent people getting convicted. But a skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to defeat their charges.
The first thing your lawyer should look at is whether the initial police encounter that led to the discovery of the methamphetamine was legal. This is because the prosecutor cannot use evidence obtained from an illegal search or arrest against you during your trial. The police must obey strict requirements mandated by the US constitution when stopping and searching vehicles, entering private property, or even arresting a suspect.
In many cases, law enforcement officers eager to make a “bust” will purposefully or inadvertently breach the suspect’s constitutional rights. When this occurs, the suspect’s lawyer can request the dismissal of the charges—even before the trial starts. When this strategy isn’t a possibility, your attorney may still be able to apply some of the following defenses:
- Showing that the substance in question was not methamphetamine, or that you possessed only trace amounts
- Demonstrating that you did not have actual or constructive possession over the meth
- Arguing that you did not know that you neither possessed the drug nor knew that it was an illegal substance
- In possession with intent to sell cases, claiming that the prosecution’s evidence does not show your intent beyond a reasonable doubt
- Negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecutor when your chances of succeeding at trial are slim
- In the event of a conviction, advocating for a lenient sentence if any mitigating factors apply to your case
How Your California Drug Defense Lawyer Can Help
Getting charged with meth possession may seem like a hopeless situation, but we at McEfresh Law can help protect your rights and reputation. We will guide you through the criminal justice process and do our best to ensure you get the best outcome possible. If you want to learn more about how we can help, call us today and we’ll give you a confidential consultation of your case—free of charge. Call California drug defense lawyer Jessica McElfresh today a (858) 756-7107.