Possession of methamphetamine is illegal under any circumstance in California. However, you could face more severe punishment depending on what was your intended use of those drugs. According to California Health and Safety Code 11378, you will face stiffer penalties for possessing methamphetamine (also known as "meth") with the intent to sell than you would if you simply possessed the controlled substance for personal use.
Like all crimes in California related to the possession of meth, possession with the intent to sell is a felony. It's a serious charge; you will not be eligible for any kind of drug diversion program in lieu of jail time. Even if the prosecutor cannot prove you intended to sell methamphetamine, merely possessing the controlled substance is enough to be charged under California Health and Safety Code 11377.
With the stakes so high, it is important you find a California criminal defense attorney that will fight for you. If you have been charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell in L.A. County, William S. Kroger Attorney at Law is ready to help.
What is Possession for Sale of Methamphetamine in California?
To convict you of possession for sale of methamphetamine, the prosecuting attorney burden of proof goes beyond mere possession of methamphetamine. Altogether, the prosecutor must prove:
- That you had possession of methamphetamine;
- That you knew the substance you possessed was methamphetamine;
- That you possessed an amount of methamphetamine that could be used for consumption; and
- That you intended to sell it or have someone sell it for you.
Possession of Methamphetamine
First, the prosecutor must show that you had possession of the methamphetamine. That could involve showing you had actual, physical control of the drugs. You can, however, still be charged even if you didn't have the meth on your person at the time of the arrest. You can also be charged if you had the power to control the meth, meaning it was in a car or home you owned or was held by another person at your direction. It makes no difference if you purchased the drugs yourself or had someone else do it. In other words, more than one person can possess the same meth. The state can use circumstantial evidence to show that you had control over the drugs.
Knowledge of the Controlled Substance
The prosecutor must also prove that you knew you were in possession of a controlled substance. The state does not have to prove you knew which drug it was, only that you were knowingly in possession of a controlled substance.
There is no specific definition of a consumable, or “usable,” amount of methamphetamines under California law. The prosecutor must prove that you possessed more than just an amount that would satisfy your personal usage. To do this, the prosecutor is able to use circumstantial evidence like your possession of items associated with the distribution of narcotics or witnesses that can testify to your previous sales.
Finally, the prosecutor must show that you had the intent of selling the meth as opposed to using it yourself. Intent can be hard to prove; only you can really say what is in your mind. However, there are a number of common tactics prosecutors rely on to infer what your intentions were.
For example, if the drugs were individually packaged, the prosecutor can argue that they are packaged for sale. If you are in possession of unusually large amounts of cash, the prosecutor may use that to imply the cash is drug proceeds.
Your attorney may be able to use his experience to convince a prosecutor that a lesser charge of possession is more appropriate or show a jury that not every element of the crime was met.
Penalties for a Conviction of Possession for Sale of Methamphetamine
Possession for sale of methamphetamine is a felony in California. The penalties are steep; you will face a prison sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison. A conviction also carries with it a maximum fine of $10,000. If you are not a citizen of the United States, you are likely to be deported at the conclusion of your sentence.
While there are diversionary programs for some drug charges that allow you to enter drug treatment instead of serving your sentence in prison, those programs are not available in cases involving the sale of methamphetamine. It is common for prosecutors to pursue this charge aggressively -- which makes finding the right criminal defense attorney so important.
Defenses against a Charge of Possession for Sale of Methamphetamine
Because the prosecutor must prove each of the elements of the crime at trial, your attorney needs only to convince a jury that one of those elements is not present. Ideally, your attorney will draw on experience to probe out the weakest areas of the state's case and pursue them relentlessly. In addition to defenses related to the crime itself, your attorney will also review your case to determine that none of your constitutional rights were violated during your arrest.
Lack of Possession
If you never possessed the methamphetamine, it's impossible that you were possessing the controlled substance with the intent to sell it. The prosecutor must do more than put you within proximity of methamphetamine; you aren't guilty of possession for the sale of methamphetamine simply by being in the room with someone else's meth. This is true even if you briefly possess or use the drugs. California recognizes a defense of “momentary possession,” meaning that you only had possession of the meth for a brief or transitory period.
For example, you are in the home of a known drug dealer. A large amount of methamphetamine is present in small prepackaged bags. At no point have you purchased the drugs, which are the property of the homeowner. At the dealer's request, you take a bag of methamphetamine from the dealer and hand it to another person on the other side of the room.
Lack of Knowledge
Lack of knowledge is another defense to a charge of possession for sale of methamphetamine. To be convicted, you must have known that you were in possession of the substance in question. Additionally, you must have known that the substance in question was a controlled substance. For example, if you agree to hold on to a suitcase that unbeknownst to you contains methamphetamine you have a legal defense.
It's common that cases with viable defenses based on lack of knowledge also have strong claims to other defenses like lack of intent or lack of possession.
Lack of Intent
The prosecutor must prove you had the intent to sell the methamphetamine that you possessed. Even if the prosecutor can prove all the other elements of the crime, you can't be found guilty if the prosecutor is unable to convince a jury that you had the intent to sell.
For example, you are in possession of a small amount of methamphetamine when you are arrested by local police. The state charges you with possession for sale of methamphetamine. You don't dispute that you were in possession of what you knew to be methamphetamine. However, you only intended to use the meth yourself. While you meet most of the elements, you won't be convicted if your attorney is able to convince the jury that you didn't intend to sell the methamphetamine.
Illegal Search or Seizure
Regardless of the strength of the case against you, you may have a strong defense if your constitutional rights were violated. The Constitution protects you from illegal searches or seizures by the government. If you are unlawfully searched, any evidence collected from the illegal search or seizure cannot be used against you at trial. Known as “fruit of the poisonous tree,” California law prevents the state from using this evidence against you based on the idea that the government should not benefit from violating your rights. Your attorney may be able to file a motion excluding any evidence tainted by the illegal search, including cash, a confession, or even the drugs themselves.
For example, you are driving home from work. Despite not violating any traffic laws, an officer pulls you over based only on instincts. Despite your refusal to provide consent, the officer searches your car and finds methamphetamine in your car. The officer interviews you without reading you a Miranda warning, and you confess to possession for sale of methamphetamine. Your lawyer will have a number of grounds to seek to have the drugs and your confession excluded from trial. You were illegally stopped while driving, your car was illegally searched, and you were interrogated without the officer reading you your Miranda rights. Any one of these violations could be grounds to suppress the evidence against you.
Finding the Right L.A. County Criminal Defense Attorney
Have you or a loved one been charged with possession for sale of methamphetamine in L.A. County? Attorney William S. Kroger is a criminal defense attorney with experience defending the accused in L.A. County. He has frequently defended those accused of drug crimes like possession for sale of methamphetamine. To discuss your case, contact William S. Kroger Attorney at Law to set up a free consultation.