The 3 “Meth” Laws You Can Be Arrested For In California

This Article Explains The Law For Health & Safety Codes 11377, 11378 & 11379

In this post, I will explain the three (3) California laws that target methamphetamines.

I will cover the following:

  1. Possession of meth
  2. Possession for sale of meth
  3. Transporting meth

Let’s get started…

Overview Of California “Meth” Laws

Health & Safety Code sections 11377, 11378 and 11379 are laws that make certain actions illegal for specified types of drugs, namely methamphetamines.

  • Health & Safety Code 11377 – makes it illegal to possess Methamphetamine for personal use.
  • Health & Safety Code 11378 – makes it illegal to possess Methamphetamine for sale.
  • Health & Safety Code 11379 – makes it illegal to transport Methamphetamine.

What Are The Laws For Possession Of Methamphetamine?

Under this law, it is illegal to possess methamphetamines, as well as any controlled substance listed under Schedule III, IV or V, unless it is prescribed by a licensed medical professional.

How Does The Prosecutor Prove Meth Possession?

  • You unlawfully possessed or exercised control over a controlled substance;
  • You knew of its presence;
  • You knew of the substance’s nature or character as a controlled substance;
  • The controlled substance was methamphetamine or other included substance;
  • The controlled substance was in a usable amount.

Penalties For Meth Possession Under HS 1377

This code section is a misdemeanor unless you have a prior conviction for a sex crime or a serious offense such as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

FineUp to $1,000As determined by the court
Probation3-5 years summary probation3-5 years formal probation
JailMax of 1 year county jail16 months – 3 years in state prison
  • Is eligible for a Pretrial Diversion sentence,
  • Is not a “strikeable” offense,
  • Does require registration as a drug offender,
  • Is eligible for Proposition 36 diversion sentence.

Under Proposition 36: when a defendant is convicted of a “nonviolent drug possession offense,” the court must suspend the imposition of the sentence, grant probation, and require the defendant to participate in and complete a court-approved drug treatment program as a condition of probation.

Can medical professional possess methamphetamine?

Doctors, veterinarians pharmacists and certain other medical professionals are not violating the law under HS 11377 when they possess methamphetamines as part of dispensing their duties under California law1.

Laws For Selling Methamphetamine

Under this law, it is illegal to possess for sale, methamphetamines, as well as any controlled substance listed under Schedule III, IV or IV, unless it is prescribed by a licensed medical professional.

This law requires the specific intent to sell the illegal drug, in addition to possessing it.

How Does The Prosecutor Prove Possession For Sale Of Meth?

  • You exercised control over, or purchased from another, a controlled substance;
  • You knew of its presence;
  • You knew of its nature as a controlled substance;
  • The substance was in a usable amount sufficient to be used for sale or consumption;
  • You possessed or purchased the controlled substance with the specific intent to sell same.

What Are Penalties For Possession For Sale Of Meth?

FinesAs determined by the court
Probation3-5 years formal probation
Prison1-3 years

This charge is a felony and carries all the weight and stigma of being deemed a “felon” under the eyes of the law, including but not limited to:

  • Lose right to possess firearm,
  • Lose right to vote,
  • Lose right to sit on a jury,
  • Lose right to hold public office,
  • Required to provide law enforcement with a sample of your DNA,
  • Immigration consequences, as a drug abuser, if you are a noncitizen.

California Law For Transporting Meth

Under this law, it is illegal to transport, sell, furnish, administer or give any meth, or controlled substance listed under Schedule III, IV or V, unless it is prescribed by a licensed medical professional.

How Does The Prosecutor Prove Transportation?

If you are charged with transporting methamphetamine the prosecutor must prove the following to establish that you are guilty under Health & Safety Code § 11379:

  • You transported, sole, furnished, administered, or gave away a controlled substance;


  1. You offered to transport, sell, furnish, administer, or give away a controlled substance;
  2. You knew of the controlled substance’s presence;
  3. You knew it to be a controlled substance.2

Penalties For Transporting Methamphetamine

This charge is a felony.

FinesAs determined by the court
Probation3-5 years formal probation
Prison1-4 years

Understanding The Legal Elements

What is “possession” under these laws?

There are 2 kinds of possession under these laws:

1. Actual Possession

You have actual and/or exclusive control over the substance, you actually have it in your hand or on your person.


  • You are arrested with methamphetamine in your pocket (under H&S § 11377).
  • You are arrested with a large quantity of methamphetamine in your car (under H&S § 11378 and 11379).

2. Constructive Possession

You do not have to actually hold or touch the substance, to possess it. It is enough if you have control over it/ [or] the right to control it, either personally or through another person.


2 or more people may possess something at the same time, such as in a car, etc.

What is “knowledge” under these laws?

You were aware of the substance’s presence, and that it was a controlled substance.3


  • You are arrested with pills that you knew were in your purse, that you thought were Vicodin, but in actuality, were Xanax. Both are illegal controlled substances under H&S § 11377, the mere fact that you knew that the substance was in your possession, and you knew that it was a controlled substance is enough.
  • You are arrested with the entire trunk of your car filled with Xanax, and you knew that it was Xanax. Depending on whether you had traveled any measurable amount of distance, you would be violating H&S § 11378 & §11379.

What is a “usable amount” under these laws?

Quantity of a controlled substance suitable for you to use, whether or not it is enough, in amount or strength, to affect the user.4


  •  You are arrested while holding Adderall® pill in your hand.5
  •  You are arrested with a full bottle of   Adderall®   in the cup holder of your vehicle.  ((Under H&S 11378 and 11379))

What is “selling” under these laws?

Exchanging one of the listed controlled substances for money, services, or anything of value.

Legal Defenses

Below are possible legal defenses to charges under Health & Safety Code §11377, §11378 and §11379:

The Controlled Substance Was Prescribed
  • Under Health & Safety Code § 11377, §11378 and §11379:  All of the sections specifically provide a legitimate legal defense if the controlled substance is a prescription. All three sections state: “Except as otherwise provided in this division, every person who possesses… any controlled substance classified in …which is a narcotic drug, unless upon the written prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment.”
  • This means that, if, in fact, your doctor prescribed the medicine to you, in your name, for your use, in treatment of your illness. Under the law, with the help of a diligent and conscientious attorney, you would only need to raise a reasonable doubt about whether your possession of the drug was lawful because of a valid prescription6.
You Did Not Possess The Controlled Substance.

Under Health & Safety Code § 11377, 11378 and 11379:  These laws include a very important element of “possession.” Therefore, if you did not actually possess, or even constructively possess the controlled substance, then you have not committed a violation under the essence of these laws.

You Did Not Know That It Was A Controlled Substance/It Was Present.

Under Health & Safety Code § 11377, 11378 and 11379:  These laws require knowledge of two things in order to be convicted.

  • First, that you knew of the presence of the controlled substance.
  • Second, that you knew of the substance’s nature or character as a controlled substance. Therefore, knowledge is a critical part of these charges.
You Had No Intent.
  • Under H&S Section 11378:  Although in your possession, you had no intent to sell the illegal drugs. In fact, perhaps they were solely for your personal use.

Effect:  Possible charge reduction, to Health & Safety Code § 11378 charge, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, allows the possibility of a diversion, and carries less time in custody.

  • Under H&S §11379:  Although in your possession, you had no specific intent to engage, or even offer to engage in any of those acts, such as to transport, furnish or administer the controlled substance.

Effect:  Possible charge reduction, to Health & Safety Code § 11379 charge, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, allows the possibility of a diversion, and carries less time in custody.

You Did Not Transport The Controlled Substance.

Under Health & Safety Code § 11379:  A knowledgeable attorney can attempt to persuade the prosecutor that, regardless of the amount of movement, or lack thereof, that the element of intent to transport the controlled substance cannot be met. As a result, a charge reduction to simple possession may be possible.

You Were A Victim Of Entrapment By Law Enforcement Officials.

Under Health & Safety Code § 11377, 11378 and 11379: The act of law enforcement officers or government agents inducing or encouraging a person to commit a crime when the potential criminal expresses a desire not to go ahead.7 Entrapment is an effective legal defense if the commission or encouragement of the criminal act originated with the police or government agents, instead of with the “criminal.”8

There Is Insufficient Evidence Against You

Under Health & Safety Code § 11377, 11378 and 11379: A diligent and conscientious defense attorney can show the prosecutor that they do not have enough evidence to convict  you under these laws. This can be done with mitigating evidence or proof that not all elements of the crime were met by showing that the evidence submitted is either insufficient or insubstantial.

Post Conviction

Post-Conviction Relief - HS 11377

If you are convicted under Health & Safety Code section 11377, your record can be expunged. Additionally, If you were placed on probation when convicted, which did not include a state prison sentence related to the “wobbler” conviction, then you may be able to have your felony reduced to a misdemeanor via Penal Code section 17(b).

Subsequently, dismissed in the interests of justice pursuant to a Petition under Penal Code section 1203.4. If you Petition for a Dismissal, the court, upon proper motion, may withdraw your guilty or no contest plea, or verdict of guilt if you went to trial, and enter a not guilty plea.

Following, the court will set aside and dismiss the conviction. From that point forward, you are no longer considered convicted of the offense. Your record will be changed to show a dismissal rather than a conviction.9

However, If you violate any of the terms and conditions of your probation, then you are not eligible for either a reduction and/or expungement.

If you were sentenced to prison, and/or found in violation of your probation at any time, you must, instead, seek a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

Certificate Of Rehabilitation

A Certificate of Rehabilitation generally allows a person to have some of his or her civil and political rights of citizenship restored. The granting of a Certificate of Rehabilitation also serves as a plea to the Governor for a pardon. Rights restored by a pardon are defined in Penal Code § 4852.1710

Post-Conviction Relief - HS 11378 & 11379

If you are convicted under Health & Safety Code section 11378 and/or 11379, AND you completed all terms of your probation, without violation, then you may be eligible for a dismissal under Penal Code section 1203.4.

You cannot have been sentenced, or served, any prison time in conjunction with this conviction. Unlike Health & Safety Code section 11377, these charges are not categorized as “wobbler,” offenses, and are therefore not eligible for a reduction to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 17(b).

The conviction is withdrawn and the charges dismissed. As a result, once expunged, you would be able to answer “no” to a question of conviction on most private employment applications

How We Can Help

If you need a criminal defense attorney to represent you in a methamphetamine charge please contact the Aizman Law Firm for a free consultation at 818-351-9555.

Get Legal Help Now

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 


  1. Health And Saftey Code 11377 []
  2. People v. Rogers (1971) 5 Cal.3d 129 []
  3. Id. []
  4. Id. []
  5. Under H&S 11377 []
  6. See People v. Mower (2002) 28 Cal.4th 457, 479, 122 Cal.Rptr.2d 326, 49 P.3d 1067 []
  7. []
  8. Id. []
  9. []
  10. []


in the state of ca.what is the amount of meth in your possession that determines whether its personal use or sales

Hi Kristina: Sales v. personal use is based on more than just the amount of the drugs. Typically prosecutors are also looking for other evidence of sales such as scales, baggies, pay/owe sheets, etc. A large quantity coupled with one or all of those items will likely result in a sales filing.

My partners charge on sheriffs website says 11378(a) but on the San Bernadino Court website it shows 11377 as a misdemeanor. Bail was reduced 50k to 25k. What source should I trust?..Booking# is 1811370106

The court website is the final decision from the DA. The Sheriff may book a suspect on one charge, but the DA didn’t believe that charge was appropriate and decided to reduce it based on the facts in the report.

In regards to a possession
misdmeanor charge. Then failure to appear, ending in a $2500 bench warrant, what should the next step taken by the person with a $2500 Bench Warrant?

Hi John: The only way to clear a warrant in CA is to go to the courthouse from where it was issued and ask the Judge to recall the warrant. I recommend having an attorney with you for that purpose.

Ultimately the charge is determined by the prosecutor. The charge on which he/she was booked is not necessarily the charge he/she will face.

Hello I recently had to do a background check and a case shows up for transportation of a controlled substance for sales & posession of a controlled substance for sales filed in 7/2017 I haven’t had no encounters with law enforcement at all since 2012 which has been cleared. When I called bpd/sheriff/chp they’ve all said that the case number does not belong to them. Also that it doesn’t show anything except that its filed and that there’s a warrant and that no arrests was made. That I would have to turn myself in and post bail to clear warrant and get a court date. Do I need to get a lawyer and is it possible to clear the warrant without turning myself in and having to pay to bail out

A guy was at my house with my boyfriend while i was sleeping that was apparently on the run & the cops knew he was there so they came in & pulled me out of bed arrested me & my bf. My bf was on ab109 so they searched and found the guy hidding in my closet & also found meth. They charged us all with poss for sales. Since then i bailed out, the guy on the run had those charges dropped i guess & my bf is in jail. Can me & my bf both be convicted of the same charge even tho i was asleep & had no knowledge of what was going on??

You can both be convicted of the same charge if they can prove that you were both involved. However, based on your comment, you may have a defense here. You should contact an attorney in the county in which you were arrested and request a consultation.

I got a ticket in Fontana Ca for possession of less then a quarter gram of meth I had in center console of my truck it’s my first drug offense and I was wondering what can I expect at my court hearing?

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