This section of the Health and Safety Code refers to the illegal possession of a controlled substance, or drugs, without a prescription for their use. Illegal drugs and legal prescription medications apply to this law. And if you are caught with either of them, you can face drug charges.
When you are arrested for possession, many factors surrounding your charges will come into play to determine the outcome of your case. Minor possession charges might result in being sentenced to attend a drug program administered by the state, or a more serious charge could result in prison sentences and high fines.
The laws pertaining to drug possession in California are somewhat complex, and an attorney may be able to help answer questions about your specific case. But this guide can help you to understand the basics behind HSC 11350(a) in California.
11350(a) HS Possession of a Controlled Substance FAQ
If you have questions about the legal meaning behind the legal code and what exactly applies to California Health and Safety Code Section 11350(a), you can find the answers here.
What does 11350(a) HS Mean?
Generally referred to as possession for personal use or simple possession, California Health & Safety Code 11350(a) HS makes the possession of specific controlled substances illegal unless you have a prescription from a doctor.
The text of this code states:
“…except as otherwise provided in this division, every person who possesses…any controlled substance…unless upon the written prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year.”
Though the government of the United States regulates these drugs under the “Controlled Substances Act,” the charges are not felony charges under this code.
What Are Controlled Substances?
Some may wonder what the legal definition of a controlled substance is. The DEA has a 19-page alphabetized list of controlled substances for those who are curious. For the purposes of this code, the most common examples of controlled substances can be:
- Opiates and opium derivatives: codeine, methadone, psilocybin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.
- Stimulants: cocaine, molly, MDMA, ecstasy, methamphetamine, etc.
- Anabolic steroids (in any form): nandrolone, testosterone, ketamine, etc.
- Synthetic cannabinoids
- Fentanyl derivatives
- Hallucinogens: peyote, mescaline, LSD, etc.
- Depressants: PCP, PCM, PCC, amobarbital, lysergic acid, etc.
According to the Controlled Substances Act, drugs are classified into one of five schedules based on these considerations:
- Potential for abuse
- Pharmacological effects
- The current scientific knowledge of the drug and its effects
- The patterns of abuse seen in the past
- How serious and significant the abuse is
- The duration of abuse
- Public health risk
- Liability of physiological and psychological dependence
- Whether the drug is a precursor to an existing controlled substance
What Are the Possible Penalties for Being Charged With Possession of a Controlled Substance in California?
According to HS 11350(a), you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor. You could be fined up to $1,000 and be sentenced to serve up to 364 days in jail. Other possibilities that are likely for a first offense could be probation or referral to a drug program.
Random drug testing, random searches, community service, or other penalties and fines could be assessed.
How does a Prosecutor Prove Possession Under 11350(a) HS?
If you are charged with possession of a controlled substance, the prosecutor’s job is to provide the proof needed to establish you are guilty of the crime. There are five elements that must be proven for a possession charge to stick:
- You actually possessed a controlled substance unlawfully
- You knew it was there
- You knew what the substance was or the nature of the substance
- That it was indeed a controlled substance
- You possessed a useable amount of the substance
While this sounds straightforward enough, it’s important to consider that knowledge of the drug is a key aspect of the case. For instance, pretend that a friend asked you to hold a container of her medication in your purse. You agree because you believe it is her ulcer medication.
Later, a cop pulls you over and your purse spills onto the floor. He sees the medication, asks what is in the bottle, and you offer it to him explaining that it’s your friend’s ulcer treatment prescription that she asked you to store in your purse. He opens the bottle and discovers oxycontin and arrests you.
The prosecutor is not likely to be able to prove your guilt because you did know it was a controlled substance and you didn’t know what the substance was.
What Is Constructive Possession vs Actual Possession?
Actual possession of a substance means that they found the drug on your person, like in your pocket or purse. Constructive possession is a little harder to control and define, but the drugs would be found in a place that you have the right to control, such as your desk at work or a locker.
What Is a Usable Amount?
According to California Health and Safety Code Section 11350(a) HS: Possession of a Controlled Substance, you must be in possession of a usable amount of the substance to be prosecuted for possession.
In other words, a trace amount or some debris isn’t enough to get you convicted. While there does need to be enough to consume, it doesn’t need to be enough to have an effect on the end-user. This means that the dust inside a prescription bottle or the debris of a tiny pill fragment or packet will generally not trigger a successful prosecution.
Conversely, if you are found with more substantial amounts of a drug, a prosecutor could choose to charge you with possession with intent to distribute. Special considerations for methamphetamines exist in California under HSC sections 1377, 11378, or 11379. Facing these types of charges are more serious and can have much more severe consequences.
Call to Speak to a Lawyer for Free Today
If you or a loved one have been charged with possession crimes, do not hesitate to contact the criminal defense attorneys of Simmrin Law Group. Our team has helped thousands of clients and understands the defense strategies of possession cases.
Our attorneys are available for a free case evaluation, so there is no risk to call us and learn more about how we may be able to help you. Your information is protected and completely confidential. Contact us today to learn more.