Possession of any Controlled Substance

Health & Safety Code 11377(a) is the California statute that makes it illegal to possess any of many types of narcotics, including methamphetamine. In most situations, simple possession for personal use is charged as a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to $1000.00. Since 2014, the fine has been drastically reduced.


      • you had a valid prescription for the methamphetamines and possessed an amount consistent with the prescription’s purpose,
      • the crystal meth belonged to someone else and not in your control,
      • you didn’t know the drugs you possessed were a controlled substance, or
      • the officer found the meth by violating your search and seizure rights.


      • Up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or
      • Fine of up to $70
      • Possible Immigration Consequences
      • Possible loss of, or disqualification from, Government Assistance Programs


(a) Except as authorized by law and as otherwise provided in subdivision (b) or Section 11375, or in Article 7 (commencing with Section 4211) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, every person who possesses any controlled substance which is (1) classified in Schedule III, IV, or V, and which is not a narcotic drug, (2) specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11054, except paragraphs (13), (14), (15), and (20) of subdivision (d), (3) specified in paragraph (11) of subdivision (c) of Section 11056, (4) specified in paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, or (5) specified in subdivision (d), (e), or (f) of Section 11055, unless upon the prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian, licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year, except that such person may instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 of the Penal Code or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290 of the Penal Code.

(b) The judge may assess a fine not to exceed seventy dollars ($70) against any person who violates subdivision (a), with the proceeds of this fine to be used in accordance with Section 1463.23 of the Penal Code. The court shall, however, take into consideration the defendant’s ability to pay, and no defendant shall be denied probation because of his or her inability to pay the fine permitted under this subdivision.

(c) It is not unlawful for a person other than the prescription holder to possess a controlled substance described in subdivision (a) if both of the following apply:

(1) The possession of the controlled substance is at the direction or with the express authorization of the prescription holder.

(2) The sole intent of the possessor is to deliver the prescription to the prescription holder for its prescribed use or to discard the substance in a lawful manner.

(d) This section does not permit the use of a controlled substance by a person other than the prescription holder or permit the distribution or sale of a controlled substance that is otherwise inconsistent with the prescription.

(Amended (as amended by Proposition 47) by Stats. 2017, Ch. 269, Sec. 6. (SB 811) Effective January 1, 2018. Note: This section was amended on Nov. 4, 2014, by initiative Prop. 47.)

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