Ketamine Laws in California
Possessing ketamine, called “special K,” is illegal without a prescription. California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS makes it a crime to have personal possession of ketamine and is also the primary statute used by prosecutors.
Ketamine is a legal drug when used as an anesthetic in veterinary medicine. But, it's a controlled substance that can be dangerous, which is why it's prohibited to have personal possession or to sell it.
As noted, HS 11377 prohibits possessing ketamine without a valid prescription, having a more significant amount than prescribed, or having another person's prescribed ketamine. Simple possession of ketamine is a misdemeanor, and you might be eligible for a drug diversion program.
Health and Safety Code 11379.2 HS covers possession of the sale of ketamine. This law is the more severe charge of HS 11377 simple possession due to the fact you were in a sufficient amount of ketamine that it could be sold.
HS 11379.2 is a “wobbler” that could be filed as a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted under this statute, you face a fine of up to $10,000 and up to three years in state prison. Let's review these drug laws more closely below.
What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a narcotic classified as a "dissociative anesthetic," meaning it alters the perception of reality by separating sensations from perceptions. It was initially commonly used as a battlefield anesthetic during the Vietnam War.
However, this drug has unwanted side effects, especially hallucinations. Currently, ketamine is limited medically to veterinary use and occasionally on children in surgery.
Ketamine's hallucinatory characteristics have made it popular as a club drug that is used at concerts under street names like "Special K," "Vitamin K," and "Kit Kat."
If slipped into somebody's drink, it could be used as a "date rape" drug. It's listed as a Schedule III controlled substance by the government, which makes it illegal for people to possess or distribute the drug recreationally.
What Statutes Apply to Ketamine Charges?
California Health & Safety Code 11377 HS is the statute that makes it illegal to possess a controlled substance, including ketamine.
Put simply; it's a crime to possess ketamine without a valid prescription, to possess more than allowed, or to have another person's prescribed medication.
Health & Safety Code 11379.2 HS is the statute that makes possessing a controlled substance for sale or distribution illegal.
This law is the more serious form of possessing enough ketamine that it is apparent the perpetrator intended to distribute it illegally.
Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC is the statute that makes driving under the influence of ketamine illegal.
This is the primary California statute to charge somebody with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), a misdemeanor crime in most cases.
What Are the Penalties?
The penalties you face if convicted of ketamine-related charges depend on the specific charge and any underlying circumstances:
- HS 11377 possession of ketamine is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months in county jail and a fine up to $1000, but many judges will impose only probation.
- HS 11379.2 possession for sale is a wobbler that can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony, which carries up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 if convicted.
What Are Drug Diversion Programs?
Suppose you are convicted of a non-violent drug crime and have had no felony convictions in the last five years. In that case, you might be eligible for a pre-trial diversionary program as defined under Penal Code 1000 PC, Proposition 36, or a California drug court.
If you're accepted, you'll have to fulfill some conditions within the program's time frame, including the following:
- Complete an approved drug treatment or education program;
- Restitution to any victims as a result of your crime;
If you complete the terms of the drug diversion program, then your underlying criminal charges will be dismissed, and the records will be sealed as if you were never charged with a crime. This is commonly known as alternative sentencing.
Only defendants charged with misdemeanor personal possession of ketamine are eligible for drug diversion. If you are charged with selling ketamine, you are not eligible, even if it's a misdemeanor.
What Are the Common Defenses?
A criminal defense lawyer can use several strategies for ketamine possession or possession for sale charges, such as:
- Illegal search and seizure could be used if ketamine was found on your person during an illegal search and seizure by police;
- You didn't intend to sell the ketamine argument, which might result in reduced charges for personal possession;
- You had a valid prescription argument that could be made if you possessed one.
Perhaps we can prove that police discovered or seized the drugs after an illegal search or seizure in violation of California laws. Maybe we can file a Penal Code 1538.5 PC motion to suppress evidence.
If the judge grants the motion, prosecutors might be willing to reduce the charges or dismiss the case. Likewise, we could show there was police misconduct and that your charges should be dismissed.
Perhaps we can argue that the police fabricated the evidence or used entrapment, luring somebody to commit a crime they would have otherwise not committed.
Perhaps we can argue that you were falsely accused and wrongfully arrested. Maybe there is insufficient evidence to prove the ketamine case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Perhaps we could negotiate with the prosecution for lesser charges or drop the case entirely through early prefiling negotiations with law enforcement and the District Attorney, known as a “DA reject.”
Cron, Israels & Stark are in Los Angeles County, and we provide legal representation across California. You can contact us for a free case evaluation by phone or by filling out the contact form.