Written by attorney David Jon Pullman

Using or Being Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance (Health and Safety Code §§ 11550)

Using or Being Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance (Health and Safety Code §§ 11550)

Bizarrely enough, California law only punishes being under the use of an arbitrary smattering of selected drugs. It is a misdemeanor to use or be under the influence of opiates, depressants, cocaine, peyote, mescaline, PCP, amphetamine, or methamphetamine. But, apparently it’s perfectly legal to be high on acid, ecstasy, mushrooms, marijuana, hash, etc. as long as you are not breaking any other laws. A conviction of Health and Safety Code section 11550 carries a mandatory 90-day jail sentence that can only be avoided if the judge approves a rehabilitation program as an alternative to incarceration.

Common defenses include:

Involuntary Intoxication – This defense applies when you became intoxicated by mistakenly taking drugs, either by accident or by somebody else’s design. In order be convicted of an 11550, you must have willfully used or come under the influence of one of the listed drugs.

Use Not Recent – Only recent use (within the past 24 to 48 hours) of the listed drugs is prohibited by section 11550. Proving that you had used recently or were under the influence based on a police officer’s observations and/or blood or urine test results can be difficult. Drug recognition evaluations are very subjective and drug tests do not necessarily indicate recent use.

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