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California Health and Safety Code Section 11550 HSC: Under The Influence Of Drugs

While most people know that it’s illegal to possess a controlled substance, many don’t realize that it’s also considered a crime to be under the influence of a controlled substance, according to California Health and Safety Code Section 11550 HSC: Under The Influence Of Drugs.

For the prosecution to prove that the defendant was guilty, they must how that the defendant illegally and purposely used the substance shortly before they were arrested, or that they were under the influence at the time of their arrest.

You are deemed under the influence if you took or used illegal drugs that affected your nervous system, muscles or brain, or that made your physical or mental condition obviously atypical.

An example of this would be if police officers were called because there was a woman who seemed to be unconscious in a car. When the police arrive, they have to forcibly wake the woman up. When she wakes up, she seems to be both mentally and physically impaired, similar to how someone under the influence would act. On the seat next to the woman is an empty plastic bag with what looks like powdery remnants that look suspicious. The woman agrees to blood testing and it’s discovered that she has taken cocaine. She could be charged with a crime that violates 11550 HSC.

When it comes to how much time has to go by between when the person took the substance and when they were arrested, there isn’t any clear rule. Often, California courts have felt that drug use up to 48 hours before arrest satisfies the statute.

There are two offenses that are related to California Health and Safety Code Section 11550 HSC: Under The Influence Of Drugs: Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC) and Possession of a Controlled Substance (California Health & Safety Code Section 11350 HSC).


If you had a prescription for the substance and the prescription was attained legally, or if you were under the influence of marijuana, you would not be found guilty under California Health and Safety Code Section 11550 HSC: Under The Influence Of Drugs. Another reason why a person wouldn’t be convicted is if they unknowingly ingested an illegal substance, like if someone slipped something into their drink. If the victim is charged with under the influence, their defense may include that they were involuntarily intoxicated, as they weren’t aware that they were taking a drug.

An example of a situation wouldn’t result in a criminal charge is the following: a young man is taken into custody because the police officers feel that he is likely intoxicated. The man seems to be sick and he doesn’t know exactly where he is. The police officers find out that the man stopped taking drugs a few days prior and that his symptoms are that of withdrawal, not being under the influence. Going through withdrawal is not in violation of the code.


Being charged with being under the influence is considered a misdemeanor offense, but just because it’s not a felony doesn’t mean it doesn’t have serious penalties. A person convicted of this crime faces a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail, and a maximum sentence of one year. They might also be required to attend treatment or to complete a certain amount of community service or labor. A person who has prior convictions for the same offense, and if those charges were within the past seven years, may spend a minimum of 180 days in jail. For some people, going to a treatment or rehab program is a way to avoid time in jail.

Criminal Defense

If you have been charged with being under the influence, it’s important to contact a criminal defense attorney right away.

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