Drug Crimes Involving Ecstasy (CA HS 11377)

Possessing or selling ecstasy is always illegal.  This is because there is no legal medical use for ecstasy.

What is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy capsules

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), popularly known as ecstasy (more recently street-named Molly) is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that has similarities to both the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.  It produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and empathy toward others, and distortions in sensory and time perception.

Ecstasy is generally available as a tablet.  However it may also be sold in a powder form.  Ecstasy is known to be a popular “club drug”.  It is typically used by “party-goers” to enhance sensitivity to physical sensations. Many ecstasy tablets contain other drugs which can increase the chance of having a negative reaction or a bad “trip”.  Similarly, drinking alcohol with ecstasy can also cause a negative reaction.

Laws Regulating Ecstasy

Ecstasy is a controlled substance also known as a narcotic.  The United States “Controlled Substances Act” regulates the manufacturing and possession of controlled substances.  The Controlled Substances Act classifies ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug. 1

“Schedule I” Drugs

According to the Controlled Substances Act, Schedule I drugs:

  • have a high potential for abuse, and
  • no currently accepted medical use in the United States. 2

Personal Possession of Ecstasy (CA HS 11377)

Ecstasy club drug
Ecstasy has become a popular “club drug”, often found at raves, parties and clubs.


If you are found in possession of ecstasy, you are in violation of California’s “personal possession of a controlled substance” law which prohibits the possession of any narcotic.3 Possession of ecstasy is now a misdemeanor crime under Prop 47, for which you can be sentenced to up to one year in county jail.

It is important to understand that HS § 11377 and the other California drug crimes listed below are not only applicable to ecstasy but to other narcotics as well.  Some of these include:

  • gamma hydroxybutyric acid (commonly known as “GHB”),
  •  specific anabolic steroids, and
  • ketamine (“special K” or “K”).4

Other Crimes Related to Ecstasy

For the purposes of this article, we will focus mainly on personal possession of ecstasy. However, there are several laws that criminalize other activities involving ecstasy.  Listed below are some of the laws that are most frequently prosecuted in relation to ecstasy.

Possession or Purchase of Ecstasy for Sale (CA HS 11378)

A more serious crime than possession of ecstasy is illegally possessing or purchasing ecstasy for sale.  This involves possessing enough ecstasy so that the amount shows intent to sell the narcotic, and not just to consume it personally.  If you are charged with this offense, you are facing a felony charge, punishable by 16 months, or two or three years in county jail.5

Transporting or Selling Ecstasy” (CA HS 11379)

Possession - Transportation of Drugs for Sale
Transportation for sale of Ecstasy

Selling ecstasy could result in a felony charge and being sentenced to prison for three, six, or nine years.6   You are in violation of California’s “transporting or selling a controlled substance” law when you do any of the following prohibited activities listed under Health and Safety Code 11379:

  • transport or import ecstasy into California
  • sell or furnish ecstasy by any means
  • give away or administer ecstasy (give ecstasy directly to another person by any means that results in that person consuming the narcotic); or
  • attempt or offer to do any of the above.7

Driving Under the Influence of Ecstasy (Vehicle Code 23152(a)

You are in violation of California’s “driving under the influence of drugs” law (Vehicle Code § 23152(a)) if you drive under the influence of ecstasy.  Driving “under the influence” of ecstasy means that the ecstasy has “so far affected the nervous system, the brain or muscles as to impair to an appreciable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner like that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties.8

If you are convicted for this offense, you will be charged with a misdemeanor, resulting in a sentence of up to one year in county jail and hefty fines.  Drug diversion is not available for a conviction of driving under the influence of ecstasy.

Personal Possession of Ecstasy – Prosecution (CA HS 11377)

In order to prove that you are guilty of “possessing” ecstasy in violation of Health & Safety Code 11377, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. You unlawfully possessed a controlled substance;
  2. You knew of its presence;
  3. You knew of the substance’s nature or character as a controlled substance;
  4. The controlled substance was ecstasy;
  5. The controlled substance was in a usable amount.9

In order to better understand how you can be convicted of this crime, let’s analyze some of these elements.

You unlawfully possessed the drug

You do not have to actually hold or touch something to possess it. It is enough if you have control over it. “Control” can mean that it is either hidden away in your property or held for you by another person.  However, agreeing to buy a controlled substance does not, by itself, mean that you have control over that substance.

You had sufficient knowledge

In order for you to be convicted of possession of ecstasy, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • You knew of the drug’s presence; and
  • You knew of its nature as a controlled substance.

Therefore, if you did not know that the drug was present, or if you did not know what the drug was, then your attorney can use this as a plausible defense.

There was a usable quantity of the drug

This element of the crime requires that you possess enough of the drug that would allow someone to use it.  For example, if miniscule traces of the drug were found in a baggie, this would not constitute a violation of possessing a controlled substance because the drug found in your possession was not in a usable amount. This means that there must be enough of the substance so that it can be used as a drug.10

However, that does not mean that there has to be enough of the controlled substance to have a “narcotic effect”, meaning the effect that it is ordinarily expected to produce.

The point is, if you do not possess enough of the drug to consume it, then you have a valid defense to this crime.

Personal Possession of Ecstasy – Defenses (CA HS § 11377)

Ecstasy defenses
Common defenses to Ecstasy possession charges

There are several legal defenses to a possession of ecstasy charge that a skilled drug crimes lawyer can raise on your behalf.

Lack of Knowledge

In order to deliver a strong defense on your behalf, a skilled attorney may be able to argue that:

  • You did not know you possessed the drug; or
  • You did not know that it was, in fact, a controlled substance.

In order to be convicted of this crime, there must be evidence that shows you were aware that the drugs were in your possession. For example, if you borrowed a friend’s jacket and were unaware that the ecstasy was there, you may have a valid defense.

You also must have known that the drug was a controlled substance. Perhaps you were holding on to them for a friend or relative and legitimately thought the drugs were acquired with a valid prescription, not knowing that the drug was ecstasy. If you did not know that the drugs were illegal, you may have a valid defense.

Illegal Search and Seizure

An illegal search and seizure is also a defense to California drug-related offenses.  An illegal search and seizure is one in which police have searched you without a valid California search warrant or if they lack probable cause that criminal activity has occurred. Even if police have a valid search warrant, they may still be in violation of search and seizure law if they go beyond what is allowed by the search warrant.  For example, police may go beyond the scope of a valid search warrant by finding or taking ecstasy that was located in an area not identified in the warrant as a place to be searched.


Entrapment is a valid legal defense. That is, you only possessed or sold the ecstasy because the police lured or coerced you into doing so.

Personal Possession of Ecstasy– Sentencing and Punishment(CA HS 11377)

jail ecstasy
You can face a maximum sentence of one year in jail for personal possession of Ecstasy.

If you are arrested with ecstasy on your person, you will face charges for violating Health and Safety Code 11377, which prohibits possessing a controlled substance.11 This is a misdemeanor crime in California. A misdemeanor conviction for possessing ecstasy in California subjects you to up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.12

If you are accused of this offense, you may be entitled to participate in drug treatment instead of serving time in jail, depending on your criminal record.  This is called “Drug Diversion”, and it is authorized under Proposition 36, Penal Code 1000 PC, and California drug courts.  Drug diversion allows people who have committed non-violent drug possession offenses to enter into drug treatment programs in lieu of serving jail time.  Once you successfully complete drug diversion, you may be qualified to have your drug charge dismissed.

If you are not a citizen of the United States, and you are convicted for possession of illegal drugs, you could additionally be deported, denied reentry into the country, and denied naturalization.13

Personal Possession of Ecstasy – FAQ’s (CA HS 11377)

The following are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) from other clients facing charges of possession of a controlled substance in violation of California Health and Safety Code 11350.

  1. What are some common street names related to possession of ecstasy?
  • X
  • E
  • Molly
  • Moon rocks
  • Purple dragon
  1. Can I be charged with possession of ecstasy even if I did not intend to use or sell it?

Yes. You can be charged with possession of ecstasy even if you did not intend to sell or use the drug.  The key issues are whether you had knowledge of the drug’s presence and whether you had control over it.  It is not important for what purpose you planned to use the drug so long as the prosecution can prove these two factors. However, if you are found to have intended to sell the drug, you will be convicted of a different crime and will face more severe punishment

  1. Can I be convicted of HS 11377 if I was not aware of the drug’s presence?

You shouldn’t be. In order to convict you of possession of a controlled substance under California Health and Safety Code 11377, the prosecution must prove that you knew of the presence of the drug at the time it was found to be in your possession. If you had no knowledge of the drug’s presence, you should not be convicted of this offense. A skilled attorney will be able to use this as a strong defense strategy in your case.

  1. If I am convicted of possession of a controlled substance, do I have to serve jail or prison time?

It depends. Although a conviction for possession of a controlled substance can result in incarceration, the court has several options that it can impose in lieu of jail time. Diversion programs under California Penal Code section 1000 and Proposition 36 allow the court to grant you rehabilitative treatment for substance abuse rather than facing a harsh sentence. If you successfully finish the diversion program and are found to be on good behavior, your case will likely be dismissed.

Call the Drug Crimes Lawyers at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or someone you know has been charged with possession of ecstasy, a controlled

Ecstasy drug attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you are accused of a drug related crime, call Wallin & Klarich today.

substance in violation of California Health and Safety Code section 11377, you should contact our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible. You could be convicted of this crime, leading to a jail sentence, heavy fines and loss of your job. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you could also be deported.

Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 40 years of experience defending clients facing criminal drug charges. Hiring an attorney from Wallin & Klarich is your best chance to avoid the serious consequences of a conviction for possession of ecstasy.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide you with the very best legal representation. We are dedicated to giving you the personal attention you expect to help you through this difficult time. We are here to help you get the best result possible in your case.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.

1. California Health and Safety Code 11054 – Schedule 1; substances included.

2. 21 U.S.C. Section 812 – The United States Controlled Substances Act.

3. California Health and Safety Code § 11377 – Possession of a controlled substance

4. California Health and Safety Code § 11377 – Possession of a controlled substance]

5. California Health and Safety Code § 11378 – Possession of a controlled substance for sale

6. California Health and Safety Code § 11379 – Transportation, sale, furnishing, et. of a controlled substance

7. Id.

8. People v. Enriquez (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th.661, 665

9. CALCRIM 2304 Jury Instructions as to Health and Safety Code §§ 11350, 11377.

10. People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 512

11. California Health and Safety Code § 11377 – Possession of a controlled substance

12. California Healthand Safety Code 11377 – Personal Possession of Ecstasy

13. 8 U.S. Code Section 1227

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