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Health And Safety Code Section 11550 HS - Under The Influence Of Drugs


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerAs per California Health and Safety Code § 11550(a) HS, it is against the law to use or be under the influence of a controlled substance. This offense is classified as a misdemeanor crime and can lead to a sentence of up to one year in county jail. However, there are potential avenues to have the charges dismissed, such as participating in a diversion program like Penal Code 1000 PC or Proposition 36.

Controlled substances are drugs that are regulated by the government due to their high potential for abuse and addictive qualities. These substances are typically prescribed by a physician. The list of controlled substances can be found in statutes such as HS 11550(a), 11504, and 11505. Examples of controlled substances covered by this law include cocaine, heroin, and oxycodone (if not lawfully prescribed).

When it comes to California Health and Safety Code § 11550 HS, being “under the influence” refers to the state when a drug is actively affecting the user’s physical or mental condition.

HS 11550. (a) A person shall not use, or be under the influence of any controlled substance that is (1) specified in subdivision (b), (c), or (e), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, specified in paragraph (14), (15), (21), (22), or (23) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054, specified in subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11055, or specified in paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (d) or in paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) of Section 11055, or (2) a narcotic drug classified in Schedule III, IV, or V, except when administered by or under the direction of a person licensed by the state to dispense, prescribe, or administer controlled substances. It shall be the burden of the defense to show that it comes within the exception. A person convicted of violating this subdivision is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced to serve a term of not more than one year in a county jail. The court may also place a person convicted under this subdivision on probation for a period not to exceed five years.

(b) (1) A person who is convicted of violating subdivision (a) when the offense occurred within seven years of that person being convicted of two or more separate violations of that subdivision, and refuses to complete a licensed drug rehabilitation program offered by the court pursuant to subdivision (c), shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than 180 days nor more than one year. In no event does the court have the power to absolve a person convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) who is punishable under this subdivision from the obligation of spending at least 180 days in confinement in a county jail unless there are no licensed drug rehabilitation programs reasonably available.



California Health and Safety Code 11550 HS establishes the offense of being under the influence of a controlled substance or narcotic drug. To secure a conviction under this statute, a prosecutor must demonstrate that:

  • The individual willfully used a controlled substance or narcotic drug.
  • and/or was knowingly under the influence of such substances.

The list of specific controlled substances and narcotic drugs covered by Health and Safety Code 11550 HS can be found in Health and Safety Code sections 11054-11058 HS, as well as Health and Safety Code 11019 HS. Common substances and narcotics subject to this law include:

  • Methamphetamines
  • Heroin
  • PCP
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone

California has laws that regulate drug use and possession, but some drugs are treated differently than others. For example, marijuana is regulated separately under California’s marijuana laws. If someone is caught using or possessing marijuana in California, they will be subject to a different set of laws and penalties than those outlined in this particular code section.


Prosecutors may rely on several types of evidence to establish guilt in a case of being under the influence of a controlled substance. The three main types of evidence include:

  • Testimony of the Arresting Officer(s): Law enforcement officers who have received training in detecting signs of drug use or intoxication may provide testimony in court. They can describe objective symptoms they observed during the arrest, such as a runny nose, tremors, chemical odor, loss of coordination, lethargy, bloodshot or watery eyes, and pinpoint pupils.
  • Chemical Test Results: When arrested for an HS 11550 violation, you may be asked to submit to a chemical test. Unlike breath tests, blood tests can detect the presence of drugs in your system. Positive test results for specific drugs, such as methamphetamine, opioids, or cocaine, can be introduced by the prosecutor as evidence to support the claim of being under the influence.
  • Testimony from a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Officer: DRE officers are law enforcement personnel who have undergone specialized training to recognize signs and symptoms of drug intoxication. They may be called upon to assist in investigations of suspected drug influence. Using a 12-step DRE Drug Impairment Protocol, a DRE officer can assess whether an individual is under the influence of drugs. If the protocol indicates drug influence, the prosecutor can present the DRE officer’s testimony in court regarding the findings.


If a person is found to be under the influence of a controlled substance, it is not considered a crime involving moral turpitude. Instead, it is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail. However, the court may offer probation for up to five years, which can include alternatives to jail such as work release or house arrest (electronic monitoring).

Additionally, some individuals may qualify for a drug diversion program, which consists of drug counseling and a licensed drug rehabilitation program. This program allows people who have committed non-violent drug offenses to serve their sentences in drug treatment programs instead of jail or prison.

HS 11550(e)(1), If a person is found to be unlawfully under the influence of certain drugs, such as cocaine, cocaine base, heroin, methamphetamine, or phencyclidine, while in possession of a loaded, operable firearm, they may face more severe punishment, including imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year or in state prison. It’s important to prioritize safety and avoid putting oneself and others at risk. Immediate personal possession includes, but is not limited to, the interior passenger compartment of a motor vehicle HS 11550(e)(2).

A conviction under California Health and Safety Code 11550 HS, for being under the influence, does not have any direct impact on your gun rights. Certain criminal convictions in California can result in the loss of the right to possess a firearm, including some misdemeanors that may carry a 10-year firearm ban. However, an “under the influence” conviction alone does not lead to these consequences.

Please note; L.A. County D.A.’s office generally does not prosecute HS 11550 cases, so it’s important to seek legal advice if you find yourself in a situation where you are facing charges related to drug use or possession.


Yes, If convicted of HS 11550(a) the defendant may be required to register as a drug offender with local law enforcement.


If you are facing a charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance, there are legal defenses available to fight the accusation. Some common defenses include:

  • Legally Administered Prescription: If the drug was administered legally by a licensed healthcare professional, such as a doctor, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian, it may be a valid defense. You would need to provide proof that the drug was prescribed and administered according to accepted medical practices.
  • No Drug Influence: If a drug test shows that you were not under the influence of a controlled substance, it may be a defense against a charge of being under the influence.
  • Involuntary Intoxication: If you were unknowingly drugged and became under the influence involuntarily, it may be a defense. You would need to prove that you were not aware that you were consuming or ingesting the substance that caused the intoxication.

Legal defenses can vary depending on the circumstances of each case. It is therefore advisable to seek the advice and representation of a criminal defense attorney who can assess your situation and provide legal guidance accordingly to build a strong defense.


A conviction under California Health and Safety Code 11550 HS can potentially result in adverse immigration consequences. According to United States immigration law, certain criminal convictions, including certain drug offenses, can lead to deportation or being marked as “inadmissible” for non-citizens. The specific circumstances of a case will determine the potential immigration impact of a conviction. He or she may loss a professional license (dentist, lawyer, doctor, etc.)


To be eligible for expungement after a conviction, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Successfully complete either probation
  • or a jail term

Depending on the circumstances, in cases where probation terms are violated, expungement may still be considered at the discretion of the judge.

Expungement under Penal Code 1203.4 grants relief from nearly all penalties and disabilities associated with the conviction.


  • Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) – VC 23152f
  • Driving while addicted to a drug – VC 23152c
  • Possession of a controlled substance – HS 11350
  • Drunk in public – PC 647F


If you have been arrested or charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance, also known as HS 11550(a), it is crucial to seek legal assistance. Our team of criminal defense lawyers is available for a free consultation. Led by experienced attorney Cyrus Tabibnia, who has over 19 years of experience, we have successfully handled numerous felony crimes cases and misdemeanor cases in Southern California.

To learn more about cases involving being under the influence of drugs and to schedule your free consultation, please contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Cyrus Tabibnia at 866-713-2159. We are here to provide the necessary guidance and representation to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case

Tabibnia Law Firm is serving its clients throughout Southern California including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Orange County, Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, Ventura county, Riverside County, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, Palmdale, Santa Clarita, Monterey Park, La Puente, Van Nuys, Pomona, Manhattan Beach, West Covina, Whittier, Downey, Woodland Hills, Norwalk, Torrance, Redondo Beach, San Bernardino, Walnut Creek, Inglewood, Lancaster, Westlake Village and nearby areas.


Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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