Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Possession Charges
Possession of illegal drugs can lead to serious penalties, including fines and imprisonment, depending on the severity of the infraction, the drugs involved, the previous record of the offender, and other key circumstances in the case. Criminal drug possession may count as either a misdemeanor or a felony under North Carolina law.
If you find yourself charged with possession of a controlled substance in North Carolina, you need to understand what kind of charge you face, your legal defense options, and strategies for obtaining an optimal outcome. Start by considering the following frequently asked questions regarding drug possession charges.
How Does North Carolina Law Classify Different Controlled Substances?
Possession of a controlled substance (without legal authorization such as a doctor’s prescription) violates state and/or federal laws. Both North Carolina and the federal government classify different types of controlled substances according to a schedule, with offenses ranging in severity from Schedule I (the highest) to Schedule VI (the lowest).
Schedule I drugs include such potentially-lethal substances as heroin, with Schedule II covering other dangerous, frequently abused drugs such as cocaine, oxycodone, and methamphetamine. Ketamine and anabolic steroids fall under Schedule III, while many anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and sedative drugs belong under Schedule IV.
Schedules V and VI cover controlled substances that present relatively little danger of abuse. Schedule V drugs include over-the-counter products such as cough syrups containing codeine, while Schedule VI substances include both marijuana and hashish under North Carolina law.
What Level of Crime Does Your Charge Represent?
Possession of a Schedule I drug qualifies as a Class I felony (the lowest felony ranking). Possession of Schedule II, III, or IV drugs counts as a Class 1 misdemeanor unless the amount elevates the crime to a Class I felony. Schedule V and Schedule VI possessions count as Class 2 and Class 3 misdemeanors, respectively.
In recent years, North Carolina law has mostly decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana, at least in practice. Possession of less than half an ounce currently draws a $200 maximum fine. Larger amounts may draw harsher penalties, but only possession of 1.5 ounces or more actually counts as a felony.
If you meet certain conditions, you may receive a conditional dismissal of a drug possession conviction. G.S. 90-96 places you on probation, with no judgment entered. After successful completion of your probation, the court dismisses the conviction. However, if you violate probation, the court may convict and sentence you accordingly.
How Do Attorneys Defend Against Drug Possession Charges?
A drug possession defense in North Carolina can prove trickier than a similar defense in some other states. Part of this extra complexity stems from the fact that the state recognizes both active possession (in which you knowingly have them on your person) and constructive possession (in which you merely maintain control over the drug).
An experienced criminal attorney can help you build the strongest possible case for your defense. Certain technicalities may prompt a judge to throw the case out entirely. For instance, your attorney may discover that the arresting officers committed unlawful search and seizure, arresting you without probable cause.
Bear in mind that both active and constructive possession hinge on your knowledge of the drug’s presence. If, for instance, someone mailed you a package of drugs without your agreement or awareness and you haven’t opened the package to discover them, you might possess drugs without having committed any crime, a potentially critical point in your defense.
If you seek skilled, experienced legal representation to help you defend yourself against a drug possession charge in North Carolina’s Cumberland County, you’ll find it at Carl L Britt, Jr, Attorney at Law. Contact our office today for a consultation.