Although much of the country has decriminalized marijuana possession, it is still very much illegal here in North Carolina. Possessing even small amounts can result in a significant fine, and the penalties only increase from there. If you or a loved one have been charged with marijuana possession, you will need a strong criminal defense attorney.
Hancock Law Firm is experienced with drug crimes. We will fight to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced, and we will explore all available legal options with you.
How Marijuana Possession Is Charged
As with most drug crimes, the amount of marijuana in your possession will determine how you are charged. Marijuana possession could have you facing a misdemeanor or felony charge.
Simple possession. Possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana is a Class 3 misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $200. You may be facing a jail sentence of up to 20 days, but in most cases the sentence will be suspended.
Misdemeanor possession. This is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor for possession of between half an ounce and 1.5 ounces. For this crime, you’re looking at a jail sentence of up to 120 days and a fine of up to $1,000.
Felony possession. You will be charged with a Class I felony if you possess more than 1.5 ounces of marijuana, even if you have a clean criminal record. Your criminal history will affect your prison sentence, which will be between 3-12 months. You will also face a fine and probation.
Marijuana trafficking. If you are in possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana, you will be charged with drug trafficking. Here, you will be dealing with mandatory minimum prison sentences.
How Possession Is Proven
Prosecutors generally have two methods by which they can prove marijuana possession: actual and constructive possession. Actual possession means what it sounds like: the marijuana is actually on your person, for example, in your pocket.
Constructive possession is a little more complicated, and it gives prosecutors more latitude in seeking a conviction. Constructive possession means the marijuana is in a place where you have control over it. In other words, it is in a place where you can access or dispose of it.
Constructive possession also allows prosecutors to charge defendants for marijuana they didn’t even know about. For instance, if you borrow someone’s car and there’s marijuana in the glove box, you could be charged with constructive possession, even if you were unaware of it.
Defenses Against Marijuana Possession Charges
Every drug charge is different, so the potential defenses available to you depend heavily on the facts in your case. Working with your attorney, these are some possible defenses against your marijuana possession charge:
Fourth Amendment violation. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens against illegal searches and seizures. The police must have probable cause or a warrant to search your vehicle for drugs. Your home and person are also subject to these constitutional protections. If they were violated, the search may have been invalid.
Unreliable informant. Perhaps the police relied on an informant to let them know you were in possession of marijuana. In many cases, unreliable informants will point a finger at someone else merely to mitigate their own pending criminal charges.
Improper weighing of the drugs. As discussed above, the exact marijuana charges against you depend on the weight of the drugs. If the drugs were not weighed properly, you may have been charged with the wrong offense. We can examine the steps used to weigh the marijuana.
Defenses against actual or constructive possession. Remember, there are two ways a prosecutor can prove possession: actual and constructive. Your attorney may be able to show that you did not knowingly possess the marijuana (actual) or have control of the area in which it was located (constructive). The prosecution has to prove every element of the charge against you in order to win a conviction.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In any criminal case, the prosecution has to prove its charges beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard of proof in the American legal system, and is not easy to meet. Your attorney will work to introduce doubt and challenge the prosecutor’s interpretation of the evidence.
Are There Alternatives To Jail Time?
Clients often worry most about going to jail for marijuana possession. Fortunately, there are alternatives that may be available in your case. These depend on the crime charged as well as your criminal background history, and include:
- Drug education program. You might be able to complete a drug education program that could result in lessened charges or even a dismissal.
- First offender program. There are alternatives for certain first-time drug offenders such as attending drug education, paying a fine, and more.
- The 90-96 program. You may avoid jail time by accepting and meeting the conditions of probation, in exchange for a dismissal.
Related Marijuana Charges
It’s important to understand that drug crimes like possession are usually not charged in isolation. Prosecutors frequently tack on other charges in order to try to secure a conviction. Possession of drug paraphernalia – tools used to cultivate, grow, ingest, and package drugs – is an example. If convicted of this along with marijuana possession, you could be facing harsher criminal penalties.
As with marijuana possession, there are defenses against possession of drug paraphernalia. Be sure to consult with your attorney to make sure all charges against you are properly addressed.
Contact Our Experienced Carteret County Marijuana Possession Defense Lawyer
The criminal justice system is intimidating, but Hancock Law Firm is here for you. Call us today to discuss your marijuana possession charges and learn what options you have.