Drug Possession

A man in possession of drugs

If you’re facing a drug possession charge, you could receive jail time, fines, probation, and a permanent criminal record. Sometimes people assume that drug possession charges aren’t serious, especially if law enforcement officers only found a small amount of a controlled substance. Still, if you are convicted, you could face a potential felony conviction and a permanent criminal record, depending on the amount and type of controlled substance.

Discussing your case with an experienced attorney is essential if you have been charged with drug possession. Attorney Joel Hancock has extensive experience representing clients in a wide range of drug possession and paraphernalia cases. Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, today to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.

Drug Possession Laws in North Carolina

All drug possession charges in North Carolina can be serious, from possession of marijuana to misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charges. Regardless of the type and amount of controlled substance involved, defendants will have a permanent criminal record if convicted. A criminal record could result in difficulty finding housing, finding and maintaining jobs in specific fields, and limited educational opportunities. 

Actual and Constructive Possession

Drug possession can be actual or constructive. Actual possession means the controlled substance is found on the defendant’s clothing or body. Constructive possession means that the drugs are found close to the defendant or somewhere he or she can easily access. Depending on the facts in your case, your legal strategy may include showing that the prosecution can’t prove that you were an actual or constructive possession of an unlawful substance.

Categories of Controlled Substances

The North Carolina criminal code categorizes illegal controlled substances into six different schedules. The higher the risk to public health, evidence of pharmacological effect, and potential for abuse, the lower the schedule. Schedule VI controlled substances have the lowest potential for abuse, while Schedule I controlled substances are considered the most dangerous and have no lawful medical uses. Accordingly, the penalties for possessing Schedule I controlled substances are the most severe.

Schedule I drugs include opiates such as heroin and morphine, hallucinogenic substances such as MDMA and MMDA, shrooms, and peyote. Schedule II drugs include fentanyl, oxycodone, opium, amphetamines, and methamphetamine. Schedule III drugs include codeine, ketamine, testosterone, and barbiturates. Schedule IV drugs include depressants such as Xanax and stimulants. Schedule V drugs include codeine, less concentrated substances, and other substances sold at retail locations without a prescription to those aged 18 or older. Finally, Schedule VI drugs include synthetic cannabinoids and marijuana. We’ve highlighted a few of the most common controlled substances in drug possession cases. There are many other types of controlled substances included in these categories.

Drug Possession Cases Involving Marijuana

Although multiple states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, it is still illegal under federal law and in North Carolina. Many of the drug possession cases prosecuted in North Carolina involve marijuana. Simple possession of marijuana is among the most common minor drug charges. However, the penalty for being convicted of any drug charge can still negatively impact a defendant’s life. 

Even if you do not face jail time, you could still face fines, you’ll have a permanent record, and the court will send your conviction report to the Division of Motor Vehicles. Drug possession charges related to marijuana include the following types of crimes, listed from least severe to most severe in terms of potential jail time:

  • Simple possession of marijuana – less than .5 ounce
  • Misdemeanor possession of marijuana – more than .5 ounce
  • Misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia – marijuana
  • Felony possession of marijuana – 1.5 ounces to 10 pounds
  • Felony drug possession with intent to sell or distribute marijuana
  • Felony sale or delivery of marijuana
  • Felony cultivation of marijuana
  • Trafficking of marijuana 

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Charges

In many cases, prosecutors will bring simple drug possession charges along with possession of drug paraphernalia charges. When a law enforcement officer investigates a potential drug possession case, he or she may find objects that a person can use in transferring, making, or ingesting unlawful drugs. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. 

Under North Carolina’s Controlled Substances Act, any object used in transferring, testing, containing, making, inhaling, injecting, or ingesting a controlled substance can be considered illegal drug paraphernalia. Using everyday objects such as plastic baggies can be considered possessing paraphernalia. Other objects that may fit the definition of drug paraphernalia include the following:

  • Steel wool
  • Rolling paper
  • Bottles for pills
  • Roach clips
  • Spoons
  • Scales

Possession with the Intent to Sell, Manufacturer of Deliver Drugs

When law enforcement officers discover drug paraphernalia, they may charge a defendant with drug possession with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver drugs. Possession with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver drugs is a much more serious crime than a charge for simple possession of most drugs. Depending on the type and quantity of controlled substance, you could face 20 years or more in prison and significant fines. 

Do First-Time Drug Offenders Go To Jail In NC?

Whether first-time drug offenders go to jail in NC depends on various factors, including the specific drug, possession or distribution charges, and individual circumstances. In most cases, first-time offenders with minor possession charges are more likely to face probation, fines, or drug treatment programs than immediate jail time. However, each case is unique, and consulting with a knowledgeable NC criminal defense attorney is crucial to understand the potential consequences and navigate the legal system effectively.

The Penalties for Drug Possession Charges

The type and quantity of controlled substance will determine your potential penalties. For example, when ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine is involved, even a simple possession charge can be considered a felony in North Carolina, punishable by at least one year in prison. On the other hand, possessing small amounts of less addictive and potentially damaging controlled substances like marijuana is usually considered a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors carry lighter penalties and may not include jail time. However, they can still adversely affect a defendant’s future professionally and personally.

Diversionary Programs

If you’re facing a simple possession charge, it may be possible for you to enroll in a diversionary program. By participating in a diversionary program, you will perform community service and agree to take specific classes. In exchange, the charges against you may be dropped. Working with an attorney can help you understand your legal options and make an informed decision about the best legal strategy for your case.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Are you facing criminal charges for drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, or another drug crime in North Carolina? Attorney Joel Hancock is here to help. He has extensive experience representing clients in drug possession cases and will develop an effective defense strategy in your case. Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, to schedule an initial consultation to evaluate your legal options and learn more about how he can fight for you.