Waxhaw Drug Possession Defense Lawyer

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Waxhaw Drug Possession Defense Attorney

Proven Firm Serves Clients In Waxhaw North, Carolina

Drug possession crimes are some of the most damaging charges that can go on the defendant’s criminal record. Getting caught with certain illegal drugs or large amounts of different substances can result in long sentences and extensive fines. For those in Waxhaw, the legal team at the Law Offices of Huffman & Kendrick can assist those charged with possession. We can build a defense against any drug crime accusation.

What Does Drug Possession Entail?

Drug possession is the unlawful possession of any controlled or regulated substance. These drugs are described and listed in different classes, called schedules, based on their medical value and likelihood of being abused. Drug schedules are determined at the federal level. Therefore, the standards revolving around drug classifications are uniform nationwide.

State laws for regulating drugs can vary based on the state, subsequently changing the prosecution process for in-state drug-related offenses. The federal definition of these drugs is the same for both states, but the specific regulations and state laws differ. For example, California has legalized both recreational and medicinal marijuana. However, in North Carolina, medical and recreational medical marijuana use are still heavily regulated by the state.

Possession charges are typically handled at the state level but can be considered both state and federal offenses. In North Carolina, drug possession charges are usually filed at the state level. However, this depends on:

  • The location of the crime
  • The quantity of drugs found in the investigation
  • Whether the drugs were transported across state lines

In any case, a talented defense attorney is the best asset to have in a drug possession case.

Are Drug Dealing, Trafficking, and Possession the Same Thing?

Although sometimes connected, drug dealing, trafficking, and possession are all separate charges. Drug distribution charges are pursued at a higher level than regular possession charges. Depending on the quantity or kind of drug, they can be considered felonies. The selling, transporting, or producing of narcotics in large quantities will constitute a drug trafficking charge. However, smaller-scale distribution is not pursued on the same level as trafficking. Possession, on the other hand, is used to identify instances of personal use. To turn a possession charge into a trafficking or dealing charge, two major facts will need to be proven:

  • A large quantity of drugs found on the defendant, at their residence, or in their car
  • Whether or not the “intent to distribute” can be proven, like portioned-off bags of marijuana or other substances

If these two factors can be proven, drug possession charges can be turned into drug trafficking or dealing charges. Narcotics in portions bags or items used to portion these substances, such as scales, can result in felony charges for small-scale drug dealing. Trafficking charges, however, require mass amounts of narcotics to be present. This can lead to higher-class felony convictions and extended periods of jail time. Speaking with a criminal defense lawyer about a drug possession case is critical for avoiding harsher penalties. This is especially vital if you are facing any possible intent to distribute or trafficking allegations.

North Carolina’s Controlled Substances List

North Carolina, like all other states, is held to the federal standard for drug schedules; however, state law dictates the regulation and control of these substances. Federal drug scheduling includes five distinct schedules, each with an assumed potential for abuse and a medical classification. The federal breakdown for drug schedules is as follows:

  • Schedule I includes drugs with a high potential for abuse and no perceived medical benefits. This list includes heroin, marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, and peyote.
  • Schedule II includes drugs with a high potential for developing dependence but accepted medical benefits. Drugs like Adderall, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycontin, and fentanyl belong here.
  • Schedule III drugs include substances that have a low or moderate potential for abuse but provide some moderate medical benefits. These include Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, or steroids.
  • Schedule IV drugs are typically prescription drugs with a low potential for misuse or addiction. Common benzodiazepine medications like Xanax, Ativan, and Valium are considered schedule IV drugs.
  • Schedule V drugs are considered the least likely to develop dependence and be abused, such as codeine in cough syrup. These drugs are usually used for problems like coughs, stomach issues, or pain relief.

Using this list, North Carolina enforces a state-specific breakdown for certain substances, attaching a specific penalty to their position. For example, possession of heroin will be pursued as a felony because of its federal and state classification as having a high potential for abuse. Where federal regulations and state law differ in North Carolina, however, is in their classification of marijuana. North Carolina’s drug classification list includes a sixth schedule for marijuana, hash, and synthetic cannabis.

North Carolina’s Sentencing Explained

In North Carolina, felony and misdemeanor charges are broken down into classes that range in severity depending on the charges tied to the conviction. Class 3 misdemeanors are the least serious charges and, depending on the severity of the offense, can result in fines and jail time. Class 2 and Class 1 misdemeanor convictions are for more serious crimes, resulting in up to either 60 or 120 days in jail, respectively. Class 1A misdemeanor convictions are the most serious misdemeanor convictions. Penalties can include up to 160 days in jail or discretionary fines.

Felony convictions, on the other hand, can be slightly more complicated. There are ten different classes ranging from Class A to Class I, each with a specific sentence attached to charges in that class. For example, all violent crimes are considered Class A felonies, which can result in a life sentence or the death penalty. Class B is separated into two separate sections, Class B1 and B2, each with different penalties. For example, rape is a Class B1 felony because of its severity and the intent behind the action. Second-degree murder would be considered a Class B2 felony because of its seriousness. However, it has a lower class due to the lack of premeditation when committing the crime.

After determining the class and escalation level of the charge, any prior convictions on the defendant’s record are matched up according to a points system. This considers their past convictions, creating a total number value for their entire criminal record. All misdemeanors are awarded one point. Prior felony convictions can range from two to ten points based on their sentencing class. This record is then compared to a leveling system, which determines the range in which the crime in a specific case will be pursued.

Is Drug Possession a Felony in North Carolina?

Felony drug possession depends on three important factors, including:

  • The amount of the drug found in the defendant’s possession
  • The schedule of the drug
  • The defendant’s prior record

The biggest of these three factors in determining a punishment is the type of drug involved in the arrest. If someone were to have heroin on them, their charges would be delivered at the felony level. If they were found to have more than four grams of heroin on them at the time of the arrest, this could be used to pursue felony trafficking charges. For first-time arrests, the penalty for heroin possession can be 4-5 months in jail. Subsequent arrests can trigger higher, more rigorous sentencing.

Marijuana possession, because of its schedule, tends to lead to a misdemeanor possession charge, depending on the amount. If the defendant is found with less than 1½ ounces of marijuana deemed for personal use, meaning there was no indication to distribute, this would be pursued as a misdemeanor. If the amount exceeds 1½ ounces, however, this would be pursued as a felony.

For drug trafficking charges, the amount of marijuana in possession needs to exceed ten pounds, which is considered a Class H felony. First-time marijuana possession charges are a Class 3 misdemeanor and can result in 10 days in jail or probation. Second-time marijuana possession for personal use is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which results in 30 days in jail.

How Does Sentencing Work for a Drug Crime in North Carolina?

For every drug schedule, there is an expected felony or misdemeanor classification, as well as sentencing that matches the crime. The breakdown in sentencing for each drug classification is as follows:

  • Schedule I: Because of their likelihood of causing addiction, high likelihood of abuse, and lack of medical benefits, Schedule I drug convictions are always Class I felonies. These carry a sentence of 4-5 months in prison.
  • Schedule II: Schedule II substances, because of their medical use, increased likelihood of abuse, and risk of developing dependencies, are pursued as a Class 1 misdemeanor, which lands the defendant in jail for 45 days. A second offense, however, would be charged as a Class I felony, resulting in 4-5 months in jail.
  • Schedule III: Similar to Schedule II substances, Schedule III substances have a higher likelihood of abuse and dependence but not as high as Schedule I or II substances. The penalties for a Schedule III conviction are the same as for a Schedule II charge, including felony status for subsequent convictions.
  • Schedule IV: Schedule IV substances have a valid medical use, can lead to dependency if misused, and have a lower likelihood of abuse. Nevertheless, the sentencing for first-time and subsequent possession charges is the same as for substances in Schedules II and III.
  • Schedule V: Schedule V possession charges, because these substances have a low likelihood of abuse, accepted medical benefits, and the potential for dependency if misused, are pursued at the misdemeanor level for both first and second-time convictions. A first-time conviction is charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor, resulting in 30 days in jail. A second conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor, leading to 45 days in jail.
  • Schedule VI: Considered to have the lowest likelihood of abuse or developing a dependency, Schedule VI substances are pursued as a Class 3 misdemeanor for a first conviction, which leads to either ten days in jail or probation. For a second offense, the defendant would be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor and end up spending 30 days in jail.

When pursuing charges for drug possession, the final sentencing will consider all prior convictions as well as their escalation level. If someone is convicted of drug possession of a Schedule I drug, any subsequent convictions will also be used during sentencing. These can increase the penalties for that charge based on the defendant’s record.

What Counts as Drug Paraphernalia?

Drug paraphernalia is anything that can be utilized to use a drug. Pipes, grinders, syringes, and even scales can all be considered items used in the consumption of controlled substances. Other forms of drug paraphernalia can include:

  • Any items used in testing the quality of a certain substance
  • Materials used to decrease or increase drug potency
  • Materials used to break apart and repackage smaller amounts of substances for use

When facing possession charges, any materials found in a home, car, or on the defendant at the time of the arrest can be tested for certain substances. They can later be used to pursue a drug paraphernalia charge. To use these items for assigning their charges, the prosecution must have verifiable proof that the items in the case were used for drug use or storage. For example, a rolled-up dollar bill could indicate drug use. However, it must be tested and confirmed that there is drug residue on the bill itself. Otherwise, this is not enough to validate a drug paraphernalia charge.

Can Drug Possession Charges Be Dismissed?

Just like most other criminal charges, having a drug charge dismissed is possible. Each person charged with a crime for the unlawful possession of illicit substances is unique, and so are drug offenses. Reviewing the facts of the case, as well as the background of the accused, is crucial for a fair trial. During the evidence collection process, however, mistakes can happen that inevitably sway the case, including:

  • Lack of probable cause for vehicle stops
  • Lack of reasonable suspicion of possession for individual searches
  • Not properly following guidelines for searching properties, individuals, or cars
  • Lack of consent to search
  • Searching a property without a valid search warrant
  • Shaky evidence from the prosecution that does not prove actual possession
  • Improper testing of substances or paraphernalia that does not prove drug use

Although the presentation of illegally collected or invalid evidence can lead to charges being dropped, this is not a guarantee. The defendant’s record is used to go forward with sentencing, so prior convictions for drug possession will be brought up again in court. A long history of drug convictions can make the court rule in favor of the prosecution. However, these arrests could be indicative of a substance use problem. This could help the court favor more rehabilitation-centered sentencing.

What Are the Penalties for Minors Facing Drug Possession Charges?

Depending on the kind of drug involved in the case, minors facing possession charges can face different penalties. In juvenile court, there is no jury trial, in contrast to the regular court system. In criminal proceedings involving minors, the judge renders all decisions without a jury. Younger defendants have more options with juvenile court judges. The judge may impose an order requiring the offender to undergo drug counseling with their parents to encourage rehabilitation. Other punishments for possession can include:

  • Probation: If given probation, the defendant may be required to complete community service, return to school, participate in drug counseling like Narcotics Anonymous, find a job of legal age, or comply with a variety of additional requirements. Usually lasting six months or more, probation may or may not involve a probation officer.
  • Diversion: Diversion is another type of probation that follows many similar requirements but exempts the defendant from appearing in court. The charges are essentially dropped if the defendant succeeds in staying away from drugs completely. This option is not accessible everywhere and is only offered to first-time offenders.
  • Detention: The most unfavorable outcome of a juvenile drug charge is when a juvenile is placed in detention. This typically occurs when they are a repeat offender and are housed in a juvenile correction facility. These decisions may also take into account drug possession acquired due to another offense. Depending on the severity of the accusations, the defendant may be forced to remain in their assigned detention center until age 21.

Many juvenile convictions are expungeable after a set amount of time, typically following the conclusion of probation, diversion, or detention. Until then, the defendant may be subject to periodic drug testing, unexpected searches, electronic surveillance, and other limitations. It is essential to speak with a defense attorney about any drug possession charges a minor may encounter. They can help build a proper defense.

North Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer for Drug Possession Charges

Drug possession charges have a wide range of legal outcomes depending on factors such as the type of drug, the defendant’s record, and the amount found in their possession. Understanding the vast array of sentences for any possession charge requires a skilled defense attorney. The Law Offices of Huffman & Kendrick have extensive experience with criminal defense, including drug possession charges. For a comprehensive overview of our legal services, including the locations we serve, visit our website and contact us to schedule an appointment with our team.