When Does Drug Possession Become A Felony?

If you find yourself facing a drug charge—especially if it’s your first—you may not understand everything that’s involved. There are varying degrees of drug charges based on how much you were found to be in possession of, as well as the type of drug you were carrying.

While it doesn’t take much to trigger a drug charge, it’s always a serious offense, and should never be taken lightly. Instead of a public defender, hiring a experienced Raleigh drug possession defense attorney to defend you may be the difference between jail and probation, or a long sentence vs. a short sentence.

How Will You Be Charged?

When Does Drug Possession Become A Felony?

There are four possible classes of law that may be used:

• Misdemeanor Drug Laws
• Felony Drug Laws
• Felony Drug Trafficking Laws
• Federal Drug Laws and Federal Drug Trafficking Laws

Everything depends on what you were arrested with, how much, and how the substance is classified.

Marijuana Is Still Illegal In North Carolina

Nine US states have legalized marijuana for personal use, and 29 states allow marijuana to be prescribed by a doctor for medicinal use. While medical evidence shows the benefits of cannabis therapy for a number of conditions, North Carolina isn’t in either “pot-friendly” group. You can still be stopped and arrested for its possession and/or distribution in the state, and a “doctor’s note” or prescription is not acceptable as a valid defense.

Class 1/Class 2 Misdemeanor

This includes:

• Possession of drug paraphernalia (N.C.G.S. § 90-113.22): any kind of tools or equipment used in the production, sale, or use of controlled substances.
• Possession of marijuana, up to 1.5 ounces, and may include up to 45 days of jail time.
• Possession of Schedule II, Schedule III, or Schedule IV drugs (opioids, codeine, cocaine, marijuana.)

Class 3 Misdemeanor

Very small amounts of marijuana, less than a half-ounce, is called “simple possession of marijuana.” This includes derivatives hashish and hashish oil. Simple possession incurs a $200 fine, but a first offense doesn’t usually include jail time. A second offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which can include 30 days in jail.

Schedule I

Any charge for these substances is a felony on the first arrest. Schedule I is the class of drug that includes:
• Heroin
• Ecstasy
• Methaqualone
• Peyote
• Opiates

Other “harder” drugs may be included. A first arrest for one of these substances is always a felony with at least 4 months of jail time, as is the second.

Schedule II-VI

A first offense for these drugs is a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, but a second offense becomes a Class 1 felony:

• Cocaine
• Raw Opium
• Opium Extracts, Fluid and Powder
• Codeine
• Hydrocodone
• Morphine
• Methadone
• Methamphetamine
• Ritalin
• Ketamine
• Anabolic Steroids
• Some Barbituates
• Valium
• Xanax
• Rohypnol
• Darvon
• Clonazepam
• Barbital

Felony Drug Laws In North Carolina

Harsher penalties are involved with stronger and larger amounts of drugs, turning drug possession into a felony. North Carolina drug felonies are classified as Class G, H, or I, and include:

  • The sale of any Schedule I or Schedule II drugs (Heroin, Opium or Cocaine) are considered Class G felonies.
  • The manufacture of methamphetamine (Meth) is a Class C felony. If “manufacturing” is found to be only packaging and/or labeling meth, it’s a Class H felony.
  •  The sale of Scheduled III, Schedule IV, Schedule V, and Schedule VI drugs are punishable as Class H felonies. This includes marijuana, a Scheduled VI drug; it’s punishable as a Class H felony.
  • Possession with Intent to Sell and Deliver (PWISD) of Schedule III through Schedule VI drugs, (except cocaine and heroin), a Class I felony.
  •  Possession with Intent to Sell and Deliver (PWISD) or sale of any counterfeit drug, a Class I felony.

Drug Trafficking

Possession, sale, transportation, warehousing or distribution of prohibited substances always comes with prison time. Providing “substantial assistance” to authorities can help reduce your sentence, and the judge has some leeway in sentencing. But you’ll need to speak a lawyer right away in order to ensure that your case is handled properly.

While the laws generally address large amounts of illegal drugs, sometimes the amount involved is relatively small. There are multiple levels of punishment for each type of drug, varying from 2 years (25 months) to more than 18 years in prison. This includes (but isn’t limited to) marijuana, meth, cocaine (crack or powder), heroin/opium, LSD and MDMA.

One would be able to see a  full schedule system of North Carolina’s controlled substances and possession penalties .

Drug Charge Defense

Whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, your defense is critical to the outcome. A criminal defense attorney experienced in drug cases can defend you in court and make sure your rights are protected. Dewey P. Brinkley is a former Wake County prosecutor who will prepare a strong defense and make sure you receive a fair trial under the law. Contact our Raleigh law office today at (919) 832-0307 for a free consultation.

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