The North Carolina Controlled Substances Act
The state’s drug laws are outlined in North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) Chapter 90, also known as the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act. This outlines more than drug offenses; it also outlines North Carolina’s controlled substances schedule.
- Schedule I: Drugs with a high potential for addiction and abuse, and which have no currently accepted medical uses. These include heroin, Ecstasy, GHB, Peyote, Methaqualone, and opiates.
- Schedule II: Drugs with a high potential for dependency and abuse, yet have currently accepted medical uses with severe restrictions. They include cocaine, opium, Codeine, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Methamphetamine, Methadone, and Ritalin.
- Schedule III: Drugs with some potential for abuse and dependency, and have currently accepted medical uses, such as Ketamine, anabolic steroids, and certain barbiturates.
- Schedule IV: Drugs with a low potential for abuse or addiction, and have currently accepted medical uses, including Valium, Xanax, Barbital, and Rohypnol.
- Schedule V: Drugs with low potential for abuse or dependence and have currently accepted medical uses. These encompass over-the-counter cough medicines with codeine.
- Schedule VI: This level includes marijuana, hashish, and hashish oil, which are considered to have a low potential for abuse, risk of limited dependence, and no accepted medical use.
Understanding North Carolina’s Drug Laws
The charge you face for drug possession or another drug offense depends on the type of controlled substance, the amount under your control, your actions in relation to the drugs, and your perceived intent. For example, if you are found with a small amount of cocaine in your pocket, you will face a certain charge for cocaine possession. However, if you are found with large qualities of cocaine in your vehicle, some of which is in large packages while smaller amounts are in little baggies, then you may face a different charge for drug trafficking.
Many drug charges are brought under NCGS 90-95(a), which states it is unlawful for anyone to:
- Manufacture, sell or deliver, or possess with the intednt to manufacturer, sell or deliver, a controlled substance;
- Create, sell or deliver, or possess with the intent to sell or deliver, a counterfeit controlled substance; and
- To possess a controlled substance.
If you have any questions regarding the drug crime, you are facing and whether the charges are appropriate or excessive, call a drug attorney immediately. Prosecutors often charge people with the highest offense possible, but a skilled defense lawyer may be able to argue for amending the charge to something more fitting.
What Constitutes Drug Possession?
When you are facing any type of drug charge, it is important to understand what the law means by “possession.” To be charged with actual possession of drugs, the prosecutors will seek to prove the drugs were on your person, and you were aware of them. Common examples of actual possession including having drugs in your pocket, purse, or backpack.
However, if the drugs were not on your person, you may be accused of constructive possession. This entails having the intent and ability to control the drugs even though they are not necessarily within your reach. Constructive possession includes when drugs are found in your vehicle, home, or office. You do not have to have exclusive control over the drugs either. You may be charged with possession of drugs found in a vehicle that is owned by someone else, yet you were a passenger.
North Carolina Drug Possession Charges
If you are accused of violating NCGS 90-95(a)(3), possession of a controlled substance, you may be charged with:
- NCGS 90-95(d)(1): For a Schedule I controlled substance, you can be charged with a Class I felony, except possession of 1 gram or less of MDPV is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- NCGS 90-95(d)(2): For a Schedule II, III, or IV controlled substance, you can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the drug is meth or cocaine, or the quantity exceeds a threshold amount as defined by law, then you may be charged with a Class I felony.
- NCGS 90-95(d)(3): For a Schedule V drug, you may be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor.
- NCGS 90-95(d)(4): For a Schedule VI drug, you may be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor. However, if you possess more than one-half ounce of marijuana or more than one-twentieth of an ounce of hashish, then you can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. Larger quantities of marijuana or hashish may lead to Class I felony charges.
When you are facing drug possession charges, your best next step is to call a drug attorney. There are various ways to fight drug possession charges and to minimize the potential penalties of a conviction.
Charges for Manufacturing, Selling, & Delivering Drugs
If you are accused of violating NCGS 90-95(a)(1), which makes it illegal to manufacture, sell, or deliver drugs, or possess drugs with intent to do these things, then you may be charged with:
- NCGS 90-95(b)(1): For Schedule I and II controlled substances, you can be charged with a Class H felony, except sale of a Schedule I or II substance is punishable as a Class G felony.
- NCGS 90-95(b)(1a): Manufacturing methamphetamine is a Class C felony. However, packaging or repackaging meth or labeling or relabeling meth containers is a Class H felony.
- NCGS 90-95(b)(2): For schedule III, IV, V, and VI, you can be charged with a Class H felony.
If you are accused of violating NCGS 90-95(a)(2), which prohibits the creation, sale, delivery, or possession with intent of counterfeit substances, then based on NCGS 90-95(c), you can be charged with a Class I felony.
Drug Trafficking in North Carolina
In North Carolina, drug trafficking charges may be issued based on the weight of the drug in your possession. You may not even have possessed baggies, scales, and other drug selling instruments. Trafficking charges are based solely on weight in your possession. Further, the weight of the drug plus any fillers or mixers will be considered.
There are mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug trafficking convictions in North Carolina. These prison sentences are based on the level off trafficking offense of which you’re convicted. Most drugs have three levels of offenses, each defendant upon the weight of the drug in your possession. However, marijuana and synthetics have four levels of trafficking. The higher the level of trafficking, the greater your time in prison.
Other Common North Carolina Drug Crimes
At Randall & Stump, PLLC, our drug charge lawyers have experience representing individuals in a wide range of drug and drug-related crimes, including but not limited to:
No matter what type or level of a drug charge you are facing, from marijuana possession to trafficking of methamphetamine, contact us for help.
North Carolina Drug Penalties
North Carolina’s sentencing structure is complicated. The level of the charge determines the minimum and maximum penalties. However, aggravating factors can lead to a harsher maximum penalty. For example, if you have one or more previous convictions, these can raise the level of the charge against you and increase the maximum potential penalty. Also, drug trafficking convictions are punished differently than possession, manufacturing, sale, or delivery or possession with intent charges.
For misdemeanor offenses, your prior criminal history will directly influence the possible duration of incarceration. For a first offense of a Class 1 Misdemeanor, you face one to 45 days in jail. For Class 2 Misdemeanors, first-time offenses can lead to 30 days in jail. First-time Class 3 Misdemeanors may result in a fine and possibly up to 10 days in jail.
Sentencing for felonies is even more complex. The court will assign you a certain number of points based on your criminal record. These points determine whether you fall into category I through VI. From there, the potential duration of incarceration is based on the class of your offense and the category. The higher the class or category of the offense, the longer the term of imprisonment.
The lowest level felony is a Class I. If you have no criminal record and fall in category I, you face between three and eight months in prison, with a presumptive punishment of between four and six months. However, if you are convicted of a more serious Class C felony, and you have a criminal record that puts you in category III, then you face between 58 and 120 months in prison, with a presumptive range of 77 to 96 months’ imprisonment.
If you are concerned about the possible penalties you face, call a drug lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC today.
Collateral Consequences of a Drug Crime
If you are convicted of a drug offense, you face more than incarceration and fines. The additional consequences of a drug conviction may reverberate throughout your life.
Drug convictions may force you to deal with:
- Challenges continuing your education
- Ineligibility for federal financial aid
- Difficulty finding work
- A reduction in your custody or visitation rights
- Immigration issues
- Loss of your right to own a firearm, if convicted of a felony