What is a Misdemeanor Possession Charge in North Carolina?

Raleigh drug lawyerDrug crimes in North Carolina range from the more minor misdemeanor possession charge to much more serious felony charges. The most common misdemeanor possession charges relate to marijuana, which is a schedule VI substance under the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95. Possession of up to 1.5 ounces of pot is classified as a misdemeanor while possession of up to 0.15 ounces of hash also falls under misdemeanor status. Anything above those weights is classified as a felony.

Misdemeanor marijuana possession and hash related charges are broken down into 2 main categories:

  1. First time possession of marijuana up to 1/2 ounce of 1/20 ounce of hash is a Class 3 misdemeanor
  2. Possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, up to 21 grams of synthetic cannabinoids, or up to 3/20 of an ounce of hash is a Class 1 misdemeanor under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(d)(4).

While marijuana is the most common misdemeanor possession charge, there are other drugs that can be charged for possession at the misdemeanor level. Schedule II, III, and IV substances can all be charged as Class 1 misdemeanor possession while Schedule IV drugs can be charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor. The drugs that fall into these categories can be found on the NC Controlled Substances chart. As a short breakdown:

  • Schedule II – Morphine, Demerol, Codeine, Percodan, Percocet, Fentanyl, Dilaudid, Secondal, membutal, Cocaine, Amphetamines, and other opium and opium extracts and narcotics
  • Schedule III – Certain barbituates such as amobarbital and codeine containing medicine and codeine-based cough suppressants
  • Schedule IV – Barbiturates, narcotics, stimulants including Valium, Librium, Darvocet
  • Schedule V – Compounds that contain very limited amounts of codeine, ethylmorphine, opium, and atropine

It is important to note that while Schedule II through V substances can be charged at the misdemeanor level, it is very unusual and we more commonly see these charged as felonies.

The law that makes possession of a controlled substance illegal in North Carolina differentiates possession into two different types – actual possession and constructive possession.

Actual possession means that you have the drug on your person, such is in your hand or in your pocket, and you have knowledge of the drug. This type of possession is the easiest to prove. Constructive possession is more difficult to prove because while you may not have the drug on your person, this alleges that you have knowledge of the drug’s presence, you know it’s illegal, and you intent to take actual possession. Constructive possession is the argument often used when there are multiple people in a car and a drug is found in the car but not on any one particular person.

There is one last misdemeanor drug related charge to mention that does not involve actual drug possession and that’s possession of drug paraphernalia. This charge is used when there are any tools or objects present for the purpose of drug use. Examples are grinders, wrapping papers, scales, and pipes.

Penalties for misdemeanor drug possession can range from probationary to active jail time, depending on the type of drug found, the amount, and a person’s previous criminal history. In some cases, what would normally be a misdemeanor drug possession charge can be elevated to a felony if a person has a previous history of drug crimes. While possession of a controlled substance is one of the most common charges in North Carolina, that makes it no less serious. If you’ve been charged with possession, whether at a misdemeanor or felony level, contact a Raleigh drug lawyer to discuss your case and learn what your options are.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.