Pills in baggies on desk with handcuffs indicating drug possession

A Criminal Defense Attorney Explains What You Should Know About Drug Possession Charges in Mecklenburg County 

If you were arrested for a drug possession crime, you’re facing serious charges with harsh penalties if convicted. Given the punishments and life-long consequences of a conviction, you cannot afford to take your case lightly. 

The experienced Charlotte criminal defense lawyers at Browning & Long, PLLC, can mount an aggressive defense strategy to fight the charges you face. This can help you get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less severe crime through a plea agreement. You could have strong defenses we can use to defend you—even if you believe you are guilty.

What’s a Controlled Substance in North Carolina?

Drug possession is a serious crime in the Tarheel State, whether charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The law categorizes substances into six schedules based on their potential for being abused and their accepted medical use. Knowing the classifications is crucial for comprehending the severity of drug possession charges you could face.  

  • Schedule I. Substances that have a high likelihood of abuse, don’t have accepted medical uses, and can be unsafe even under medical supervision are Schedule I drugs. They include heroin, ecstasy, and LSD.
  • Schedule II. These substances have a high potential for abuse, accepted medical use with severe restrictions, and the risk of severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples include cocaine, methamphetamine, and certain prescription medications.
  • Schedule III. Drugs with a low to moderate potential for abuse and one or more accepted medical uses, such as anabolic steroids and barbiturates, are classified as Schedule III.
  • Schedule IV. Schedule IV controlled substances have a lower potential for abuse compared to Schedule III drugs and accepted medical uses. Examples include certain prescription medications like Xanax and Valium.
  • Schedule V. These drugs have accepted medical uses, limited potential for abuse, and contain less of certain substances than Schedule IV drugs. Examples include retail over-the-counter cough medicines.
  • Schedule VI. These drugs have a low likelihood of abuse and accepted medical uses. This category includes marijuana and hashish.

Understanding Drug Possession in NC 

You can be charged with possession of a drug in North Carolina if you have actual possession or constructive possession of the substance. Understanding these concepts is pivotal in comprehending the nature of the drug possession charges you face.

Actual Possession

This is defined as having physical control over a controlled substance, such as in your pocket, hand, or any other immediate, reachable area. You must also be aware that you possess the drug. 

Constructive Possession

You can be considered in constructive possession of drugs in North Carolina if you have the intent and the means to maintain control and dominion of the drugs. For example, this charge might apply to a situation where you have the ability and intent to control the drug even if you’re not in direct physical possession of it. This can consist of having drugs in your car, home, or another location under your control.

When deciding whether you’re in constructive possession of a drug, the court considers the facts surrounding your arrest and many other factors:

  • Whether you were in close proximity to the drug.
  • Whether you owned the property—such as a home, motor vehicle, backpack, or purse—where the drug was found.
  • Whether you had an opportunity to place the drugs in the location where police found them.
  • Whether your personal property was located in the same location as the drugs.
  • Whether you engaged in suspicious behaviors or fled the scene.
  • Whether you were impaired due to drug use or engaged in a drug activity.

What’s the Crime of Possession of a Drug in North Carolina?

Drug possession crimes fall under North Carolina General Statute § 90-95 and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony drug possession crime under this law. § 90-95 (a)(3) defines drug possession as possessing a controlled substance. 

Understanding the elements of this offense is crucial for mounting a strong defense. You must knowingly possess a drug to be convicted of this crime. The possession of the drugs can be actual or constructive. The drugs must be listed as a controlled substance under Schedules I through VI.

When Can You Be Charged With Possession With the Intent to Manufacture, Sell, or Deliver Drugs? 

Possession with the intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver is a more serious charge, falling under North Carolina General Statute § 90-95(a)(1). The elements of this crime are: 

  • Knowledge. This means that you knew you were engaging in the activity you’re accused of committing.
  • Possession. To be convicted, you must have had actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance.
  • Intent. To be found guilty, you must have intended to manufacture, sell, or deliver the drugs in your possession.

Sentences for Drug Possession Crimes in Charlotte 

The penalties can be severe if you’re found guilty of possession or possession with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver. You may have more options to get charges dropped or dismissed if you’re arrested for possession of a controlled substance as a misdemeanor rather than a felony. 

For example, your skilled criminal defense attorney at Browning & Long may be able to negotiate a conditional discharge of the drug possession charges through a plea bargain. 

Here are the potential maximum punishments you could face for a misdemeanor or felony conviction.

  • Schedule I drugs. A conviction of possession of a Schedule I drug is a Class 1 felony punished by a maximum sentence of 24 months in prison. 
  • Schedule II, III, and IV drugs. In most cases, possession of drugs in these classifications would be a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, the punishment could be up to 120 days in jail. However, the crime could be elevated to a Class 1 felony if you possess a certain amount of specific controlled substances.
  • Schedule V drugs. Possession of Schedule V drugs is classified as a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina. Your sentence could include up to 60 days in jail. 
  • Schedule VI drugs. You would be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor for possession of a Schedule VI drug. You could have to serve a 20-day jail sentence. However, you would be charged with a Class 1 felony if you were in possession of more than one and a half ounces of marijuana, 21 grams of synthetic cannabinoid, or 3/20 of an ounce of hashish.

Punishments for Possession with Intent to Manufacture, Sell, or Deliver Drugs 

Possession with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver is typically charged as a felony. The seriousness of the charge depends on the classification of the controlled substance. Here are the possible sentences a judge could impose if you’re convicted: 

  • Schedule I and II drugs. This would be a Class H felony punishable by up to 39 months in prison.
  • Schedule III, IV, V, and VI drugs. Possession with the intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver Schedule III, IV, V, and VI controlled substances is a Class I felony. The punishment is the same as for other Class I felony drug convictions—up to 24 months in prison.

Retaining an attorney is vital given the harsh penalties you face if convicted of a drug possession crime in Charlotte or Mecklenburg County. At Browning & Long, PLLC, our criminal defense lawyers have the expertise to vigorously defend you to achieve the best possible outcome in your criminal case.

Howard W. Long, II
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Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer