Many people in North Carolina who are arrested for a drug-related crime will also be charged with the crime of keeping or maintaining a dwelling or vehicle for the use or sale of a controlled substance—illegal drugs. You could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on what the prosecutor can prove. Whether you are being charged with keeping or maintaining a dwelling or vehicle as a misdemeanor or felony, you are facing serious charges that could result in a prison sentence as well as other long-term consequences. A conviction for this charge could result in you having a criminal record for the rest of your life and impact on your ability to obtain employment, obtain a loan, and more. However, with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a lower level drug charge that comes with fewer penalties.
Essential Information About a Dwelling or Vehicle Drug Charge
Often a person will be charged with keeping or maintaining a dwelling or vehicle drug charges if the person’s car is stopped or his house is searched and there is evidence that suggests these places are being used for the sale or use of drugs. This crime can involve the maintaining of a store, boat, or other place as well as a dwelling or vehicle for drug purposes. In order to prove a misdemeanor charge of this crime, it must be proved that:
- A person knowingly keeps or maintains a store, shop, warehouse, dwelling, building, vehicle, boat, airplane, or other place that is being used by people unlawfully using unlawful controlled substances or is being used for the unlawful keeping or selling of controlled substances.
To be convicted of a felony, the only difference is that it must be proved that the person acted intentionally instead of knowingly.
Showing that a person kept or maintained a dwelling, vehicle, or other property can be complicated. A key factor in proving this is establishing that the person owned, leased, maintained, or was otherwise responsible for the property. Key factors that help determine this include:
- Whether the person had legal title to the property
- Whether the person paid taxes on the property
- Whether the person paid for repairs and upkeep on the property
- Whether the person paid rent for the property
- Whether the person paid the utilities for the property or otherwise contributed to paying for expenses associated with the property
- Whether the person resided at the property or occupied it
- Whether the person possessed the property for a duration of time
- Whether the person had a key for the property
If a person simply occupies the property, this may be insufficient to prove that he kept or maintained it. The courts will look at the totality of the circumstances in determining whether there is sufficient proof of this.
The entire circumstances surrounding the alleged criminal acts will be considered in determining whether the accused person was keeping or selling a controlled substance as well. This can include:
- The number of illegal drugs found
- Whether a large amount of cash was also found
- Whether drug paraphernalia or guns were found
- Whether multiple cell phones or pages were recovered
- Whether the person admitted to selling illegal drugs
- Whether a witness testified to seeing drug sales at the property
- Whether a large number of people were observed coming and going from the property
The Penalties for a Keeping and Maintaining a Dwelling Conviction
Such as with a conviction of other crimes in North Carolina, your sentence will be based on how many prior convictions you have, as well as the sentencing range for the crime of keeping or maintaining a dwelling or vehicle. You could be facing the following sentences:
- Misdemeanor conviction. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor and the sentence can include up to 120 days in jail. It can also include other alternative punishments such as house arrest, entering a drug treatment program, probation, and a fine set by the judge.
- Felony conviction. This crime is a Class I felony—the least serious felony in North Carolina. The penalties can include 3 to 12 months in prison or an alternative punishment similar to those of a misdemeanor conviction.
How can you tell whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or felony? In North Carolina, arrest records include a court code and description that tells the accused this type of information. Here are the codes for misdemeanor and felony keeping or maintaining a vehicle or dwelling charges:
- Misdemeanor. Offense Code 9966, Code Type M (Misdemeanor). Description: MAINTN VEH/DWELL/PLACE CS (M).
- Felony. Offense Code 9968, Code Type F (Felony). Description: MAINTN VEH/DWELL/PLACE CS (F).
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