With the exception of small amounts of marijuana, possession of any amount of a scheduled controlled substance without a prescription is a felony in Nevada. Even a first offense carries harsh potential penalties. The consequences of a conviction go beyond the criminal penalties, which makes it essential to defend against any possession charge. Regardless of the circumstances of a felony drug possession charge, a criminal defense attorney with experience in drug cases can develop a strategy for defending against the charge.
Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten aggressively defends clients against all state and federal drug charges, including drug possession. In the discussion that follows, Attorney Gersten explains important basic information about felony drug possession charges under NRS 453.336, which covers possession of drugs for personal use, as opposed to possession with the intent to sell, which is addressed by other statutory provisions.
Possession in the context of drug laws is not the same as ownership. NRS 453.336 states that a person cannot “knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance” without a prescription. A person who does not own illegal drugs can still be charged with felony possession for knowingly exercising control over the drugs.
The meaning of possession in the drug law context is very broad. Nevada recognizes three different types of possession for purposes of felony drug charges.
Actual possession exists when the drugs are in the custody and physical control of the person charged. A person carrying drugs anywhere on their body (or in their clothing) is in actual possession of the drugs. Constructive possession occurs when the drugs are in a location within the control of a person, such as in a car or residence over which the person has control. Joint or shared possession exists when two or more people have control over the drug, such as drugs kept in a shared room in a residence.
Penalties for drug possession not for sale under NRS 453.336, which applies to possession for personal use, depend on the type and amount of drug, as well as the number of past drug offenses on the person’s record. Any possession charge is a felony, but the category (B, C, D, or E) of the felony varies, as do the penalties under NRS 193.130.
Potential prison time and fines are harsh in all cases. Penalties in a felony drug possession case often include a minimum prison sentence and a substantial fine, which can be up to $50,000 for mid-level and high-level possession.
While possession of small amounts of marijuana is permitted in specific circumstances, it’s important to understand the limitations of the Nevada marijuana law. You can still be charged with felony possession of marijuana or other drug offenses if you are not fully informed about what is and is not permitted under the state cannabis laws.
Developing a strategy for defending against a drug possession charge is based substantially on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will meticulously collect and analyze all the facts relating to the arrest and seizure of evidence. One goal is to identify facts that undermine the legal basis for the charge. Another goal is to formulate a plan to minimize the penalties in the event the charges are not dismissed.
The type of possession is an important factor. A case involving actual possession presents a different situation than a case involving constructive or shared possession. Your lawyer may be able to raise significant questions about the central issue of possession, especially if the case does not involve actual possession of the illegal drugs.
Regardless of the type of possession, the conduct of the police in finding the drugs can also be challenged if law enforcement violated your rights at any time during the search and arrest. In some cases, there also may be questions concerning identification of the drugs that can be asserted as part of defending against a possession charge.
Part of defending against a possession charge involves negotiating with the prosecutor to explore the possibility of reduced charges or alternative sentencing. In some drug possession cases, deferral of judgment under NRS 176.211may be available. This approach, often referred to as Drug Court, usually involves the defendant completing an intense rehabilitation program and paying a fine. Your lawyer will explain all the options you have available, including alternative sentencing.
Defending against any criminal charge requires knowledge of applicable laws as well as legal skill developed over time. If you don’t have that background, you should not try to navigate through a felony drug possession charge without representation by an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney knows the best way to proceed based on the facts of your case and will explore all possible alternatives for resolving the charges.
One reason to defend against any drug possession charge, even a first offense, is that subsequent offenses after an initial conviction carry much greater penalties. A single conviction on your record can affect you substantially if you face another possession in the future.
In addition to the prior offense issue, a drug possession charge on your record has adverse effects on your life even beyond the prison time and fines that can be imposed. A conviction can affect your employment and housing opportunities, as well as other aspects of your personal and family life. That long-term possibility is a compelling reason to vigorously defend against any drug charge by retaining a skillful criminal defense lawyer.
If you face a state or federal drug charge in Las Vegas, including drug possession, attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. His investigative background, trial experience, and criminal defense focus significantly benefit anyone facing drug charges in Nevada.
The Gersten Law Firm assists clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.