Understanding North Carolina drug laws can be complicated. Here we’ll explain drug laws in NC and what you should do if you’ve been charged with a drug crime.
While federal law outlaws many drugs and controlled substances , individual states municipalities often have their own regulations. These regulations determine how local law enforcement will respond to different drug crimes.
For this reason, if you are charged with a drug-related offense, it is important to understand the specific laws in the state where you live. For instance, drug laws in NC are, in many cases, more stringent than those in other states, and include harsh penalties.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. So, if you or someone you know has been charged with breaking drug laws in NC, here is what you need to know.
Understanding Drug Law Terminology
Before we get into how drug laws in NC classify different types of infractions, let’s start by defining some terms. This will help you understand how North Carolina defines and classifies drug crimes.
Schedules of Drugs
Drug laws in NC classify drugs under six different schedules.
The state considers schedule I drugs the most dangerous and the most addictive, and deems them to have no medical use. These drugs are always illegal to possess or sell and have the harshest penalties. The state of North Carolina considers heroin, ecstasy, and opiates to be schedule I drugs.
Schedules II through V are considered increasingly less likely of abuse, and to have an increasingly more significant medical use. While there are still circumstances where it is unlawful to sell or possess these drugs, there can be circumstances where they are legal to use.
Drugs in schedules II through V include many prescription drugs, such as Ritalin, steroids, Valium, and Xanax, among others. While it is legal to use these drugs with a valid prescription from a doctor, it is illegal to possess or sell them without one.
Schedule VI drugs in North Carolina consist of Marijuana and related substances. While North Carolina does not recognize a medical use for marijuana, the law views it as having a low potential for abuse.
Types of Offenses
Drug offenses typically fall into two categories: possession and trafficking. A person may also be charged with possession with intent to distribute, possession of chemicals needed to make a drug, or possession of drug paraphernalia. Maintaining a home or vehicle with the purpose of drug distribution can also be an offense.
In general, penalties are harsher for drug trafficking than for drug possession. Of course, the specifics depend on details like the amount of the drug in possession.
Levels of Penalty
In North Carolina, drug offenses can lead to either a misdemeanor or a felony charger. The type of crime you are charged with depends on the schedule of drug involved, and the type of drug in question.
Misdemeanors are a lesser punishment. These typically include a short amount of time in jail or a modest fine. That said, a misdemeanor will remain on your record and show up on background checks.
A felony is considered a harsher punishment. Felony drug charges often include large fines ranging from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars. They can also include prison time ranging from a few months to several years.
Additionally, in some parts of the country, felons forfeit certain citizenship rights, like the right to vote. This could limit the areas of the country where you would want to live after you serve your time.
How North Carolina Determines Penalties
In North Carolina, the type of penalty you receive when charged with a drug crime will depend on several factors. These include the schedule of drugs in question, the amount of the drug possessed, and whether trafficking or intent to traffic occurred. Additionally, the penalty will depend on whether you are charged with a first or second offense.
For Schedule I drugs, the first offense of possession is considered a felony and can lead to a few months in prison. For every other schedule, a first offense is a misdemeanor. This charge can lead to a few weeks to a month in jail.
For most schedules of drugs, a second offense will classify as a felony and will carry prison time. The exception is for Schedule V and VI drugs, where a second offense is still considered a misdemeanor.
Also, while possession of marijuana usually only leads to misdemeanor charges in North Carolina, trafficking of marijuana will result in a felony charge.
Impacts of Drug Charges
If you are charged with and convicted of a drug offense, it can have serious impacts on your life–even if you are only charged with a misdemeanor.
For instance, many misdemeanor charges include a few days to a few months of jail time. In most cases, this will lead the individual to lose their job, which results in lost wages. Additionally, once the individual leaves jail, the drug offense will show up when they apply for jobs.
Also, if you are charged with a felony, this can impact where you are able to live. Some apartment complexes and landlords do not allow convicted felons to live there.
Additionally, those with drug convictions may have difficulty securing certain federal benefits. This includes financial aid to attend college or housing assistance.
So, even after you have finished serving your time, you may face hardships related to your offense for the rest of your life. For this reason, it is always essential to take drug charges seriously and to make sure you are well represented in court. A skilled lawyer will be able to argue on your behalf and to demonstrate your innocence.
Learn More about Drug Laws in NC
While we have given a good overview of drug laws in NC, this post is by no means exhaustive. Drug laws are complicated, and outcomes can vary on a case-by-case basis. It is important to never assume that you can handle a drug case on your own, but to instead get proper representation.
If you have more questions about a specific case, contact us for a free initial consultation. We’ll work with you to get you the representation that you need.