If you are facing drug crime charges in Las Vegas, or throughout the state of Nevada, in many respects, your future may be hanging in the balance. While drug crimes are very common in Las Vegas, they are by no means taken lightly. The consequences of a conviction can include heavy fines, long jail/prison terms, and extreme difficulty in finding future employment.
Only by securing the services of a skilled defense lawyer with a deep understanding of Nevada drug crime statutes and long experience in this practice area can you maximize your chances of a favorable outcome to your case.
At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we extensive experience at defending our clients against drug crimes charges in Las Vegas and Clark County courts. Attorney Martin Hart has a long track record of winning Nevada drug crimes cases, and he can win your case as well.
To learn more or for your free legal consultation on the details of your case, contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 702-380-4278.
Possession of a Controlled Substance (PCS)
Even though "simple possession" of a controlled substance is the least serious drug crime you can commit; in Nevada, it is still a felony in Nevada. Simple possession means possession for personal use only.
Under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 453.336, intentionally and unlawfully possessing on your person, or otherwise having under your control, any controlled substance is specifically criminalized and assigned penalties.
Note that a "controlled substance" can be an illegal drug or a prescription drug for which you do not have a prescription. And "possession" can mean actual possession, as in on your person; constructive possession, meaning under you control though not on your person; or joint possession, when more than one person is in control of the drug.
Also note that, to be convicted of drug possession, the prosecution must demonstrate that you were aware of the drug's presence, aware of its nature as being a controlled substance, and were willingly and illegally possessing it.
The penalties assigned to a drug possession charge will vary with the type of drug possessed and can be increased for repeat offenses. In many cases, a first-time offense can be dismissed by getting enrolled in a drug court program, providing you complete the required rehab and drug education programs.
NRS 453.336 (simple possession), when the drug possessed was classed as Schedule I, II, III, or IV by the FDA, is punishable by:
- From 1 to 4 years in state prison for a 1st or 2nd offense. You can typically get out on probation and get the charge dismissed through a drug court program with a 1st-time offense, however.
- For 3rd time and subsequent offenses, the 1 to 4 years in prison plus a possible fine of up to $20,000.
- If the drug possessed was GHB, from 1 to 6 years in state prison.
Drugs in Schedules I through IV include: PCP, meth, heroin, cocaine, anabolic steroids, valium, and many more. Note that marijuana is dealt with separately under Nevada law (see next section below).
For Schedule V drugs, such as codeine, opium, or demerol, a PCS conviction is punishable by:
- For a first offense, 1 to 4 years in prison, but with eligibility for a drug court diversion program likely.
- For a second offense, 1 to 4 years in prison plus a possible $5,000 fine.
Possession of drug paraphernalia, be it for the manufacture or use of a controlled substance, is a misdemeanor offense in Nevada. It is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Possible Defense Strategies
At the Law Offices of Martin Hart, we have a wide array of defense strategies that we use against charges of possession of a controlled substance. We know how to build you a solid defense and how to match each case with the most appropriate defense. Our most commonly utilized defense strategies include the following:
- Lack of Intent: If you were not aware of the presence of illegal drugs or had no intention of possessing them, you cannot be convicted of possession of a controlled substance. It could be, for example, that someone else planted the drugs in your residence, in your vehicle, or even on your person without your knowledge or consent.
- Illegal Search/Seizure: If police obtained evidence being used against you by the prosecution by violating your 4th-Amendment rights, perhaps searching without a warrant or without probable cause, we can file a motion to have that evidence suppressed, which could substantially weaken the prosecutor's case and lead to the case being dismissed/dropped.
- Phoning in an Overdose: Under SB 459, if the fact you possessed illegal drugs or allegedly possessed them was discovered due to your calling in for medical help due to your own drug overdose or that of another person you were assisting, any drug possession charges filed against you can be dismissed.
Finally, note that a drug crimes good defense lawyer can often get you into a drug diversion program or get the offense reduce to a misdemeanor-level narcotics charge with probation and community service. On the other hand, a good lawyer can often work to get a more serious drug crime reduce to the lesser offense of simple possession.
Possession of Marijuana
Despite the legalization of medical marijuana in Nevada, marijuana is still a controlled substance under state and federal law — and even holders of medical marijuana cards can be prosecuted if caught with over 30 grams of the drug.
Under NRS 453.096, "marijuana" is inclusive of the cannabis plant, all parts of the plant except the "mature stems," the hemp plant, cannabis seeds, concentrated cannabis, and all marijuana and cannabis derived products.
NRS 453.336 makes it a crime to possess marijuana without a valid medical prescription. If you are convicted of possessing more than an ounce (30 grams) of cannabis or an eighth of an ounce of cannabis concentrate, the offense is punishable as follows:
- For a 1st-time offense (a misdemeanor), a fine of up to $600 and mandatory enrollment in a drug rehab program.
- For a 2nd offense (a misdemeanor), a fine of up to $1,000 plus the drug rehab program.
- For a 3rd offense (a gross misdemeanor), a fine of up to $2,000 and/or 12 months in county jail.
- For a 4th or subsequent offense, (a felony), 1 to 4 years in state prison plus a find of up to $5,000.
For simple possession of more than 30 grams of cannabis or 1/8 ounce of cannabis concentrate (even with a prescription), you will face a felony charge, punishable as follows:
- For a first offense, 1 to 4 years in state prison and a possible fine of up to $5,000. Drug diversion programs are typically available, however.
- For a second offense, the same punishment as for a first offense applies, but with less chance of getting into a drug diversion program.
- For a third or subsequent offense, 1 to 4 years in state prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
- For possession of over 50 pounds of marijuana, you can be punished as a drug trafficker, which will entail a much more severe sentence.
The defense strategies for possession of marijuana are essentially the same as those for simple possession since the crime does fall under that category. We only list marijuana possession separately here because it is punished differently and has some special rules that apply to it, which we have noted above.
Possession For Sale of a Controlled Substance
Possession of a controlled substance while having an intention to sell that controlled substance is a felony in Nevada, covered under NRS Sections 453.337 and 453.338.
Possession for sale does not involve actually selling illegal drugs or illegally selling prescription drugs but simply is a simple possession charge with the additional element of having a purpose to sell the drug possessed.
Having an intention, however, is a mental state and is not easy for prosecutors to prove. Some indications of intent to sell that prosecutors rely on include:
- Drugs stored in measured quantities in numerous separate containers.
- The defendant was carrying a firearm.
- The defendant possessed drug paraphernalia.
- The defendant was not intoxicated with drugs at the time of the arrest and, perhaps, does not use drugs personally at all.
- Large quantities of drugs were found in the defendant's possession.
- The defendant had large amounts of money on hand, and much of it was in small bills.
- The defendant was arrested in a locality where drug sales are common.
Note that all of the above-listed evidences are merely circumstantial in nature. There are other possible explanations for all of them besides that one was going to sell illegal drugs. Prosecutors, then, will attempt to pile on as many pieces of evidence as possible to make it seem very unlikely that all of those things would be true simultaneously of someone not intending to sell drugs. A good defense attorney, however, will counter these moves and try to force an acquittal/dismissal or at least a reduction to the charge of simple possession.
Possession with intent to sell is punished in Nevada as follows:
- For Schedule I or II drugs other than marijuana: 1 to 4 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000 for a 1st offense; 1 to 5 years in prison with a $10,000 fine for a 2nd offense; and 3 to 15 years in prison with a fine of up to $20,000 for a 3rd offense.
- For Schedule III, IV, or V drugs: 1 to 4 years in prison with a fine of up to $10,000 for a 1st or 2nd offense (with probation possible for first-time offenders); and 1 to 5 years in prison with a fine of up to $10,000 for a 3rd offense.
- For possession of drug paraphernalia, with intent to sell: 1 to 4 years in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Other Drug Crimes
Other drug crimes you can face in the Las Vegas and Nevada legal system include:
- Selling a Controlled Substance (NRS 453.321): When you go beyond possession with intent to sell and actually make a drug sale, the punishments become more severe. For Schedule I and II drugs, a 1st offense is punishable by 1 to 6 years in prison and a $20,000 fine; a 2nd offense by 2 to 10 years in prison; and a 3rd offense by 3 to 15. For Schedule III through V drugs, punishments are similar. When sales involve minors or take place near a school facility, the prison term can be doubled. Important defense strategies include: police entrapment, police misconduct, and lack of sufficient evidence.
- Drug Trafficking (NRS 453.3385 and 453.3395): When one sells/possesses large quantities of a controlled substance, moves/delivers illegal drugs, or ships drugs into Nevada from out of state, it can be charged as the very serious offense of drug trafficking. One must possess or sell at least 4 grams of a Schedule I and 28 grams of a Schedule II drug to qualify. Typical defenses include lack of requisite weight limits and unlawful search/seizure.
- Under the Influence of Illegal Drugs (NRS 453.411): For Schedule V drugs, "getting high" is a misdemeanor, but for Schedules I through IV, it is a felony offense. When combined with DUI, it is a "DUID" and normal DUI penalties apply. Typical defenses include: Someone else drugged you, you had a prescription, and the drug in question was not illegal.
Contact Us Today
At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we stand ready to assist you in your hour of need. We will know how to build a solid defense for your case and how to win you the best possible outcome. We always fight first and foremost of a dismissal or acquittal of the charge brought against you, but when that is not possible, we also know how to apply our well seasoned negotiating skills to win you a favorable plea.
For a free consultation, contact us 24/7/365 at 702-380-4278.