North Carolina Drug Laws: Felony Drug Charges and Misdemeanor Drug Possession Charges
Drug charges in North Carolina are serious, given the social stigma associated with a conviction and the potential for jail time under the NC sentencing laws. Indeed, there are some first offense felony drug charges, like the North Carolina drug trafficking laws , that mandate long, active prison terms even if you have no prior criminal record, record of convictions, criminal history, or are a “Prior Record Level 1.”
If you’re in need of a drug charge lawyer, we’re here to help and are available for legal representation throughout North Carolina, including in the “Charlotte-Metro Region” of Charlotte NC, Gastonia, Union County, Monroe NC, Salisbury in Rowan County, and Statesville and Mooresville, in Iredell County, North Carolina. (** Our firm also has lawyers who can help with South Carolina drug charges.)
Often, people charged with drug charges in North Carolina think that police officers (and drug task force members in law enforcement) must discover drugs on their person to be arrested and charged with a drug offense or even a drug paraphernalia charge. That isn’t always the case.
Drug conspiracy charges in North Carolina, where there is a “common plan or scheme” to sell, deliver, or traffic drugs of some sort are common in both federal criminal court and state court. Allegations of NC felony criminal charges may proceed without physical evidence of possession of drugs at the time of the arrest or that may be collected as evidence subject to a search warrant or other warrant for arrest.
Additionally, people sometimes think they are absolved from criminal liability if drugs are discovered in a home, vehicle, or apartment of which they are not an owner, or if they involve the possession of prescription drugs, or are “only for personal use.” However, this is not the case. Even if possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia are legal in other states (like Colorado or California), that is not a legal defense to drug crimes in North Carolina.
If you are charged with possession of a controlled substance in North Carolina, it is imperative that you seek the advice of an experienced North Carolina criminal defense lawyer. A knowledgeable criminal lawyer can advise you on what constitutes possession under the North Carolina criminal laws (Chapter 14 offenses) and offer guidance as to the necessary steps to prepare a defense strategy for drug offense cases. Everything you tell our defense lawyers as part of legal representation is subject to attorney-client privilege and is treated as highly confidential.
To be charged with possession of a controlled substance, the defendant must “knowingly” possess the contraband. A person acts knowingly when the person is aware or conscious of what they are doing. Defense lawyers call that the mens rea or the “evil mind.”
The prosecutor must also prove the defendant had “possession” of the controlled substance. These terms have complex meanings and contexts when applied in legal proceedings.
Possession can be actual or constructive. A defendant has actual possession of drugs if they are on the defendant’s person, the accused is aware of its presence, and has the power and intent to control its disposition or use. State v. Loftis, 185 N.C. App. 190 (2007); State v. Reid, 151 N.C. App. 420 (2002).
If a police officer searches you and finds illegal controlled substances in your shirt pocket, then you will be deemed to have actual possession of the illicit substances (or drug paraphernalia ) because they were found on your person (on you). Additionally, if a police officer searches your vehicle and finds illegal drugs, you can be charged with possession because the car belongs to you or you have control over the vehicle.Constructive Drug Possession Charges – Possession of Controlled Substances and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Charges
If the State cannot prove actual possession, they may rely on the theory of constructive possession.
Constructive possession is established by showing the defendant’s power and intent to control disposition or use of the substance. N.C.P.I. Crim. 104.41 (2015). The fact that a controlled substance was found on the defendant’s premises (under defendant’s control) may be proof the defendant knowingly possessed the substance.
The court analyzes constructive possession on a case by case basis by focusing on the totality of the circumstances. This analysis particularly comes into play if the defendant does not have exclusive control of the premises where the controlled substances are found. In this situation, the State must put forth evidence of other incriminating circumstances in order to prove constructive possession.
For example, if you are riding in a car with an ounce of cocaine under a seat, you could be charged with a drug charge/drug possession. You are deemed to have constructively possessed the controlled substance by virtue of the drugs being in close proximity to you, e.g., under the seat of a vehicle in which you are a passenger. This is so even if the vehicle is not registered in your name or owned by you.
As another example, if police officers search a building and discover drugs, you can face possession charges if you exercise dominion or control over the premises, e.g., you have a key to the premises.Is There a Statute of Limitations on Drug Charges in North Carolina?
Yes. . .and no. It depends on the whether the drug charges are felony or misdemeanor charges in North Carolina. Under the NC Criminal Laws, there is no statute of limitations for felony charges. That means felony drug charges for first time offenders, including PWISD Cocaine, Possession with Intent to Sell or Deliver Marijuana (PWISD Sch VI), drug trafficking, etc., can be brought at any time, even years later.
There is a statute of limitations for misdemeanor criminal charges in North Carolina; although, criminal defense lawyers clearly would want to consider their involvement in an overall felony drug trafficking conspiracy or “common plan or scheme” to sell or deliver controlled substances in North Carolina. The North Carolina drug prescription laws are just as serious as other drug charges associated with “street drugs” such as possession of marijuana, AND possession of LSD.
Indeed, the opium epidemic involving illegal possession of prescription medications such as Oxycodone and Oxycontin are taken seriously by prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys in North Carolina. You should too.
Each case is different, just like each person seeking a drug charge lawyer is different. At our law firm, we are willing to travel throughout North Carolina to help people with serious drug charges. If you are facing felony drug charges in North Carolina or want more information about the NC drug crimes, our Carolina defense attorneys offer help.Call NOW for a FREE CASE EVALUATION: 704-342-4357
Attorney Bill Powers is licensed in North Carolina and only handles criminal in North Carolina. ** Criminal Defense Attorney Chris Beddow is licensed in both North Carolina and South Carolina and handles criminal matters and drug charges in both states.