What You Need to Know About Misdemeanor Drug Offenses - Part 2
Jan 4, 2018
Being charged with a misdemeanor drug offense can be a scary situation. This podcast episode is here to help.
North Carolina Attorney Bill Powers has been defending misdemeanor drug offenses for 25 years. In this episode, Attorney Powers answers the questions that matter to you when you when you've been charged with a drug offense.
So, I tell people, "I am not telling you what I think the law is or that it is fair. I'm just telling you what the law is," and unfortunately, I don't think people take these charges seriously enough for a host of different reasons, but even if you're not looking at jail, and misdemeanors, the likelihood of you getting jail is slim if not impossible in some instances, but there are consequences other than court.
Now, you mentioned a very common type of citation we see. Someone's got some weed on them and then in order to introduce the weed into yourself, they've got something we refer to as paraphernalia. I always forget how to spell that, but it's got a lot of vowels in it, but basically we're talking about rolling papers, pipes, bong, the baggies, scales, grinders ... I show my age, apple. The paraphernalia, believe it or not is a more serious charge than the weed itself with a asterisk or [calcaviette 00:07:22] on the side. It depends on how much marijuana you have or weed you have.
There's exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, you and I are talking about a simple weed case, and you've been issued a citation for weed and paraphernalia. Paraphernalia is a class one misdemeanor. It carries 120 days max in jail. Weed is a class six level or category six level drug. It's low. It's as low as it gets, really.
Robert Ingalls: So, if you're carrying around a little bit of weed in your pocket, you're not going to be in that much trouble, but if you put that weed into a pipe and put something on and light it, now you're in quite a bit more trouble.
Bill Powers: Right. I have actually seen it like, unless you're carrying your weed around in your pocket outside a baggy, which I don't know many people that do. Normally, they put it in a ... sometimes you see some creative things ... a shaving cream can. The container itself, the modality of transporting your weed can be deemed paraphernalia. I never really understood that, but the the method of introducing it, or storing, or holding it, or keeping it is more serious of a criminal offense than the drug itself.
Robert Ingalls: So, is the public policy that you should carry weed around in your pocket?
Bill Powers: I guess if you don't mind lint. As a practical matter, it's very rare now to see a weed case without some other accompanying paraphernalia. I guess it's possible. The interesting question is, if you roll it in a joint, does that joint suddenly become, the marijuana is part impartial as opposed to the paper itself is that the paraphernalia? Technically, under statute, it probably is.
Robert Ingalls: So you say that's an interesting question. In practice, when this comes up, how does the judge deal with that?
Bill Powers: In practice, it never comes up. I can't ... we occasionally get paraphernalia cases where there's not weed. Officer pulls up, they use a car stop and they smell the odor of burnt marijuana and they find a pipe, or they find a bong or something and there's no weed left in it, maybe there's some residue or something, and we're dealing with that solely, but most of the cases we see is someone's got a bag of something. Then they're charged with the primary charge of the marijuana.
[inaudible 00:09:54] in North Carolina is I really haven't seen a whole lot of ... I thought it became legal out west, basically in California, Colorado, Washington, I thought I would see a lot of edibles in North Carolina and I haven't. I haven't seen a ton of edible charges. So, I haven't seen any paraphernalia related charges with edibles that I can think of.
We tend to see maybe a grinder. We tend to see more pipes. We don't see bongs anymore. I guess they've fallen out of favor. We see rolling papers, pipes, and then a baggie of some weed.
Robert Ingalls: It sounds like maybe mixers and spoons and baking pans are coming next.
Bill Powers: Oh, you mean for brownies and things like that? I guess. I mean you make any oils and whatever, but that starts to ... we start talking more production, manufacturing. If you're going to get a grade for the course, that's going to be an F and F stands for felony. That's more serious.
Robert Ingalls: Gotcha.
Bill Powers: We're talking about just basic, you're at the pavilion. You're smoking some weed. Someone sees you and grabs you, and they grab the remnant, the roach or whatever and the next thing you know, you've got a citation and you're kicked out of the concert.
Robert Ingalls: Gotcha. To go back to what I said earlier where people as the kind of national view on it seems to be shifting, people seem to feel like it's not quite as bit of a deal. What are long term ramifications? If you are at that concert and you get caught with it, you get kicked out, and now you're dealing with a police officer. You've got a charge. What are the long term ramifications in your life?
Bill Powers: Court is the tip of the iceberg and the consequences are what are below the waterline. I spend a tremendous amount of time trying to help people get through what's happened to them as a result of the citation. Again, I'm not defending this practice, but there has been now in North Carolina and it's very recent. In the last, less than a year, I'd say even since the school this past fall, where the UNC system is aggressively pursuing activities outside of what took place on the campus.
Heck, just this week, I had someone in honor board or council, whatever they do at that particular school, even though the behavior did not take place at the school, they got a letter and said, "We want you to answer questions and we'll talk about kicking you out of school." I'm not talking about Title IX, necessarily. I'm not talking about scholarship athletes, which is a whole other practice area which we help people with.
I'm talking just some guy out at UNCC was somewhere where two or three people, everyone got citations and he really didn't know a whole lot about it, and now he's got this honor council thing. This week as well, it's been the week for these things. I have a kid that's applying to the different schools where he wants to go to state, or Carolina, or Appalachian, or ECU, and every school has asked for not just some explanation about a pending charge, but they want great detail.