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Possession of Controlled Substances in Las Vegas


Las Vegas has strict laws against possession of controlled substances. The state does not outright penalize people for being in possession of controlled substances, provided there is legal basis for it in the first place — i.e. having packets of medical marijuana is legal if covered by prescription from a competent doctor. The state will penalize anyone in possession of substances that are outright illegal to own, or are owned without legal papers to justify the ownership.

Definition of controlled substances

The law defines controlled substances as “substances that can only be obtained and kept through legal channels and under certain circumstances”.

These regulated substances are grouped in special classification points called ‘schedules’, listing from most dangerous substances (Schedule I) to least dangerous substances (Schedule V). The drug schedule system is patterned after the same system used by Federal law.

Illegal Possession of Controlled Substances explained

A person is said to be in illegal possession of a controlled substance if he or she owns controlled substances without legal, medical or scientific justification. Typically, the charge comes into effect if the person is discovered to have marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, or other related narcotics on his or her person. Certain prescription drugs also fall under an illegal charge allegation if the person has no medical prescription to own said prescription drugs.

There are three classifications of controlled substance possession as recognized in Nevada law.

  • Actual Possession: Drugs or other controlled substances were found on the defendant’s person at the time of the arrest.
  • Constructive Possession: Drugs or other controlled substances were found in the vicinity of the defendant’s personal property.
  • Shared Possession: Drugs or other controlled substances are co-owned with another person, either for shared use or shared distribution.

Misdemeanor versus felony

Controlled substance possession can either be a misdemeanor or felony, dependent on several factors.

  • Drug Type: The degree of the offense depends on the schedule of the drug discovered; schedule I and II drugs typically fit a felony while Schedule IV would be a misdemeanor.
  • Amount: The higher the amount, the more likely that the person will be charged with a felony.
  • Intent: Possession with intent to distribute fetches a felony penalty over mere possession for personal use. It is also penalized more harshly depending on the factors stated earlier, making possession with intent to distribute or sell controlled substances a higher level of felony than merely owning a large amount of controlled material.

Defense for Controlled Substance Possession

A key factor in a conviction for drug possession is that the prosecution must prove that the defendant knows fully well that he or she has controlled substances on his person. A defendant may escape a conviction if he or she can prove that he or she had knowledge of the existence of drugs in his or her vicinity at the time of his or her arrest. This is one of the more common defenses employed in controlled substances proceedings, especially in situations arising from a traffic stop arrest.

Penalties for Possession of Controlled Substances

As with all other crimes in Nevada and Las Vegas, possession of controlled substances are punished based on a ‘three-strike rule’, with the penalties becoming more severe as the defendant continues to repeat his or her offense.

First and second offenses

  • Prison term lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks
  • Probation
  • Diversion programs in lieu of a probation or prison sentence
  • $100 minimum in fines, not including legal and court costs
  • Rehabilitation program in lieu of or alongside probation or diversion programs

Third and subsequent offenses

  • Up to four years in a Nevada State Correctional Facility
  • Fines amounting to $20,000
  • Mandatory rehabilitation and probation

Criminal Defense Lawyer for Possession of Controlled Substances

Facing a controlled substances possession charge should not be taken lightly even for schedule V drugs. Should you be charged with illegally possessing any kind of substance that is controlled under Nevada law, seek out the help of defense attorney immediately. An expert on drug crime defense, he is backed by years of experience in defending clients faced with various kinds of drug-related legal problems. He ensures that your case achieves a favorable result in court.

Last Updated: August 11, 2016

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