How to Fight a Criminal Charge for Drug Possession in North Carolina

Drug possession charges in North Carolina are extremely serious. To be sure, a conviction can lead to massive fines and long periods of incarceration. As such, anyone who is facing these charges should have a thorough understanding of the consequences that may lie ahead, as well as important considerations for fighting these criminal charges with the help of a talented defense attorney.

What is the Definition of Drug Possession in North Carolina?

Under North Carolina General Statutes 90-95, it is unlawful for any person to possess illegal drugs. Referred to legally as controlled substances, illegal drugs become organized into a list. Each list is referred to as a schedule.

North Carolina classifies the most addictive and dangerous drugs as Schedule I, including heroin and opiates. The substances in Schedule II are deemed to be slightly less addictive or dangerous, such as cocaine and opium. The substances in each schedule become less addictive or dangerous all the way down to Schedule VI, which includes marijuana and hashish. It is illegal in North Carolina to possess any of the substances on any of the schedules.

What are the Penalties for Drug Possession in North Carolina?

As outlined in North Carolina General Statutes 90-95, the penalties for possession of any controlled substance is a crime. The penalties for possession are most severe for Schedule I drugs and least severe for Schedule VI drugs. Possession of:

  •   Schedule I drugs can result in a Class I felony;
  •   Schedule II, III or IV drugs can result in a Class 1 misdemeanor;
  •   Schedule V drugs can result in a Class 2 misdemeanor; and
  •   Schedule VI drugs can result in a Class 3 misdemeanor

How Can a Person Fight a Charge for Drug Possession in North Carolina?

It is important to remember that each criminal case is completely unique. What works in one case may not work in other cases. With that, the following includes several key considerations for fighting a charge of drug possession.


When a statute criminalizes the possession of contraband (e.g., drugs) the State must prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. That the defendant possessed the contraband.
  2. That the defendant had knowledge of the possession AND of the illegal character of the item possessed.

The State can prove possession by either actual possession or constructive possession. Actual possession means that the defendant had control over an item for a period of time long enough to have an opportunity to terminate possession. Constructive possession means that the contraband need not be in the defendant’s actual possession, so long as it is close enough for him to exercise dominion and control over it. In both cases, the State must still prove that the defendant knew of the illegal character of the item they possessed.

Improper Search and Seizure

Another way to fight a criminal charge for drug possession involves challenging the validity of the police search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizure. If the government violates sacred constitutional rights in collecting evidence – including evidence of possession of a controlled substance – then that evidence becomes tainted. Such evidence may be challenged and may be excluded from the case.

First-Time Offender Program

In this case, of any other defense strategy to possession, there may be one final option. For individuals who have never been convicted of a drug possession crime, the first-time offender program offers a glimpse of hope. In this program, individuals can sidestep certain penalties and avoid a criminal record by completing community service, educational awareness courses and other requirements.

Do You Need Legal Help from an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney?

If you are facing criminal charges for drug possession or other crimes, the criminal justice system can be unforgiving. Between loss of liberty, social stigma and steep fines, there is good cause for concern. Additionally,  in order to protect your rights and push toward a positive outcome, it can be beneficial to seek legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The attorneys at Tarlton Polk Law have years of experience handling criminal law faces in both the state and federal court systems. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for help with your case.

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