Can You Be Charged With Drug Possession After the Fact?

North Carolina law does not criminalize people for using drugs. Instead, we have made it a criminal act to possess them. Yet the question remains, can you be charged with drug possession after the fact?

To prove a case for possession of drugs, the prosecutor must show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knowingly and intentionally possessed a controlled substance. In North Carolina, there are two ways a person can be found to be in possession of drugs.

  • Actual possession occurs when the police find you with drugs on your person.
  • Constructive possession is when drugs are found in close proximity to you, somewhere you can easily reach, or a place you have access to and control over.

If the prosecutor cannot prove that you were in knowing and intentional possession of drugs, your lawyer can work to have the case dismissed and the charges dropped. But getting there isn’t always as easy as it may sound.

Proving Drug Possession After the Fact

If you have used illegal drugs or are in possession of paraphernalia that contains residue from illegal drugs, you can be charged with drug possession. You can also be charged with drug possession if someone left drug paraphernalia in your home or car and the paraphernalia contains drug residue.

Suppose, for example, that you used drugs in the past and left a pipe in your vehicle. Weeks later, you are involved in a routine traffic stop for speeding. If the police were to search your vehicle and find the pipe, they could have it sent to the lab for testing, and if the pipe contained drug residue, you could be charged with drug possession. The State of North Carolina has a two year statute of limitations to charge you with a crime for a misdemeanor. There is no statute of limitations for felony offenses in North Carolina.

The charges could be relatively insignificant if marijuana residue was left on the pipe. But what if the drug in question was methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin? You could be facing serious criminal charges with severe penalties.

Penalties Vary Based on the Type of Substance in Your Possession

Illegal drugs are classified into five categories, called schedules, based on their likelihood for abuse and whether the drugs have an accepted medical use.

  • Schedule I drugs have no accepted medical use, are unsafe, and have a high potential for abuse. Controlled substances in this category include heroin, GHB, LSD, peyote, and ecstasy.
  • Schedule II drugs have an accepted medical use but have severe restrictions. Drugs in this category include narcotics and stimulants with a high potential for abuse and cause severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples include cocaine, opium, codeine, morphine, methadone, Demerol, OxyContin, Percocet, amphetamine (Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin), and methamphetamine.
  • Schedule III substances have a lower potential for abuse, but that can still lead to moderate or low physical dependence and high psychological dependence. Vicodin, Tylenol/Codeine, Suboxone, and anabolic steroids all fall into this category.
  • Schedule IV drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III and include substances like Valium, Xanax, Soma, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, Restoril, Rohypnol, and clonazepam.
  • Schedule V substances contain limited quantities of narcotics. A cough syrup containing codeine is an example.
  • Schedule VI drugs have low potential for abuse has no accepted medical use and may lead to a limited level of dependence. Examples of Schedule VI drugs are marijuana, hashish, and hashish oil.

Defending Against Drug Possession Charges

In cases alleging drug possession, the jury is allowed to infer that the drugs are yours even though they were not found on your person. Whether the drugs are yours is a question of fact that the jury will be asked to decide.

Fortunately, cases of drug possession after the fact present many legal issues that the prosecutor must overcome in order to secure a conviction. Many of these cases can be won through a well-crafted motion to suppress evidence. Common defenses to drug possession charges include:

  • The drugs were not yours;
  • The substance was not a drug;
  • The search was illegal; and
  • You were not advised of your rights.

When you work with Stowe Law Firm, PLLC, criminal defense attorney Ryan Stowe will thoroughly investigate your case and work to create a defense designed to create reasonable doubt as to whether you were knowingly and intentionally in possession of a controlled substance. Reasonable doubt, even as to a single element of the crime, is enough to result in a Not Guilty verdict.

Contact the Stowe Law Firm, PLLC, for Aggressive Drug Crime Defense

To obtain a successful result, you need to work with an experienced drug crime defense lawyer. Ryan Stowe will carefully evaluate your situation, explain the potential consequences of decisions you make, and provide an objective assessment of your situation to help you evaluate your options. He will be your advocate, fighting to have the charges dropped, negotiating a favorable plea, and, when necessary, defending your rights in court inevitably refuting if you can be charged with drug possession after the fact.

To learn more, contact Stowe Law Firm, today to schedule a confidential, no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.