One of the most common criminal charges in Missouri is possession of a controlled substance. Just about any amount of any illegal drug or prescription drugs without a prescription can lead to an arrest. Even evidence of someone else's drugs in your car can lead to criminal charges.
Instead of simply pleading guilty to a drug crime, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. You may have a stronger defense than you realize. You may also be able to negotiate for a diversion program or drug court to keep more serious charges off your record and avoid jail time. Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm for help with your Missouri drug arrest.
Possession of a Controlled Substance in Missouri
Under Section 579.015, RSMo., knowingly possessing any controlled substance is a crime. The penalties are based on the amount and type of drug, as follows:
- Possession of any controlled substance (not including marijuana) is a Class D felony.
- Possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is a Class D misdemeanor.
- Possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana with a prior drug conviction is a Class A misdemeanor.
- Possession of more than 10 grams but 35 grams or less of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor.
- Possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana is a Class D felony.
This involves simple possession of a controlled substance. Sale, delivery, or distribution of drugs are generally more serious charges. Additionally, possession of a larger amount of drugs, or possession along with other indications of sale can lead to drug delivery or trafficking charges even if the defendant never intended to sell any drugs.
Penalties for Drug Possession
The penalties for drug possession depend on a number of factors, including the class of crime, criminal history, and whether there were any mitigating or aggravating factors. In general, the penalties for drug possession include:
- Class D misdemeanor: Fine of up to $500.
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- Class D felony: Up to 7 years in prison.
In addition to fines and jail time, there are other consequences of a drug conviction that can follow someone for the rest of their life. A drug conviction may make someone ineligible for certain jobs, public benefits, or even college scholarships. A felony conviction can make someone ineligible for certain professions, restrictive housing options, and felons may be unable to own or purchase a firearm.
Drug Court and Diversion Programs
Individuals charged with a first-time drug offense may be eligible for Missouri's drug treatment court or other diversion program. Under a treatment court program, the defendant will generally have to plead guilty and begin a treatment program. Upon successful completion of the drug treatment programs and probation requirements, the court may dismiss the charges and the participant will not have a drug conviction on their record. However, failure to complete the program may result in immediate sentencing.
What is a “Controlled Substance”?
A controlled substance is any substance or drug that is designated as a Schedule I through Schedule V on Missouri's list of scheduled substances. These schedules are based, in part, in their alleged danger and risk for abuse.
Schedule I drugs are those that have a high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical use in the U.S. or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision. This includes marijuana, despite it being legal for recreational or medical use in a number of states. Schedule I drugs include:
- Magic mushrooms
Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse but have some medical value. This includes a lot of prescription medications, such as pain killers and opiates. Schedule II drugs include:
Schedule III drugs may include a number of prescription drugs, including weight loss drugs, steroids, and antidepressants.
Schedule IV or V drugs include a number of other prescription drugs like sleep aids like Ambien, anxiety drugs like Xanax or Valium, and prescription cough medicines.
Marijuana is Still a Drug in Missouri
Missouri has passed medical marijuana legislation. A number of states, including California, Colorado, and Maine have even legalized marijuana for recreational use. However, it is important to remember that Missouri still considers marijuana possession a crime in most situations. Even if the defendant believes they were possessing marijuana legally, it may be up to the accused to defend themselves in court.
Federal Drug Crimes
Drug possession can involve federal criminal charges. Federal criminal charges are generally more serious than state charges. In most cases, federal criminal charges will involve drug crimes that involve other offenses, such as firearms, gang activity, or money laundering. Crossing state borders or buying and selling drugs online may also lead to federal charges.
Defenses to Drug Possession Charges
There are a number of possible defenses to drug charges. Your attorney will investigate your case, review the records and evidence, and identify the possible defense strategies for your charges. This includes filing pretrial motions to suppress evidence or arguing your case in court in front of a jury of your peers. Possible defenses to drug charges can include:
- Unlawful traffic stop
- Illegal search and seizure
- Substance is not a controlled substance
- Defendant did not knowingly possess any drugs
- Drugs belonged to another person
- Challenge to the chain of custody
- Unreliable witness identification
The prosecutor and the police may make it seem like you don't have a chance. The prosecutor may also bring a number of charges to use as a negotiating tactic to get you to plead guilty to some of the charges in exchange for dropping others. You deserve to have an advocate on your side to advise you of your rights, stand up to the prosecutor, and defend you in court.
Consult an Experienced Raymore Drug Charge Attorney
Just because you are arrested for drug possession does not mean that you have to be convicted of a crime. Talk to your Missouri criminal defense attorney about your options before pleading guilty to a crime. Higher Level Legal is an experienced Missouri defense Law Firm who has successfully helped clients avoid a drug conviction. Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today online or by calling (816) 331-9968.