Marijuana Possession in North Carolina
It can be hard to keep track of marijuana possession laws, as they are rapidly evolving and changing nationally. However, they still vary greatly from state to state. For instance, while many states have now legalized medical marijuana or even decriminalized possession of marijuana, North Carolina has not. North Carolina does have a very narrow and specific exception called the Hope for Haley and Friends Bill, which allows the use of cannabidiol or CBD to treat intractable epilepsy. However, this exception is clearly very limited, and the North Carolina state legislature has voted against legalizing marijuana at least twice since 2014. Many tourists, visitors, and out-of-state college students arriving in North Carolina do not realize that marijuana is not legal in any capacity, and are surprised when they are charged for possession by police even for small amounts.
Penalties for Possession
If you have half an ounce of marijuana or less in your possession, this will count as a misdemeanor, payable with a $200 fine. An individual with between one-half ounce and one-and-a-half ounces can also be charged with a misdemeanor. The penalties include a $1,000 fine and serving up to 45 days in jail. Possession of over one-and-a-half ounces, up to 10 pounds, is charged as a felony, punishable by a $1,000 fine and three to eight months in jail.
How a Lawyer Can Help
An experienced North Carolina criminal lawyer will review the specific facts and circumstances of your case in order to determine the best possible course of action, which may include having your charges reduced or dismissed. While every case is different, and ultimately the prosecuting attorney’s discretion is a large element, an experienced lawyer will know how to zealously advocate on your behalf and present the strongest possible case, as well as to negotiate with the prosecution to get you a better deal.
Getting Drug Possession Charges Dismissed
There are a number of well established bases for getting possession charges dismissed. For instance, your attorney can attack the basis for the initial stop by arguing that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Similarly, if your lawyer can prove that the officers found the marijuana as the result of an illegal search of your person, car, or possessions, then any drugs seized are considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” and cannot be considered as evidence. It is illegal for officers to search your person, car, or belongings, without voluntary consent, probable cause, or a valid search warrant. Depending on the specifics of your case, a lawyer can challenge the relevant basis in order to get the evidence and charges dismissed.
Even if the search was legal, there are still a number of ways that your charges may be reduced or dismissed. For instance, your lawyer may be able to arrange for a deferral or deferred disposition of charges or broker a favorable plea agreement with the state prosecuting attorney. Additionally, an attorney can challenge the validity of the evidence, by arguing that the field substance testing was not accurate. While it is natural to trust scientific testing, it is not always warranted. In a recent case, a woman was charged and imprisoned for possession of meth based on an inaccurate field test of what turned out to be cotton candy.
Challenging the assumption of actual or constructive possession may also pertain to your case. For instance, if an individual was borrowing a friend’s car with no knowledge that there was marijuana in the glove compartment, or if marijuana was found in a car with multiple people inside, both of these situations could make it unclear as to who was actually in possession of the marijuana and if the individual charged with possession even knew about it.
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