Drug charges in Nevada can be complicated. An alleged criminal drug charge will depend on what you have, how much of it there was and more. The most serious of these charges in the state of Nevada is for drug trafficking in a controlled substance, which can result in harsh penalties and have a lasting negative effect on your future.
What Are Controlled Substances and Drug Schedules?
A controlled substance is a drug that has been classified on a federal and/or state level as a substance that the government controls the distribution and usage of. Controlled substances include drugs which are always illegal to have in your possession (such as harmful street drugs like heroin or cocaine) or are illegal to have in your possession without a valid, current prescription (such as Adderall or OxyContin). Drugs that have been classified as controlled substances are further broken up into “schedules”, which are different levels that indicate their potential for abuse or existing purpose as a medical treatment.
These schedules were developed and are maintained by the FDA, DEA and Congress, although Nevada has reclassified certain drugs on a state level. The Nevada schedule of drugs range from I to V in the following way:
● Schedule I Controlled Substance – Schedule I substance are drugs that have the most potential to be abused and result in addiction. They also have no proven medical purpose. Examples of Schedule I drugs include Heroin, Ecstasy, Marijuana, PCP, and LSD. NRS 453.510
● Schedule II Controlled Substance – Drugs categorized as Schedule II still have a strong potential abuse concern, but are also drugs that have been accepted as successful medical treatment options under some restrictions. Examples include Cocaine, Adderall, OxyContin, Meth, and Ritalin. NRS 453.520
● Schedule III Controlled Substance – Schedule III drugs have less potential for abuse that I or II, and are also common and accepted as medical treatment options – however, they are also recognized as having the potential to cause moderate physical dependency or high psychological dependence. Examples are Vicodin/Hydrocodone, Amphetamines, Anabolic steroids, Testosterone, and Codeine. NRS 453.530
● Schedule IV Controlled Substance – These drugs have a low potential for causing addiction or abuse, and are commonly used in medical treatment. Examples of Schedule IV drugs are Valium, Xanax, and Ambien. NRS 453.540
● Schedule V Controlled Substance – Schedule V drugs have a very low potential for abuse and are very common as medical treatment. Examples in this category include cough suppressants or pain relievers that contain low levels of codeine. NRS 453.550
Drug Charges: The Difference Between Possession and Trafficking
There are a few different kinds of drug possession under Nevada law:
● Actual Possession – Having the drug in question on your person at the time of arrest.
● Constructive Possession – Having knowledge of the location of the drug in question with intention to access it at some point.
● Joint Possession – Sharing possession of the drug in question with another person by handing it to them to hold makes both people involved in joint possession of the drug.
The possible penalties for a charge of drug possession vary based on the schedule of the drug, the amount and any prior drug convictions.
Federal law defines drug trafficking as knowingly taking any of the following illegal actions:
● Manufacturing illegal drugs
● Delivering, importing or selling illegal drugs
● Possessing illegal drugs with the intention of manufacturing, distributing or dispensing them
● It is also still possible to be charged with drug trafficking for the known trafficking of a counterfeit substance
Drug trafficking charges in Nevada can be applied only to cases in which the drugs being trafficked are Schedule I or II drugs. Schedule III, IV, and V drugs will be charged as possession, manufacture, transportation and/or sale of a controlled substance, as applicable.
Additionally, because intent is required to apply a charge of drug trafficking, if someone is charged with the trafficking of drugs that they can prove they had no knowledge of or participation in they should not be convicted of this charge.
Penalties for Drug Trafficking
The schedule and the amount or weight of drugs allegedly being trafficked determine the possible penalty, but prison is actually mandatory for a convicted drug trafficking in a controlled substance charge. The only potential route to avoid prison time and be under probation instead is by providing what is referred to as “substantial assistance” to the police to help them convict others.
Differences Between Nevada Laws and Federal Laws for Drug Trafficking
● Nevada law Includes the possession of drugs over a certain quantity to be charged with trafficking, but allows for an amount under that limit to be charged instead as drug possession for personal use.
● Federal law has no weight minimums for controlled substances, meaning even very small amounts can be charged as federal drug trafficking.
Schedule I Penalties
Drugs weighing 4 to 14 grams is a category B felony in Nevada and if convicted, will result in one to six years in Nevada State Prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
Drugs weighing 14 to 28 grams and conviction results in two to fifteen years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
Drugs weighing 28 grams or more is a category A felony in Nevada with 25 years to life in prison (with parole possible after 10 years) and up to $500,000 in fines.
Schedule II Penalties
Drugs weighing 28 to 200 grams is a category C felony in Nevada and if convicted, will result in one to five years in Nevada State Prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
Drugs weighing 200 grams to 400 grams are a category B felony in Nevada and conviction results in two to fifteen years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
Drugs weighing 400 grams or more is a category A felony in Nevada with 15 years to life in prison (with parole possible after 5 years) and up to $250,000 in fines.
If you’ve been charged with any drug-related offense, it’s very important that you understand the charges against you and even more important that you hire an attorney who has the experience and knowledge necessary to confidently build your defense. An experienced attorney can often have your charges and by extension, your penalties, reduced to a less serious offense. Some cases can even be dismissed, saving you from the consequences of a criminal record. If you, a family member or friend have been charged with drug trafficking in Nevada, we can help you. Contact our offices today for a free consultation regarding your case.