Possession of a Controlled Substance in Alabama
All states regulate and control the possession for personal use of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for possession. Alabama considers not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine to be controlled substances, but also the compounds used to manufacture them. Possessing drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, is also illegal.
Alabama divides its CDS into five “schedules,” according to their degree of dangerousness:
- Schedule I drugs (such as opiates and certain opium derivatives and hallucinogenic substances) are those that have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, or are unsafe for use in treatment, even under medical supervision.
- Schedule II drugs (such as coca leaves and opium) have a high potential for abuse, have an accepted medical use and can result in severe psychological and physical dependence if abused.
- Schedule III drugs (such as codeine and amphetamines) have a potential for abuse less than Schedule I or II drugs, have an accepted medical use and can lead to low or moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence.
- Schedule IV drugs (such as barbiturates) have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs, have an acceptable medical use and may lead to limited psychological and physical dependence in relation to Schedule III drugs.
- Schedule V drugs are the least dangerous, with the lowest potential for abuse, a currently accepted medical use, and likely to lead to only limited physical or psychological dependence. Schedule V drugs include medicines that have very small amounts of specified narcotic drugs. (Alabama Code Sections 20-2-22 to 20-2-31.)
Some CDS such as codeine, a common pain medication, may be possessed legally so long as the holder has a valid prescription.
This article concerns possession for personal use only. Separate punishments apply to possession for sale or for manufacture of controlled substances. For information about possession of controlled substances for sale, see Sale of a Controlled Substance in Alabama.
Possession and Criminal Penalties
In Alabama, the criminal penalties depend on what type of CDS a person is convicted of possessing and whether the individual has a prior conviction.
Possession of marijuana for personal use (possession in the second-degree) is a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by no more than one year served in either the county jail or in hard labor to the county. For more detail, see Possession of Marijuana in Alabama.
Possession of imitation CDS is a Class C misdemeanor. Class C misdemeanors are punishable by no more than three months in jail.
The court may also impose a fine for misdemeanor convictions. Class A misdemeanors can result in fines of up to $6,000. Fines for Class C misdemeanors can be no more than $500. (Alabama Code 13A-5-7, 5-12.)
Class C felonies are punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000. Class C felony possessions include:
- Possession of any CDS listed in Schedules I through V, unless otherwise authorized by law (a second possession of marijuana for personal use conviction elevates the crime to a Class C felony) .
- Obtaining CDS by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, concealment of a material fact, or by altering a prescription.
- Possessing marijuana for other than personal use, such as sale (called possession in the first degree).
- Class B felony possession convictions result in stiffer penalties. They range from two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000. Class B felony possessions include the possession, purchase, transfer, or distribution of anhydrous ammonia if the person knew or should have known that the anhydrous ammonia would be used to manufacture a CDS, namely crystal methamphetamine. (Alabama Code 13A-5-6, 5-11.)
Repeat or Habitual Offenders
Alabama imposes increasingly harsh penalties on individuals with prior felony convictions.
One prior felony conviction:
- A Class C felony possession is sentenced as a Class B felony.
- A Class B felony possession is sentenced as a Class A felony.
Two prior felony convictions:
- A Class C felony possession is sentenced as a Class A felony.
- A Class B felony possession is punishable by 15 years to life.
Three prior felony convictions:
- A Class C felony possession is punishable by 15 years to life.
- A Class B felony possession is punishable by 20 years to life.
(Alabama Code Section 13A-5-9.)
Talk To An Attorney
Convictions for CDS possession can result in stiff financial penalties and extended incarceration. If you are convicted of possession and are charged later for the same or similar offense, the subsequent charge and penalties may be increased due to your prior conviction. Only an attorney who specializes in drug defense can realistically assess the strength of the case against you and your chances for a dismissal, a lesser charge, a plea bargain, or a favorable outcome if you go to trial.