All states regulate the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for illegal possession. Rhode Island classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as CDS, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.
This article discusses the illegal possession of CDS for personal use only. Illegally making or selling CDS carries different penalties. For more information on illegal CDS manufacture and sale, see Sale of Controlled Substances in Rhode Island.
Also, while marijuana is considered a CDS, this article does not cover Rhode Island’s marijuana possession and sale laws. To learn more about that topic, see Rhode Island Marijuana Laws.
How Rhode Island Classifies CDS
Rhode Island divides CDS into five “Schedules.” Schedule I lists the most dangerous drugs, which have a high probability of abuse and addiction, and no recognized medical value. Schedules II, III, IV, and V decrease in dangerousness and probability of abuse, and increase in recognized medical uses.
If you’ve been arrested for illegal CDS possession, you’ll need to consult the Rhode Island Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group. Go to the statute (R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 21-28-2.08) and find the substance you're charged with possessing -- it will be listed under one of the five schedules.
Penalties for Possessing CDS
It is illegal in Rhode Island to possess CDS without a valid medical prescription. Penalties vary according to the type of CDS involved in the violation.
Specified Schedule I and II CDS
Possessing specified amounts of the following CDS incur a fine of up to $500,000, up to 50 years in prison, or both. (R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 21-28-4.01.1.)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
- Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
All other CDS
Penalties include a fine of at least $500 (and up to $5,000), up to three years in prison, or both; 100 hours of community service; completion of a drug counseling and education program (failure to complete this program can incur up to an additional year in jail). Also, if the defendant possessed or transported a CDS in a motor vehicle, driver’s license suspension for six months (or one year for second and subsequent convictions). (R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 21-28-4.01(c)(1).)
Second and Subsequent Convictions
Second convictions incur up to twice the fine and prison time that otherwise apply to the underlying crime. Third and subsequent convictions incur up to three times the penalties that would otherwise apply. (R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 21-28-4.011 & -4.14.)
Talk to an Attorney
CDS possession convictions can incur harsh fines and long periods of incarceration. A local lawyer who practices CDS defense will review the facts of your case, explain your options, and advise you of the possible consequences.