Possession of a Controlled Substance in Louisiana

Illegal possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) in Louisiana carries penalties ranging from six months' jail time to 20 years or more in prison.

All states regulate and control the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for possession. Louisiana 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 possession of CDS for personal use only. Different penalties apply for making and selling CDS. For more information on illegal manufacture and sale of CDS and the related penalties, see Sale of a Controlled Substance.

How Louisiana Classifies Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS)

Louisiana 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.

These schedules also determine the applicable penalties for illegally possessing specific CDS (described in the next section). If you’ve been arrested for illegal CDS possession, you’ll need to consult the Louisiana Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group. Go to the statute (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:964) and find the substance you're charged with possessing—it will be listed under one of the five schedules.

Penalties for Illegal CDS Possession

It’s illegal in Louisiana to possess a CDS without a valid prescription. Penalties vary according to the schedule classification and amount of CDS involved.

Schedule I Substances

Penalties for Schedule I CDS can be divided into two categories: marijuana (marihuana) offenses and non-marijuana offenses.

Non-marijuana offenses carry penalties ranging from one to 10 years in prison, fines up to $5,000, or both—depending on the amount and type of CDS possessed.

First and second violations for marijuana possession can be punished by up to six months in parish jail, fines up to $1,000, or both. For subsequent violations, the penalties increase to felony-level offenses, with sentences ranging from two to eight years (up to 20 years when synthetic cannabinoids are involved) and fines increasing to $5,000. (The law provides exceptions for legal possession of medical marijuana.) (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:966 (2019).)

Schedule II Substances

Penalties vary according to the specific Schedule II CDS and amount involved, with sentences ranging from one to five years in prison, fines up to $5,000, or both. For possession of phencyclidine (PCP), the possible prison time increases to 20 years. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:967 (2019).)

Schedule III Substances

The maximum penalty for possession of a Schedule III CDS is imprisonment from one to five years, a $5,000 fine, or both. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:968 (2019).)

Schedule IV Substances

Penalties for possession of a Schedule IV CDS include a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment for one to five years, or both. However, convictions involving Flunitrazepam (also called rohypnol or ruffies) are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:969 (2019).)

Schedule V Substances

Possession of a Schedule V CDS carries a maximum sentence of one to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:970 (2019).)

Second and Subsequent Offenses

A defendant convicted of a second or subsequent offense faces twice the applicable fine, prison term, or both, as described above, according to the schedule and substance involved in the violation. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:982 (2019).)

Possession in Drug-Free Zones

Possession of CDS on or within 2,000 feet of properties designated “drug-free zones” increases the maximum penalties (both fines and imprisonment) by one and one-half times. Drug-free zones include schools, public playgrounds, public parks and recreational facilities, daycares, universities, colleges, and drug treatment facilities. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:981.3 (2019).)

Talk to an Attorney

Being convicted of CDS possession crime might not seem like a big deal. But a conviction means not only possible jail or prison time but also a criminal record. Criminal records have a tendency to follow you everywhere—job searches, housing applications, and professional licensing renewals, just to name a few. A local lawyer who practices CDS defense will review the facts of your case, explain your options, and advise you of the possible consequences.

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