All states regulate the illegal possession of controlled substances, though each differs in its exact definition of these substances and the penalties for possession. Read on to learn how Mississippi punishes drug possession crimes.
Mississippi classifies controlled substances into five schedules (I to V), according to their potential for abuse and accepted medical use.
Schedules I to V generally follow the federal schedules with schedule I drugs having no medical use and the highest likelihood of abuse and schedule V drugs having accepted medical uses and the lowest likelihood of abuse. Examples of drugs within each schedule are provided below.
(Miss. Code §§ 4-29-113 to -121 (2023).)
Mississippi bases possession penalties on the type of drug and the amount, which is measured in dosage units or based on the weight of the drugs.
One dosage unit equals a tablet, capsule, or one milliliter of liquid solution. For LSD, a dosage unit means a stamp, square, dot, or microdot.
Possessing 30 grams or more or 40 or more dosage units is considered trafficking. Trafficking penalties start with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and carry penalties of up to life imprisonment.
Penalties for simple possession of schedule III, IV, or V drugs range from a misdemeanor to a 16-year felony.
Possessing 500 grams or more or 2,500 or more dosage units is considered trafficking. Trafficking penalties start with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and carry penalties of up to life imprisonment.
Mississippi also makes it illegal to possess and use drug paraphernalia—items used to ingest, inhale, inject, store, conceal, prepare, test, or propagate a controlled substance. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.
(Miss. Code § 41-29-139 (2023).)
It's possible a first-time offender could avoid jail time and a conviction. For first-time possession offenses, Mississippi law permits a judge to hold off on entering a judgment of guilt and instead place the defendant on probation for up to three years.
This deferred judgment comes with probation conditions that the defendant must abide by to get the case dismissed. Successful completion means the defendant won't have a public criminal record. The defendant can also ask the court to expunge all related records, such as the arrest and charges. A violation, however, means the court can continue with sentencing.
(Miss. Code § 41-29-150 (2023).)
Mississippi law provides harsh penalties for possession crimes committed by repeat offenders or a person in possession of a firearm.
The law authorizes a judge to double the sentence for second or subsequent drug convictions, including the prison term, fine, or both.
If the person commits a drug crime while in possession of a firearm, the law also allows the judge to double the sentence terms.
(Miss. Code §§ 41-29-147, 41-29-152 (2023).)
In drug possession cases, a defense attorney may raise several arguments to challenge the prosecution's case. The prosecutor must prove every element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Knowing possession. Drug possession crimes generally require proof that the defendant had actual or constructive possession of the drugs and knew what the drugs were. A defendant might argue they thought the white pills were aspirin or that they had no idea how the drugs got into their gym bag.
Unlawful search and seizure. Another common defense strategy in drug possession cases is to challenge the legality of the search that led to the drugs. If police conducted an illegal search, typically, the evidence (the drugs) must be excluded. Without evidence of the drugs, the prosecution doesn't have much of a case.
Amount of drugs. A defense attorney might also seek a reduction in charges if there's a question as to the amount of drugs involved.
Convictions for drug possession can result in heavy fines and incarceration, with even steeper penalties for people with a criminal history. A criminal defense attorney who specializes in drug crimes can review the facts of your case and advise you of your different options and their possible outcomes.