Possession of a Controlled Substance in Mississippi

Learn how Mississippi classifies controlled substances and punishes illegal possession.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated July 06, 2023

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.

How Mississippi Classifies Controlled Substances

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.

  • Schedule I includes drugs such as heroin, psilocybin, mescaline, MDMA (ecstasy), salvia divinorum, and LSD.
  • Schedule II includes drugs such as raw opium, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, meth, and amphetamines.
  • Schedule III includes drugs such as pentobarbital, ketamine, tianeptine, and anabolic steroids.
  • Schedule IV includes drugs such as tramadol, diazepam, and barbital.
  • Schedule V includes drugs such as cough medicines containing small amounts of codeine or opium.

(Miss. Code §§ 4-29-113 to -121 (2023).)

Penalties for Illegal Drug Possession Crimes in Mississippi

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.

Possession of Schedule I or II Drugs

Penalties for simple possession of schedule I or II drugs (other than marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids) range from a misdemeanor to a 20-year felony.

  • If the amount is less than one-tenth of a gram or fewer than 2 dosage units, the person commits a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • If the amount is one-tenth of a gram or more but less than 2 grams, or 2 to 9 dosage units, the person commits a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
  • If the amount is 2 grams or more but less than 10 grams, or 10 to 19 dosage units, the person commits a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
  • If the amount is 10 grams or more but less than 30 grams, or 20 to 39 dosage units, the person commits a felony punishable by three to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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.

Possession of Schedule III, IV, and V Drugs

Penalties for simple possession of schedule III, IV, or V drugs range from a misdemeanor to a 16-year felony.

  • If the amount is less than 50 grams or fewer than 100 dosage units, the person commits a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • If the amount is 50 grams or more but less than 150 grams, or 100 to 499 dosage units, the person commits a felony punishable by one to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
  • If the amount is 150 grams or more but less than 300 grams, or 500 to 999 dosage units, the person commits a felony punishable by two to eight years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
  • If the amount is 300 grams or more but less than 500 grams, or 1,000 to 2,499 dosage units, the person commits a felony punishable by four to 16 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

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).)

Will You Go to Jail for a First-Time Drug Possession Offense in Mississippi?

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's Enhanced Penalties for Drug Possession Crimes

Mississippi law provides harsh penalties for possession crimes committed by repeat offenders or a person in possession of a firearm.

Second or Subsequent Offenses

The law authorizes a judge to double the sentence for second or subsequent drug convictions, including the prison term, fine, or both.

Firearm Possession Enhancement

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).)

Defenses to Drug Possession Crimes

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.

Talk to an Attorney

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.

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