Possession of a Controlled Substance in North Carolina

By , Contributing Author

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. North Carolina 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 possesssion of CDS only. Illegally making or selling CDS carries different penalties. For more information on CDS manufacture and sale, see Sale of Controlled Substances in North Carolina.

Also, while marijuana is considered a CDS, this article does not cover North Carolina's marijuana possession and sale laws. To learn more about that topic, see North Carolina Marijuana Laws.

How North Carolina Classifies CDS

North Carolina divides CDS into six "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, V, and VI decrease in dangerousness and probability of abuse, and increase in recognized medical uses. Schedule IV encompasses marijuana and its derivatives, and is not covered in this article.

If you've been arrested for illegal CDS possession, you'll need to consult the North Carolina Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group. Go to the statutes (N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 90-89, -90, -91, -92, -93, & -94) and find the substance you're charged with possessing -- it will be listed under one of the six schedules.

Penalties for Possessing CDS

It is illegal in North Carolina to possess CDS without a valid medical prescription. Penalties vary according to the level of crime committed, which is based on the type of CDS involved in the offense. (N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 90-95(d).)

  • Schedule I or II CDS—class I felony
  • Schedule II, III, or IV CDS—class 1 misdemeanor
  • Schedule V CDS—class 2 misdemeanor
  • Methamphetamine precursors—class F felony
  • Other CDS precursors—class H felony

North Carolina bases penalties on the defendant's prior criminal record; so a class H felony, for example, may carry different fines and prison time depending on whether the defendant has prior convictions , how many, and of what type.

Talk to an Attorney

CDS possession convictions can incur harsh fines and long periods of incarceration, even if you have no prior criminal record. 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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