Like all states, Alaska regulates controlled substances and penalizes their illegal possession. This article discusses Alaska's laws on the illegal possession of drugs for personal use only. Drug sales and possession with intent to sell carry harsher penalties.
Alaska divides controlled substances into six groups or "schedules"—Schedules IA through VIA—based on the potential for harm to the user. Below are examples of drugs placed into each schedule.
(Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.140 to 11.71.190 (2023).)
Alaska combines possession, sale, and manufacturing drug offenses into one crime called "misconduct involving controlled substances." There are six degrees and offense levels for this crime. Third- through sixth-degree offenses include possession offenses, as discussed below. Penalties range from a class B misdemeanor to a class B felony for possession crimes.
Most drug possession offenses carry misdemeanor penalties.
A person commits a class A misdemeanor by illegally possessing:
Class A misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $25,000 fine. (See section below on fourth-degree crimes for repeat offenses.)
It's a class B misdemeanor to possess less than one ounce of marijuana.
The penalty for a Class B misdemeanor possession is up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
(Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.050, 11.71.060 (2023).)
Felony possession charges apply when the drug is GHB or when possession occurs near a drug-free zone.
A person who possesses a Schedule IA or IIA drug on a school bus or near school grounds or a recreation or youth center commits a class B felony. Unless the offense involves a school bus, the prosecution must prove the defendant possessed the drug in reckless disregard for their location.
Convictions for a class B felony carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
It's a class C felony to illegally possess:
A second conviction for fifth-degree degree misconduct involving the possession of a Schedule IA, IIA, IIIA, IVA, or VA drug also carries a class C felony penalty.
A person convicted of a class C felony faces a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine.
(Alaska Stat. §§ 11.71.030, 11.71.040 (2023).)
Defendants facing controlled substance charges have several defense strategies available to them.
Actual innocence. Defendants charged with a drug-related crime have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as "Someone else committed this crime," or "the alleged conduct did not occur."
Lack of knowledge. Defendants can try to show the jury that they did not have knowledge of the controlled substance being in their possession. For example, if a hitchhiker gets a ride from a passing car and the police locate a bag of heroin under the hitchhiker's seat, the defense will argue the defendant had no knowledge of the bag hidden under their seat.
Unlawful search and seizure. A common defense in drug possession cases includes asking the court to exclude evidence of the drugs at trial based on an unlawful search or seizure by police. Without evidence of the drugs, a prosecutor's case might fall apart, resulting in a reduction of charges or a dismissal altogether. Defense teams do this by scrutinizing and calling out faulty or suspect police methods used in gathering or handling the evidence.
Overdose immunity. A Good Samaritan who seeks medical assistance for someone facing a drug overdose cannot be prosecuted for drug possession charges. To receive this protection, the person must remain at the scene and cooperate with authorities. This immunity extends to the person experiencing the overdose as well. (Alaska Stat. § 11.71.311 (2023).)
If you're facing criminal charges for drug possession, talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you understand the charges and the possible penalties, protect your rights, and zealously defend your case.