Possession of LSD: Penalties and Defenses

A conviction for possession of LSD or acid can mean jail or prison time, plus fines and a criminal record.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated July 19, 2022

Under federal law and the law of all 50 states, possession of lysergic acid diethylamide or "LSD" is a crime. While penalties for LSD possession vary across the country, drug possession crimes share several similarities.

This article will review how drug possession crimes are proven, what the possible defenses could be, and what the penalties are for possessing LSD.

What Is LSD or Acid?

LSD is a synthetic (man-made) chemical that belongs to a group of drugs known as hallucinogens. This liquid drug is often sold on blotter paper, sugar cubes, stamps, or other porous material for oral ingestion. Other names for LSD include acid, boomers, mellow yellow, dots, and pane.

Is LSD Legal?

No, LSD is a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are the most restricted by the government—deemed to be highly dangerous and addictive and without any accepted medical use. As a Schedule I drug, possession, manufacture, or distribution of any amount of LSD for any purpose is illegal in the United States. (21 U.S.C. §§ 802, 812 (2022).) While states' classifications of LSD vary, the psychedelic drug is illegal in every state.

Proving Illegal Possession of LSD

To secure a conviction for illegal possession of LSD, a prosecutor must generally show the defendant knowingly and voluntarily possessed the illegal drug.

Actual or Constructive Possession

Drug laws penalize both actual and constructive possession of drugs. Actual possession generally refers to physical possession, such as a person holding the drug or having it on their person (in their pocket, for example). Constructive possession, on the other hand, refers to drugs that are under a defendant's control. Say an officer pulls over a driver and finds drugs in the glove compartment. Given the driver's proximity to the drugs and control over the car, the prosecutor will likely be able to show constructive possession of the drug.

Knowing Possession

To be convicted, the defendant must also know the nature of the drug in their possession. If someone tricks the person into taking the drug, the person did not knowingly or voluntarily possess it. Or if the person has no idea the sugar cube is laced with LSD, the prosecutor lacks the knowledge element to prove the case.

If the prosecutor can't prove knowing possession, actual or constructive, the defendant should be acquitted of the charges.

What Are the Federal Penalties for LSD Possession?

Under federal law, simple possession of LSD carries the following penalties:

  • a first offense: up to a year in prison, up to a $1,000 fine, or both
  • a second offense: 15 days to 2 years in prison, up to a $2,500 fine, or both, and
  • a third or subsequent offense: 90 days to 3 years in prison, up to a $5,000 fine, or both.

(21 U.S.C. § 844 (2022).)

Is LSD Possession a Felony Under State Laws?

State penalties for LSD possession vary greatly. In some states, any LSD possession offense is a felony, while other states make a first offense or offense involving a small amount of the drug a misdemeanor. Generally, though, repeat offenses and offenses involving greater amounts carry increasing felony penalties.

Many states base their penalties on the amount (dosage units) or weight of the drug involved. For instance, New York imposes the following penalties for LSD possession:

  • less than 1 milligram (mg): Class A misdemeanor
  • 1 mg or more but less than 5 mg: Class C felony
  • 5 mg or more but less than 25 mg: Class B felony, and
  • 25 mg or more: Class A-II felony.

(N.Y. Penal Code §§ 220.03, 220.09, 220.16, 220.18 (2022).)

Texas uses a similar penalty structure but it's based on units (such as tablets, blotter paper, or dots). Penalties range from a state jail felony (fewer than 20 units) to a life sentence (8,000 or more units). (Tex. Health & Safety Code §§ 481.1021, 481.1151 (2022).)

Other states follow the federal penalty scheme and base penalties on the person's record of drug convictions. Wisconsin, for example, makes a first LSD possession offense a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. All subsequent offenses are Class I felonies. A prior offense can be any drug conviction (federal or state) and doesn't have to be for LSD. (Wis. Stat. § 961.41 (2022).)

Common Defense Strategies for LSD Possession

Depending on the circumstances of the arrest and charges, your defense attorney might be able to poke holes in the prosecutor's case or get evidence of the drugs tossed out. For instance, your attorney might argue that the prosecutor hasn't proven that you had knowledge of, or any control over, the drugs. If the prosecutor doesn't prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, you must be acquitted. Another common defense strategy in drug cases is to ask for evidence of the drugs to be suppressed (tossed out) based on an illegal search or search by police. Usually, without evidence of the drugs, the prosecution's case won't hold up.

Some states provide "Good Samaritan" protections for persons who call 911 to help someone who's overdosed or in need of medical attention. In states that have such laws, typically to take advantage of the Good Samaritan protections, the person needs to remain on the scene and cooperate with authorities.

See a Lawyer

Possession of LSD is a very serious crime, whether it's a first or fourth offense, a misdemeanor or a felony. If you've been charged with possession of LSD, consult with a criminal defense lawyer experienced with the law in your state (or, if the case is in federal court, an experienced federal practitioner). A lawyer familiar with the applicable law will be able to advise you about your rights and the availability of any defenses.

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