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Illegal possession of a controlled substance happens when someone is found carrying without permission or justification a drug or other controlled substance such as cocaine, methamphetamine (known as meth), marijuana, heroin, ecstasy or other narcotics.“Possessing” doesn’t mean that the police have to find the drugs “on”the perpetrator. Being found “in possession” can generally occur in 3 situations:
Controlled substances are divided into 5 main categories called “Schedules”which determine the fine and/or the sentence. Schedule IV drugs are the least serious to be found in possession of, while Schedule I substances are the worst to possess without a prescription from a doctor, dentist, physician assistant or optometrist.
The severity of the penalty depends upon several factors, such as the state laws, the amount and type of drug involved, the circumstances, whether it’s for personal use or selling, and the criminal history of the perpetrator.
Possessing illegal substances could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. For example, in Kentucky, possessing non-narcotic Schedule I and II substances is a misdemeanor, while possessing Schedule I or II narcotics is a felony.
If “aggravating factors" apply, misdemeanors can easily escalate into felonies. In general, the consequences are more severe under the following aggravating circumstances:
In addition to the above, for instance, Delaware increases punishments if the offense occurs in a place of worship (church, mosque, temple, synagogue), in a car or if a minor more than 4 years younger than the adult offender is involved.
Each state has its laws regarding drug possession and they can vary widely from one state to another. In Illinois, for instance, carrying 15-100 grams of meth, heroin or cocaine, can lead to a felony conviction with 4 to 15 years behind bars and/or a fine of up to $200,000.
In Texas, possession is at least a “Class B” or a “Class A” misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine that cannot be higher than $4,000. If consistent amounts of illegal chemicals are involved, the punishment can range from a third-degree felony up to a first-degree felony. The highest penalty given in Texas for drug possession a fine of up to $250,000 and/or life or 99 years in prison.