Nevada Drug Possession, Sale, and Trafficking Laws
The impact of a drug conviction can be severe for misdemeanors and felonies in Nevada. With the widespread use of background checks, a conviction can close many doors to future employment opportunities. Certain fields can be especially thorough with background checks and will disqualify people with drug convictions. This includes many health fields, law enforcement agencies, and other government agencies. Given the stakes, it is important to understand Nevada drug laws, even if you are represented by a defense attorney.
Currently, Nevada law severely punishes people arrested for the possession, manufacture, cultivation, and trafficking of illegal drugs. Commonly used drugs on this list include cocaine, heroin, opium, LSD, ecstasy, and a variety of other narcotics. Chapter 453 of the Nevada Controlled Substances Act defines the drug program, crimes and penalties in the state. Some of the defined offenses are:
- NRS 453.316 – Maintaining a Venue for the Illegal Sale, Gift, or Use of a Controlled Substance
- NRS 453.321 – Offer, attempt or commission of unauthorized acts related to controlled substances
- NRS 453.322 – Offer, attempt or commission to manufacture or combine controlled substances
- NRS 453.331 – Distribution of Controlled Substances, Use of an Unauthorized Registration Number, and Possession of Signed Blank Prescription Forms
- NRS 453.333 – Second offense or subsequent offense for selling a controlled substance to a minor
- NRS 453.336 – Illegal Possession for Non-Sale Purposes
- NRS 453.337 – Unlawful Possession for Sale of Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), and Schedule I or II Substances
- NRS 453.338 – Illegal Possession for Sale of Substances on Schedules III, IV or V
- NRS 453.3385 – Trafficking in Controlled Substances Trafficking in Controlled Substances: Rohypnol, GHB, and Schedule I Substances (not including marijuana)
- NRS 453.339 – Marijuana Trafficking
Penalties for drug offenses in Nevada can vary, depending on the specific criminal offense, the circumstances of the arrest, the amount of illegal drugs involved, the criminal record of the alleged offender, and the strength of the defense or prosecution case. Under Nevada’s Controlled Substances law, the most common offenses can be punished as follows:
Drug possession, not for sale
- Class E felony (1st or 2nd offense, Schedule I, II, III or IV) – 1 to 4 years in state prison or probation and / or up to $ 5,000 in fines
- Class D felony (third offense or subsequent offense, Schedule I, II, III, or IV): 1 to 4 years in state prison and / or up to $ 5,000 in fines
- Class E felony (first offense, Schedule V): 1 to 4 years in prison or probation and / or fines up to $ 5,000
- Class D felony (second offense or subsequent offense, Schedule V): 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison and / or up to $ 5,000 in fines
Illegal possession of Schedule I or II drugs, Rohypnol, gold GHB
- 1st offense, Category D felony: 1 to 4 years in state prison and / or up to $ 5,000 in fines
- 2nd offense, Category C felony: 1-4 years of non-probation in Nevada State Prison and / or up to $ 10,000 in fines
- Third offense or subsequent offense, Category B felony – Punishable by 3-15 years of non-probation in state prison and / or a fine of up to $ 20,000 for each offense.
Illegal possession for the sale of drugs on lists III, IV or V
- First and Second Offense, Category D Felony – Punishable by 1 to 4 years of non-probation in state prison and / or up to $ 10,000 in fines
- Third offense or subsequent offense, Category C Felony – May be punishable by 1-5 years of non-probation in Nevada State Prison and / or up to $ 10,000 in fines.
Drug trafficking (Annex I)
- Category B Felony (4-14 grams) – Punishable by 1 to 6 years of non-probation (mandatory imprisonment) in Nevada State Prison and / or up to $ 50,000 in fines
- Category B felony (between 14 and 28 grams) – Punishable by 2 to 15 years of non-probation (mandatory imprisonment) in Nevada State Prison and / or up to $ 100,000 in fines
- Category A felony (28 grams or more) – Punishable by 25 years of non-probation (mandatory imprisonment) to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $ 500,000
However, Nevada has surprisingly moved to a certain level of acceptance regarding marijuana, along with many other states in the country. Nevada decriminalized the use of medical marijuana in 2001 when 65% of the state’s voters moved to amend the state constitution to recognize its legitimate use in a medical capacity. However, to comply with state law, medical marijuana users must have documented permission from a physician.
Once registered with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services: State Health Division, the person can use, possess and grow marijuana to a certain extent (up to 1 ounce of possession and up to 7 cultivated plants, of which only 3 can be mature). Note that Nevada has not decriminalized marijuana use for the general population like other states like California, Connecticut, and Mississippi have.
There are currently several legal battles regarding medical marijuana laws and how people can obtain medical marijuana. Under current law, a person must produce their own medical marijuana to legally obtain medical marijuana. A person cannot get it from a centralized location like a dispensary. Additionally, although the state of Nevada has approved the use of medical marijuana, the federal government has not done so and is beginning to invoke Federal Law against those who use and grow medical marijuana. Be aware that even if you are following state laws, you can be arrested and convicted of violating federal laws.
Possession of marijuana by unauthorized medical users remains a serious crime. Under the Nevada Controlled Substances Act, possession of a non-medical marijuana offense can result in the following penalties:
Possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana
- 1st offense, misdemeanor – Fine of up to $ 600 or drug abuse treatment test
- 2nd offense, misdemeanor – Fine of up to $ 1000 or drug treatment / rehab program
- 3rd offense, felony misdemeanor: up to 1 year in county jail and / or up to $ 2000 in fines
- 4th offense or subsequent offense, category E felony – between 1 and 4 years in state prison or probation and / or a fine of up to $ 5,000
It is important to remember that an arrest for a drug-related crime does not necessarily mean that a conviction will follow, regardless of whether the person was charged with a misdemeanor or felony. If you have an experienced Nevada drug defense attorney, he or she can use many of the details surrounding the case to your advantage. This may include inadequate search and investigation procedures, lack of probable cause to stop (in cases of vehicular arrests), violations of constitutional rights, competence of witnesses and other miscellaneous facts.
Pleading guilty to a drug-related crime does not necessarily mean that the defendant receives a lighter sentence. Many people facing this situation also find it beneficial to hire an attorney from the moment of arrest, regardless of their state of innocence. Prosecutors and law enforcement officials do not have the best interests of the accused in mind and some details may be overlooked in their pursuit of justice. It is in your best interest to consult with a Nevada defense attorney about your legal options.