The impact for a drug conviction can be severe for misdemeanor and felony offenses in Nevada. With the widespread use of background checks, a conviction can shut many doors for future employment opportunities. Certain fields may be especially thorough with background checks and will disqualify individuals with drug convictions. This includes many healthcare fields, law enforcement agencies, and other government bodies. Given what is at stake, it is important to understand the Nevada drug laws, even if you are being represented by a defense attorney.
Currently, Nevada laws severely punish individuals arrested for possession, manufacturing, cultivation and trafficking of illegal drugs. Commonly used drugs in this list include cocaine, heroin, opium, LSD, ecstasy and a variety of other narcotics. Chapter 453 of the Nevada Controlled Substances Act defines the schedule of drugs, offenses and penalties in the state. Some of the defined offenses are:
- NRS 453.316 – Maintaining a place for unlawful sale, gift or use of a controlled substance
- NRS 453.321 – Offer, attempt, or commission of unauthorized acts relating to controlled substances
- NRS 453.322 – Offer, attempt, or commission of manufacturing or compounding of controlled substances
- NRS 453.331 – Distribution of controlled substances, use of unauthorized registration number and possession of signed blank prescription forms
- NRS 453.333 – Second or subsequence offense for selling a controlled substance to a minor
- NRS 453.336 – Unlawful possession not for purpose of sale
- NRS 453.337 – Unlawful possession for sale of flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and schedule I or II substances
- NRS 453.338 – Unlawful possession for sale of schedule III, IV, or V substances
- 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 crimes in Nevada can vary, depending on the specific criminal offense, circumstances of the arrest, amount of illegal drugs involved, previous criminal history of the alleged offender, and strength of the defense or prosecution’s case. Under Nevada’s Controlled Substances act, the most common offenses may 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 (3rd or subsequent offense, schedule I, II, III, or IV) – between 1 and 4 years in state prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines
- Class E Felony (1st offense, schedule V) – between 1 and 4 years in prison or probation and/or fines up to $5,000
- Class D Felony (2nd or subsequent offense, schedule V) – 1 to 4 years in Nevada state prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines
Unlawful Possession of Schedule I or II Drugs, Rohypnol, or 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 – between 1 and 4 non-probational years in Nevada state prison and/or up to $10,000 of fines
- 3rd or subsequent offense, category B felony – punishable by 3 to 15 non-probational years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000 for each offense
Unlawful Possession for Sale of Schedule III, IV, or V Drugs
- 1st and second offense, category D felony – punishable by 1 to 4 non-probational years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines
- 3rd or subsequent offense, category C felony – can be punished by 1 to 5 non-probational years in Nevada state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines
Drug Trafficking (Schedule I)
- Category B Felony (between 4 and 14 grams) – Punishable by 1 to 6 non-probational (mandatory prison) years 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 non-probational (mandatory prison) years in Nevada State Prison and/or up to $100,000 in fines
- Category A Felony (28 grams or more) – Punishable by 25 non-probational (mandatory prison) years to life 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’s constitution to recognize its legitimate use in a medical capacity. However, to remain in compliance with the 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 individual can use, possess and grow marijuana to a certain extent (up to 1 ounce possession and up to 7 plants cultivated, only 3 of which can be mature). Note that Nevada has not decriminalized the use of marijuana for the general population like other states such as California, Connecticut and Mississippi have.
Currently there are several legal battles going on regarding the medical marijuana laws and how people can obtain medical marijuana. As the law stands today 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, even though the State of Nevada has approved the use of medical marijuana, the Federal government has not, and is starting to invoke Federal Law against those people using and growing medical marijuana. Be aware that even though you might be following State laws you can be arrested and convicted for violating Federal laws.
Possession of marijuana by non-approved medical users is still a serious criminal offense. Under Nevada’s Controlled Substances Act, possession of non-medical marijuana offense can result in the following punishments:
Possession of 1 Ounce or Less of Marijuana
- 1st offense, misdemeanor – Fine up to $600 or drug abuse treatment examination
- 2nd offense, misdemeanor – Fine up to $1000 or drug treatment/rehabilitation program
- 3rd offense, gross misdemeanor – Up to 1 year in county jail and/or up to $2000 in fines
- 4th or subsequent offense, category E felony – between 1 and 4 years in state prison or probation and/or a fine up to $5,000
It’s important to remember that an arrest for a drug-related crime does not necessarily mean a conviction will follow, regardless if the individual was charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. If you have a defense attorney experienced in Nevada drug cases, he or she can use many of the details surrounding the case to your benefit. This can include improper search and investigation procedure, lack of probable cause to make a stop (in cases of vehicular arrests), constitutional right violations, competency of witnesses, and other miscellaneous facts.
Pleading guilty to a drug crime does not necessarily mean the defendant will receive a lighter sentence. Many individuals facing this situation also find it beneficial to retain an attorney from the moment of arrest, regardless of their state of innocence. Prosecution and law enforcement officials do not have the best interests of the accused in mind and 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.