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Drug Sales and Transportation

Sale, Transport, or Distribution of Drugs in Las Vegas

Drug use is very common in Las Vegas, and so is the sale, transport, and distribution of these drugs, also known as “controlled substances.” Many people have been hurt by the economic downturn our country has been experiencing for the past several years. Industries hit hardest include those that focus primarily on what would be considered “luxuries” or “extras.” This includes things like vacations, expensive dinners and shopping sprees, which is what Las Vegas is known for. Many hotels, restaurants and other similar businesses have had to lay off employees. This has left many Las Vegas residents without work and has forced many people to consider other options for making money. The drug trade can be very alluring because it offers the potential of making lots of money, but with that potential also comes the potential for serious penalties if a person is caught.

What Is a Controlled Substance?

Controlled substances are drugs that can affect a person’s health and welfare. Because they can be abused and/or lead to addiction, they are highly regulated by the government. Controlled substances aren’t only drugs that are considered illegal; they can also include medications that people don’t have valid prescriptions for.

Both the federal government and Nevada have created what is called a “schedule of controlled substances,” which is essentially a long list of drugs that are categorized based on specific criteria. There are five different schedules of drugs. When determining where a particular drug belongs, the government looks to various factors. These factors include questions such as whether the substance has a high potential for abuse; whether there is any generally accepted medical use for the drug; and the likelihood of the drug to cause psychological or physical dependence.

The federal schedule of drugs was created by Congress through the passage of the Controlled Substances Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") and the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") have the power to add to or subtract from the schedules.

Nevada follows the scheduling outlined in the federal Controlled Substances Act, but it also has the liberty to place greater restrictions on certain drugs. For example, methamphetamine and cocaine are classified by the federal government as Schedule II drugs. However, the state separates these into street methamphetamine and cocaine, which are listed as Schedule I drugs, and doctor-prescribed methamphetamine and cocaine, which are considered Schedule II drugs. The Nevada State Board of Pharmacy (the Board) determines the scheduling of controlled substances, and a list of the drugs are included in Chapter 453 of the Nevada Administrative Code.

Schedule I drugs are those without an “accepted medical use” and a “high potential for abuse.” Because these are considered to cause the most harm, if a person is charged and convicted of selling them, they face severe penalties. Examples of these types of controlled substances include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and peyote. Click here for a complete list.

Schedule II controlled substances have a “high potential for abuse” and can lead to “psychological or physical dependence.” Their accepted medical use is limited, and prescribing them is highly regulated. Doctors must submit information about patients taking these medications to a national database to prevent individuals from obtaining multiple prescriptions from different physicians. Types of Schedule II drugs include doctor-prescribed cocaine and methamphetamine, morphine, Demerol, oxycodone, and Adderall. For a complete list, click here.

Schedule III controlled substances have less potential for abuse than the previous schedule substances (due to their relatively lower potential for physical dependence) and have currently accepted medical uses. Like Schedule II drugs, these substances can be prescribed by doctors. These include anabolic steroids, Ketamine, and Marinol. For a complete list of Schedule III drugs, click here.

Schedule IV drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule I through III controlled substances. Physical or psychological dependence on these substances is limited, and doctors can write prescriptions for them. Drugs in this schedule include Tramadol, Soma and benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. For a complete list, click here.

Schedule V drugs are defined as having a lower potential for abuse than the previous four. They have accepted medical uses and can be prescribed or purchased over the counter. They contain small amounts of narcotics and can include substances such as cough suppressents (with codeine), Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, and Parepectolin. Click here for a complete list.

Sale, Transport, or Distribution of a Controlled Substance Defined

NRS 453.321 states that it is illegal for a person to sell a controlled or counterfeit substance. However, NRS 453.321 also makes it illegal to import, transport, exchange, barter, supply, prescribe, dispense, give away or administer a controlled or counterfeit substance. So what exactly does that mean?

Many people assume that this statute only applies to situations where people are out selling illegal drugs like Heroin or Methamphetamine on the street. This is simply not true. This statute makes it illegal not only to sell a controlled substance to another person but also to give someone a controlled substance. Furthermore, controlled substances include not only illegal street drugs but also various different prescription drugs.

One example of this would be if someone gave a relative some Xanax because that relative was really stressed. This is a violation of NRS 453.321(4) because Xanax is a Schedule IV drug. This is true even if the person giving their relative Xanax has a valid prescription for the Xanax and even though that person is not receiving any money whatsoever from their relative for the Xanax. The rationale behind this is that while the person giving away the Xanax may have a valid prescription and therefore be legally allowed to possess the drug, the relative they are giving the Xanax to does not.

As stated above, NRS 453.321 also makes it illegal to import or transport a controlled substance. This means that a person who agrees to drive a controlled substance from Point A to Point B is just as guilty as a person who then sells that controlled substance and will be subject to the same potential punishments.

Potential Penalties

The potential punishment for a conviction for sale of a controlled substance depends several factors, which includes the schedule of the drug or drugs involved and whether the defendant has prior convictions for the sale of a controlled substance.

NRS 453.321(2): Schedule I and II Offenses

A first offense of sale of a Schedule I or II substance is a Category B felony. This felony carries a penalty of imprisonment for a minimum term of 1 year and a maximum term of no more than 6 years, and may also be fined up to $20,000 for each offense. Probation is available on first offenses.

If this is the person’s second offense of sale of a Schedule I or II substance, it is still a Category B felony. However, it carries a longer sentence of a minimum term of 2 years and a maximum term of no more than 10 years, and the person may also be fined up to $20,000 for each offense. Probation is not available.

If this is the person’s third or more offense of sale of a Schedule I or II substance, it is a still a Category B felony. However, it carries a penalty of imprisonment for a minimum term of 3 years and a maximum term of no more than 15 years, and the person may also be fined up to $20,000 for each offense. Probation is not available.

NRS 453.321(4): Schedule III, IV and V Offenses

A first offense of sale of a Schedule III, IV, or V substance is a Category C felony. This felony carries a penalty of imprisonment for a minimum term of 1 year and a maximum term of no more than 5 years, and may also be fined up to $10,000 for each offense. Probation is available on first offenses.

If this is the person’s second offense of sale of a Schedule III, IV, or V substance, it is a Category B felony. This felony carries a sentence of a minimum term of 2 years and a maximum term of no more than 10 years, and the person may also be fined up to $15,000 for each offense. Probation is not available.

If this is the person’s third or more offense of sale of a Schedule III, IV, or V substance, it is still a Category B felony. However, it carries a longer penalty of imprisonment for a minimum term of 3 years and a maximum term of no more than 15 years, and the person may also be fined up to $20,000 for each offense. Probation is not available.

NRS 453.334: Schedule I-V Offenses Involving a Minor

The age of the buyer is also an important factor in these types of cases. Selling or giving a controlled substance to a minor more than once is a violation of NRS 453.334. This is a Category A felony and is punishable either by life with the possibility of parole after having served a minimum of 5 years, for a definite term of 15 years with parole eligibility beginning once a minimum of 5 years has passed. The person may be further punished by a fine of $20,000 and may be responsible for paying restitution that covers the minor’s participation in drug treatment.

Other Related Charges

In certain instances, a defendant who provides a controlled substance to another person can be held criminally liable if that person is poisoned by or overdoses on the drug that was provided by the defendant.

NRS 453.3335: Failure to Render Aid or Seek Medical Attention Caused by Poisoning or Overdose

A defendant can be charged under NRS 453.3335 in certain circumstances if he fails to render aid or seek medical attention for a person who is being poisoned by or overdosing from drugs that were provided by the defendant while in the defendant’s presence.

NRS 453.333: Making Available a Controlled Substance Which Causes Death

A defendant can also be charged with murder under NRS 453.333 if the drugs that he sold or give to someone proximately caused that person’s death. The word “proximate” is a legal term meaning that the person’s death was both a natural and direct consequence of providing that person with the drug.

Defending Sale, Transport, or Distribution of a Controlled Substance

There are multiple defense strategies a good criminal defense attorney will employ when defending a case involving the sale, transport, or distribution of a controlled substance. Deciding which of these defense strategies to use depends largely on the particular facts of a person’s case.

For example, there may be constitutional issues in the case that would allow for the suppression of key evidence at trial, or there may be a strong argument that the defendant had a lack of knowledge as to the contents of a particular package. The right attorney will be able to spot these important issues and will be able to use this as leverage to either get your charges dismissed altogether in some instances or get the charges reduced to a lesser charge in other instances.

The choice of whether to negotiate a plea deal or go to trial is one that is made with the client only after weighing all the potential evidence and evaluating the likely outcomes. We will never force a client to take an unfavorable plea deal in order to avoid going to trial. We will work with you throughout the process so that you are fully informed of your options and able to make the best decision for your particular situation.

We have represented many individuals charged with the sale, transport, or distribution of a controlled substance in the Las Vegas area and throughout Southern Nevada. While these cases certainly have similarities, the facts of each case and the needs of each client are unique.

Call us today at (702) 710-8882 or contact us online for a free consultation so that we can discuss the specific facts of your case and get you the best outcome possible.

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Our attorney uses the experience she has with particular crimes, judges, and prosecutors to properly advise clients on realistic outcomes and to best anticipate possible strengths or weaknesses in their case. Having this experience allows us to read through fact patterns and quickly pick out all viable defenses that are most favorable to the client. For these reasons and more, we have achieved many favorable results in a wide range of practice areas.

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