Las Vegas' Choice For Criminal Defense
Available 24/7
Call for a Free Consultation (702) 710-8882
Se Habla Espanol (702) 766-6003
Facing Criminal Charges? Let Our Team of Legal Professionals Fight For You

Possession of Controlled Substances in Las Vegas

Call Ferris law at (702) 710-8882 if you are facing controlled substance charges

Possession of a controlled substance, which is oftentimes abbreviated as PCS or POSS SCH I, II C/S, is a very common charge in Las Vegas. Somewhat obviously, this offense includes the possession of various street drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, LSD, and many others, but also includes prescription drugs like Xanax, OxyContin, Adderall, or Vyvanse if the person in possession of the prescribed drug does not have a valid prescription.

In addition to the nearly 3 million local residents, Las Vegas also hosts over 42 million tourists each year, many of whom come here looking to let loose and have a good time, which oftentimes involves the possession and use of various illegal drugs. Many people make the mistake of trying to bring those drugs into places such as nightclubs or hotel pools, which is where they run into issues. The security guards for these establishments search everyone before allowing them entry, which is how they find the drugs. Security then detains the person while they call the police and the person is then arrested for possession of a controlled substance. Other times a person comes into contact with the police for a reason unrelated to the controlled substance and officers find the controlled substance during a search of the person, their belongings or their vehicle.

The crime of possession of a controlled substance is a felony offense. This is true even for a first-time offender. The specific category of felony and corresponding punishment depends entirely on the type of drug and the quantity as well as whether the person has any prior convictions for the same offense. If you or someone you care about has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, please read below for more information on the elements of the charge and the potential penalties.

Nevada's Definition of Possession of a Controlled Substance

As defined by NRS 453.336, the crime of possession of a controlled substance occurs when a person is knowingly or intentionally in actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance without a valid prescription for said substance.

The category of felony that a person will be charged with and corresponding potential penalties are determined by three different factors:

  1. Whether the person has prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance;
  2. The amount of the drug, which is weighed and recorded in grams; and
  3. The type of drug involved

Read below to learn more about how Nevada defines controlled substances and the various "schedules" that these substances fall into.

If you have been charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance in Las Vegas, contact our experienced attorney at Ferris Law today!

What Qualifies as a Controlled Substance?

What determines what “schedule” a controlled substance belongs to? Drug schedules were created in 1970 by Congress as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The legislation created five schedules. Congress created the original list of drugs on each of the fives schedules, but primarily it is the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who currently determine which substances are added to or removed from which schedules. The rationale behind placing any given substance into a particular schedule is based on the substance’s “potential for abuse” and whether the substance has any known legitimate medical uses.

In Nevada, scheduling of drugs is determined by the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy (the Board), and a specific list is maintained in Chapter 453 of the Nevada Administrative Code, which is based on the classifications previously created by the federal government.

There are five different "schedules" of drugs, however, for the purposes of the charge of possession of a controlled substance, only the first two schedules matter. A "schedule" is really just a list of drugs. When determining which schedule a particular drug belongs to, the Board 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. Nevada has adopted the federal Controlled Substances Act, which it uses when determining how to classify various drugs.

Read below to learn about the specific drug schedules and included drug types

  • Schedule I – These drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical use. Doctors cannot write prescriptions for these substances.

Examples of Schedule I drugs include Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Marijuana, Mescaline, MDMA (Ecstasy), LSD, DMT, GHB, Quaaludes, and psychedelic mushrooms.

  • Schedule II – These drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse and have some accepted medical use. They are also considered to be severely physically and psychologically addictive when abused. These substances can be prescribed by doctors, but often only under limited circumstances.

Examples of Schedule II drugs include PCP, doctor-prescribed Cocaine, Oxycodone, Morphine, Opium, Demerol, doctor-prescribed Methamphetamine, Adderall, and Vyvanse.

  • Schedule III – These drugs that have a potential for abuse that is less than that of substances listed in Schedules I and II and have accepted medical use. When abused, physical dependence is moderate to low but psychological dependence can still be high. Like Schedule II drugs, these substances can also be prescribed by doctors.

Examples of Schedule III drugs include anabolic steroids, Ketamine and Marinol.

  • Schedule IV – These drugs have a low potential for abuse and have accepted medical use. When abused, physical dependence is limited and psychological dependence is limited relative to that of Schedule III substances. Like Schedule III drugs, these substances can also be prescribed by doctors.

Examples of Schedule IV drugs include Soma, Tramadol, and benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, and Valium.

  • Schedule V – These drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV drugs and have accepted medical use. When abused, physical dependence is limited and psychological dependence is limited relative to that of Schedule IV substances. Like Schedule IV drugs, these substances can also be prescribed by doctors.

Examples of Schedule V drugs would include cough suppressants that contain small amounts of codeine.

Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance

As stated previously, a person who is in possession of a controlled substance could be charged with anything from a category E felony, which carries mandatory probation and a diversionary program for first-time offenders, to a category B felony that carries a potential prison term of 2 to 15 years. The only real differences between these offenses are the type and amount of drugs involved and whether the person has prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance.

With the exception of marijuana and concentrated cannabis, which require much larger amounts, if the weight of the schedule I/II drug is over 100 grams, then the person would be charged with trafficking in a controlled substance instead of possession of a controlled substance. Please read our page on Drug Trafficking for more information on that particular charge.

Read below to learn about the specific punishments for possession of a controlled substance, which is based on prior convictions, drug schedule and drug quantity

  • Schedule I or II Drug Possession

First or Second Offense

Less than 14 Grams – Category E Felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 1 year and maximum of 4 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $5,000.00, but with probation being mandatory as versus discretionary, which includes participation in a deferral program where the case is dismissed upon successful completion of said program.

Third or Greater Offense

Less than 14 Grams – Category D Felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 1 year and maximum of 4 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $20,000.00. The charge is probationable.

Prior Convictions Irrelevant

Greater than 14 Grams but Less than 28 Grams (Low-Level Possession of a Controlled Substance) – Category C Felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 1 year and maximum of 10 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $10,000.00. The charge is probationable.

Greater than 28 Grams but Less than 42 Grams (Mid-Level Possession of a Controlled Substance) – Category B felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 1 year and maximum of 10 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $50,000.00. The charge is probationable.

Greater than 42 Grams but Less than 100 Grams (High-Level Possession of a Controlled Substance) – Category B Felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 2 years and maximum of 15 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $50,000.00. The charge is probationable.

  • Schedule III, IV or V Drug Possession

First or Second Offense

Less than 28 Grams Category E Felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 1 year and maximum of 4 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $5,000.00, but with probation being mandatory as versus discretionary, which includes participation in a deferral program where the case is dismissed upon successful completion of said program.

Third or Greater Offense

Less than 28 Grams – Category D Felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 1 year and maximum of 4 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $5,000.00. The charge is probationable.

Prior Convictions Irrelevant

Greater than 28 Grams but Less than 200 Grams (Low-Level Possession of a Controlled Substance) – Category C Felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 1 years and maximum of 5 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $10,000.00. The charge is probationable.

Greater than 200 Grams (Mid-Level Possession of a Controlled Substance) - Category B Felony: Carries a sentence of a minimum of 1 years and maximum of 10 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and a fine not more than $50,000.00. The charge is probationable.

NOTE REGARDING MARIJUANA POSSESSION: Pursuant to NRS 453D.110, persons over the age of 21 are now legally allowed to possess less than one ounce of marijuana under Nevada law. There are, however, restrictions regarding where a person can be in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana (e.g. not allowed in jails, prisons or schools). Additionally, it is still illegal to consume marijuana in public.

People over 21 are also allowed to possess as many as 6 marijuana plants for personal use so long as the area is enclosed and equipped with a lock or other security device. There is, however, a 12-plant limit per household irrespective of the amount of persons who occupy the residence.

While possession of less than an ounce of marijuana may be now be legal under state law, it is still wholly illegal to possess any amount of marijuana under federal law. While the likelihood of the federal government prosecuting people is low, it is certainly not impossible. It is also still illegal for people under 21 to possess any amount of marijuana.

Defending Possession of a Controlled Substance Charges

If the prosecutor can't prove that you possessed the drugs in question, you can't be convicted. Possession can be either actual or constructive. Actual means the drugs are on your body somewhere, whereas "constructive possession" means you exercised dominion and control over the controlled substance. If drugs are found in your bedroom or in your car, for instance, you could be charged based on a theory of constructive possession. One type of constructive possession is "joint possession," which means that more than one person can be in "possession" of drugs at a given time. This is used frequently to charge multiple people in a house or a car with drug possession. At any rate, if you were not aware that drugs were in your car or house, you can't be in constructive possession of those drugs because you lacked knowledge of the drugs’ existence.

The defense may also focus on drug quantity or type. As explained above, the category of felony and corresponding punishment depends on the quantity and type of drug. But sometimes the prosecutor may have difficulty in proving that the drugs were actually the amount or type alleged in the criminal complaint or indictment.

As with any criminal charge, the prosecutor must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard. Even when the evidence against you is strong, in many instances, a criminal defense attorney can successfully negotiate your case to avoid prison time or other harsh criminal penalties. If you have been charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance, you should seek the help of a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer to help you with your case.

We have helped many people charged with possession of a controlled substance both in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County, Nevada. If you have been charged with this crime, call attorney Jennifer Ferris at Ferris Law at (702) 710-8882 and we'll talk about the specific facts of your case. Consultations are free.

  • Case Dismissed Robbery with a Deadly Weapon
  • Case Dismissed Charged with Battery with Use of a Deadly Weapon Resulting in Substantial Bodily Harm
  • Case dismissed Charged with Battery with Use of a Deadly Weapon Resulting in Substantial Bodily Harm
  • Case Dismissed Charged with Malicious Destruction of Private Property
  • Case Dismissed Battery Domestic Violence
  • Reduced to Misdemeanor Charged with Home Invasion
  • Reduced to Misdemeanor Charged with Battery with Use of a Deadly Weapon
  • Reduced to Battery Charged with Attempt Murder with a Deadly Weapon