Drug Possession Charges: Misdemeanors, Felonies and Penalties

Portland Maine drug possession attorneyAs a Maine drug possession attorney, I get a lot of questions about the elements of drug possession, the severity of the charge and the possible sentences. Drug possession in Maine can be a misdemeanor with a fine only, or a felony with a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison. It all depends on the kind of drug, the amount possessed and the defendant’s prior drug convictions. Use these links to skip to a section below:

  1. Elements of drug possession
  2. Maine drug classifications
  3. Misdemeanor drug possession
  4. Felony drug possession
  5. Marijuana possession
  6. Other consequences
  7. Drug possession defense

Elements of drug possession

To prove drug possession, the state must prove certain facts beyond all reasonable doubt. The four basic elements of drug possession in Maine are:

  1. The defendant intentionally or knowingly
  2. Possessed
  3. What they knew or believed to be a scheduled drug
  4. And the substance was in fact a scheduled drug

For some offenses, the State must prove additional elements:

  • That the drugs are a certain kind of drug
  • That the drugs are a certain weight
  • That the defendant has certain prior drug crime convictions

Note that drug possession in Maine has a state of mind requirement: The defendant must intentionally or knowingly possess the drug. If they are unaware of the drugs or do not think that the substance is a drug, they have a defense. If the prosecution fails to prove any one element, the defendant is not guilty of drug possession. Maine’s drug possession statute is found at 17-A §1107-A.

Maine’s classification of scheduled drugs

In Maine, drugs are divided into schedules W, X, Y, and Z.

  • Schedule W includes stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines; Opiates such as Methadone, Oxycodone and Heroin; some hallucinogens including LSD, MDMA, MDA and Barbiturates.
  • Schedule X includes some depressants; many hallucinogens including Mescaline, Psilocybin, DMT and Hashish; and some tranquilizers including Ketamine.
  • Schedule Y includes some sedative and hypnotic drugs; Phenobarbital, Codeine and Diazepam.
  • Schedule Z is the catch all category which includes all other prescription and non prescription drugs.

Misdemeanor drug possession

Possession of most Schedule W or X drugs is a Class D Misdemeanor with a minimum sentence of a $400 fine. Probation is not usually available for misdemeanors, but Maine law allows the sentence for possessing schedule W Drugs to include probation. Common class D drug possession crimes include:

  • Cocaine possession
  • Crack cocaine possession
  • LSD possession
  • MDMA or ecstasy possession
  • DMT Possession

Possession of a Schedule Y or Z drug is a Class E misdemeanor with a minimum $400 fine. Some common offenses include:

  • Prescription pill possession
  • Phenobarbital possession
  • Synthetic cannabis possession

Possession of any prescription medication can be a drug possession crime if:

  • The medication is not prescribed to the person possessing the drugs or,
  • The medications are not in a labeled prescription container

Maximum Sentences: Maine Misdemeanor Drug Possession

  • Class E Crime:  6 months in jail | $1000 in fines | Probation rarely
  • Class D Crime:  364 days in jail | $2000 in fines | Probation sometimes
  • This article details all misdemeanors where probation is possible

Felony drug possession for some drugs & amounts

Some drug possession crimes are always a class C felony in Maine. There is a $400 minimum fine, a maximum fine of $5000 and prison time of up to 5 years for:

  • Heroin possession
  • Oxycodone possession
  • Hydrocodone possession
  • Hydromorphone possession (Dilaudid)
  • Methamphetamine possession
  • Crack cocaine possession if the person has any prior drug conviction.

Felony drug possession for larger amounts

Possession of Schedule W drugs is normally a class D misdemeanor. Maine Law makes possession of larger amounts of some schedule W drugs a class B felony punishable by up to $20,000 in fines and 10 years in prison:

  • Cocaine possession of 14 grams or more
  • Crack cocaine possession of 4 grams of more
  • Methamphetamine possession of 14 grams or more

Maximum Sentences: Maine Felony Drug Possession

  • Class C Crime:     5 years in prison | 2 years of probation | $5000 in fines
  • Class B Crime:  10 years in prison | 3 years of probation | $20,000 in fines

Marijuana possession

Marijuana possession in Maine is normally a civil violation and not a crime, but possessing larger amounts can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime:

  • Marijuana possession up to 1.25 ounces: Civil violation $350 minimum fine
  • 1.25 to 2.5 ounces: Civil violation $700 minimum fine
  • 2.5 to 8 ounces: Class E misdemeanor crime
  • 8 to 16 ounces: Class D misdemeanor crime
  • 1 to 20 pounds: Class C felony crime
  • 20 pounds or more: Class B felony crime

Every drug crime has a mandatory $400 fine. Class E crimes have a 6 month maximum sentence, class D max is 364 days, class C maximum is 5 years, class B maximum is 10 years. You can read this post for for more on Maine criminal sentencingMaine’s medical Marijuana law permits qualified people to legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

Other drug possession consequences

Even a plea to a misdemeanor drug possession crime for a fine of $400 can have serious consequences:

  • Background check. A drug possession conviction will be on your criminal history for life. Maine has no expungement and no realistic way to remove the conviction.
  • Federal programs. A conviction may disqualify you from certain subsidies such as federal financial aid for students or federal housing assistance.
  • Federal Firearms Prohibition. Under federal law, anyone who is an “unlawful user or person addicted to a controlled substance” is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition. The U.S. Attorney can charge gun owners convicted of drug possession with a federal crime.
  • Future crimes. Any subsequent offense, especially a drug crime, will be treated more harshly and could be elevated to a felony.

Drug possession defense

Drug possession cases are not as open and shut as people think. Here are some of the issues a drug possession attorney needs to investigate:

  • Did police legally stop and detain the defendant?
  • Was the search for the drugs legal?
  • Was the police seizure of the drugs constitutional?
  • Was the defendant illegally arrested?
  • Can the State prove intentional, knowing possession?
  • Are other people potential owners of the drugs?
  • Were the drugs on the defendant or merely near them?
  • What evidence is there that the defendant knew it was drugs?
  • Does the laboratory analysis confirm an illegal drug?
  • Was proper lab analysis procedure followed?

The issues are very fact specific and each case is unique. Until an attorney reviews the case, there is no way to know what issues might be important to your case. Even a simple case can start to unravel once an experienced attorney begins investigating. Understand that pleading guilty guarantees a conviction, and that can’t be undone. Consulting with a lawyer will at least give you some understanding of the law, the facts and the potential outcomes.

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