Alabama primarily prosecutes three (3) misdemeanor drug offenses: Possession of Marijuana 2nd degree, Possession/Use of Drug Paraphernalia, and Illegal Possession of Prescription Medication. Each of the charges carry up to one year in jail, which may be suspended, and up to 2 years of probation, plus a fine of up to $6,000. However, there are also some significant differences in how these charges are prosecuted and how they can affect your daily life. Below, we have gone into more detail about each of these offenses and the sentences and sanctions you will face if convicted:
Posssession of Marijuana, 2nd degree
Marijuana is the only Schedule I substance in Alabama that has the possibility of being prosecuted as a misdemeanor for possession for personal use; possession of any other Schedule I substance, such as cocaine or heroin, cannot be charged with anything less than a felony.
If police find you in possession of marijuana, they will make a determination about your intended use of the substance. If law enforcement and a magistrate agree that your possession was for something other than your own personal use, the charge will be a felony 1st degree possession. If they agree that your possession was for your own personal use, then the charge will be misdemeanor 2nd degree possession. See Code of Alabama 1975 §13A-12-213 & 214.
Even though 2nd degree possession is only a misdemeanor, there are consequences similar to those for felony drug cases. First, if convicted, you will automatically lose your driver’s license privileges for a minimum of six (6) months on your first offense just like other drug cases. You will also likely have to participate in drug screening and rehabilitation through probation, just as you would on a felony drug case.
The biggest difference between possession of marijuana 2nd degree charges and the other misdemeanor drug offenses is that future charges of marijuana 2nd degree will automatically be charged as felonies if you have a previous misdemeanor marijuana conviction or guilty plea.
Possession/Use of Drug Paraphernalia
Drug paraphernalia can be described simply as any product or device that is used to assist in the consumption of a controlled substance. Examples include pipes, needles, and cigarette/rolling paper. Because this charge is a misdemeanor it still carries the same range of punishment with regards to jail time and probation as marijuana 2nd degree.
However, one key difference between misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia is that your license is not automatically suspended on a paraphernalia conviction. But, the judge can still order that your license be suspended if he or she feels that it is necessary. Additionally, future charges and convictions of drug paraphernalia charges are not automatically prosecuted as felonies if there are prior paraphernalia convictions on your record.
Possession of Prescription Medication
Prescription pills are widely used by folks every day in America and most of the time, they are being used legally and safely. However, there are occasions when people use these pills recreationally and without a valid prescription. If you are found in possession of a prescription pill without a valid prescription for the (1) correct substance, and (2) the correct dosage, law enforcement has an option to charge you with either felony possession of a controlled substance, or misdemeanor possession of prescription medication.
Many times, police will make a felony charge even if you are in possession of one single pill and cannot provide the up-to-date prescription. If you have a valid prescription, but do not have it with your medication when police confront you, simply contact a local attorney to assist with providing that information to the district attorney’s office. At that point, the case is almost always dismissed. Always, always, always, keep your prescription with the medication prescribed to avoid being charged.
If you are charged with a felony and you do NOT have a prescription, you will still need an attorney, but may be facing more serious consequences. There is a little-known section of the Alabama Code that makes possession of medication without a valid prescription a misdemeanor (Ala. Code §34-23-7), and on occasion, the prosecutor is willing to amend the felony charge to a misdemeanor. However, those occasions happen only when a small amount of medication is found and the defendant does not have a prior record of drug offenses.
Just like possession of paraphernalia, a conviction or plea on misdemeanor possession of prescription medication does not come with an automatic suspension of your driver’s license and there is no automatic felony prosecution for multiple offenses, however, the district attorney’s office will almost assuredly make a choice to keep the felony controlled substance charge rather than amending it down to a misdemeanor.
No matter whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor, drug charges can affect your daily life in significant ways. Do not hesitate to contact our experienced Huntsville criminal defense attorneys to go over your drug related charges as soon as possible so that you can be immediately informed about all of your options.