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What to Understand After Being Charged for First-Time Drug Possession

Being charged with first-time drug possession in Missouri is serious because Missouri is one of the stricter drug law states. Based on the work of various advocacy groups, penalties for first-time non-violent drug possession charges may not necessarily have long-lasting effects.

Marijuana vs. other controlled substances

The laws for possession of marijuana differ from other drugs, which are considered class D felony drugs. For example, possession of fewer than 35 grams of marijuana (or comparable synthetic) remains a misdemeanor in Missouri. However, if found in possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana, the possession charge can become a class D felony as well. 

Penalties for drug possession

For a first-time offender, the applicable penalty usually depends on which drug is found in their possession. First-time offenders possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana will often not face jail time but might be forced to pay up to $500 in legal penalties.

If possession exceeds 10 grams, jail time becomes a possibility, with first-time offenders facing up to one year of jail time in addition to $2,000 in fines. As indicated above, 35 grams is the threshold limit because then possession becomes a class C felony, with incarceration having a high possibility. While first-time offenders typically do not receive the maximum sentence, the maximum sentence for a class C felony is seven years in prison. 

Treatment vs. incarceration

Fortunately, judges offer many first-time offenders the opportunity to complete a drug treatment program, which might allow them to completely avoid jail time. However, this possible offer is only available to non-violent first-time offenders, who either have been charged with possession or have a pre-existing drug addiction leading to their arrest.

During the drug treatment program, participants not only must submit to randomized drug screening, but they must also attend counseling, participate in job training and other vocational programs, and attend all scheduled appearances in court.  Participants who complete the entire program without violating any of the aforementioned rules may completely avoid jail time.

While this is obviously the preferred choice for first-time offenders because it completely avoids incarceration, the court is not obligated to offer this option of entering the treatment program, and may only feel obligated to depending on the circumstances of the case. 

Drug possession is the most frequently litigated issue for possession charges

Missouri State must prove that the person charged consciously and intentionally possessed the drug substance. In other words, Missouri must prove that the person knew the substance was actually a drug of some kind. To prove possession, Missouri must prove the possessor knew about the drug’s presence, the drug’s nature, and has actual or constructive possession of the drug.

Actual possession means on your person or within reach and control. In contrast, constructive possession means direct or indirect control or ownership over the drug. Overall, this means that trace amounts of drug possession may not qualify for a drug possession charge. 

Conclusion

Due to the strict laws, it is important to understand the various requirements, penalties, and legal issues complicating first-time drug possession. Knowledge of the key legal issues for drug possession in a strict state is never a bad thing and is fairly simple when distilled into three overarching areas: the type of drug and its amount, the possible legal penalties, and how to avoid all of that.

Call (417) 865-2181 to schedule a consultation with Dean Price Law in our Springfield office.

NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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