I was arrested for possession of marijuana in North Carolina. What are my options?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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You have two general options in most criminal cases, including charges for possession of marijuana, in North Carolina. Your first option is to enter a plea bargain and negotiate the smallest possible sentence. Your second option is to contest the charges.

Entering a Plea Bargain on Marijuana Possession Charges

Before entering a plea bargain you should be aware of the programs available in North Carolina. If you are a first time offender in North Carolina, you generally have better options. Many counties in North Carolina allow first time offenders to participate in a conditional release program.

A conditional release program usually involves drug awareness classes and drug rehab for any marijuana addiction issues. If you successfully complete your program requirements, your arrest will not appear on your record. But, if you have an extensive history, especially for other drug related charges, including the intent to distribute, you may need to consider contesting the charges.

Contesting Marijuana Possession Charges

Many people directly challenge whether the state has enough evidence to prove they were possessing marijuana. Other defendants choose an indirect approach by challenging the basis of the search or the stop. Before you finalize your decision, you should review the facts of your arrest for marijuana possession with a North Carolina drug attorney. An experienced drug attorney or criminal attorney can review your options and all of the collateral consequences related to those options.

A direct challenge to a marijuana arrest in North Carolina involves asking a judge or jury to decide whether the state has enough evidence to convict you of marijuana possession. If the marijuana was found in the pocket of your clothes, you probably won’t have much luck with this option. However, if the marijuana was not found on your person, but rather in a common area that several people had access to, you may be able to successfully challenge the link between yourself and the marijuana. Essentially, you attack the circumstantial nature of the state’s evidence of marijuana possession.

An indirect challenge to a marijuana arrest in North Carolina involves asking a judge to throw out evidence because it was seized illegally. This is the most frequent type of attack on marijuana arrests. For example, if the police conducted a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion, and then searched your car without probable cause, you may be successful in getting a court to rule in your favor. If the evidence against you is suppressed, or thrown out, then the state must to dismiss the marijuana possession charges against you. Search and seizure laws are state specific. The rulings of appellate courts in North Carolina will affect whether you can win a motion to suppress.

Getting Help

Do not wait until your first court date to start looking for a North Carolina drug attorney. The sooner you find a criminal attorney, the sooner the attorney can begin damage control by making sure evidence in your favor is preserved or by getting you into programs that will result in a more favorable plea bargain. 

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