Spokane Drug Possession Lawyer

The state of Washington has some of the strictest and toughest drug laws in the country. In fact, the majority of drug offenses are felonies. Some would find that hard to believe, considering the fact that the use of marijuana [both recreational and medical] has been legalized in the state.

But the truth is, even though the use of marijuana is legal to an extent, other drugs are not. You could go to jail, pay thousands of dollars in fines and have your public record tainted for the rest of your life if you happen to be convicted of any drug related offenses.

Under Washington state laws, drug related offenses are considered to be a violation of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act (VUCSA). These offenses include Possession, Distribution, and the Manufacture of Controlled Substances. Controlled Substance refers to illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, marijuana, steroids, methadone, amphetamines, etc. Prescription drugs, when not prescribed to the person in possession of it, are also a violation of VUCSA.

Felony or Misdemeanor: Which Will You Be Charged With?

As mentioned earlier, most drug related offenses are classified as felonies. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) defines what a crime is and provides the sentencing guidelines for their punishment.

Under the RCW, crimes are divided into three categories: misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felonies. Misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors are less serious offenses. Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious crimes and are categorized into classes A, B, and C in descending order of seriousness.

Whether you will be charged with felony or misdemeanor depends on several factors. These factors include:

  • The type and amount of drug found on you
  • Whether your intent was to use or sell the drugs found on you
  • Your criminal history [for example, a past DUI]
  • Whether or not a firearm was found in your possession
  • If you are an adult or juvenile
  • Whether the case is in state or federal court

There is a thin line between being charged for a felony drug offense and a misdemeanor drug offense. For example, the possession of any controlled substance, or over 40 grams [1 oz] of marijuana, is an automatic felony charge punishable with jail time.

This is one of the major reasons why state and federal prisons are filled with nonviolent people charged with drug related offenses, according to a recent report released by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice.

Penalties for Drug Possession Charges

The penalties for drug related crimes in Washington are very strict and the possibility of jail time is still very high.

Although there have been a few changes to the legalization of marijuana in the state, the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is not a crime under Initiative 502. However, being caught with anything over that is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The actual penalties for Washington State drug-related crimes are outlined in RCW 69.50 – (Uniform Controlled Substances Act) and they can be very complicated. Ultimately, the sentence will be decided by a judge who will take your criminal record [if any], the circumstances surrounding the case and the prosecutor’s sentence recommendation into account. That is why it is imperative that you contact an experienced drug crimes attorney to handle your case immediately.

Normally, the RCW lists the maximum sentences for grades of crimes in terms of fines and jail term. They are:

  • Misdemeanors: Maximum of 90 days in jail and/or fines of $1,000
  • Gross Misdemeanors: Maximum of 90 days 1 year in jail and/or fines of $5,000.
  • Class C Felonies: Maximum of 5 years in prison and/or fines of $10,000
  • Class B Felonies: Maximum of 10 years in prison and/or fines of $20,000
  • Class A Felonies: Life in prison and/or fines of $50,000

But when it relates to drug charges, Washington law also has a sentencing grid [listed under RCW 9.94A.517] that is used for helping to determine the correct amount on incarceration to sentence.

Penalties and Sentencing for Washington Misdemeanor Drug Crimes:

You will be charged with a misdemeanor if you are found to be in possession of fewer than 40 grams of Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia and it is punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1000.00 fine. A mandatory minimum sentence of 1 day in jail and a $250.00 fine for first offenses is required as well.

Note – For individuals under the age of 21 who are convicted of misdemeanor drug crime, there is an additional penalty of a 1-year driver’s license revocation.

Penalties and Sentencing for Washington Felony VUCSA Crimes:

As we mentioned earlier, felonies are more serious and therefore carry much stricter sentencing that misdemeanors. They range from class A felonies [the most serious] to class C felonies [the least serious].

The exact penalties are determined by the Sentencing Reform Act, RCW 9.94A, and the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines.

These guidelines provide a formula the judges will use to calculate the amount of jail time you will receive based on your criminal history and the seriousness of the crime.

Defending Controlled Substances Charges

Just because drug charges are usually classified as a felony doesn’t mean a good drug offense attorney can’t defend your rights and get your case either dismissed or reduced.

Most times, evidence gathered from a drug arrest was done improperly. A good defense attorney can argue that all the evidence [including the drugs and paraphernalia] relating to your case is inadmissible and therefore should be suppressed.

Examples of common defenses are:

  • The evidence was obtained during illegal search and seizure.
  • You were lured into committing the crime that you normally wouldn’t commit (for example by an undercover officer).
  • That probable cause to search you, your vehicle or home was not established or based on racial stereotyping.
  • The search warrant used was either obtained or used illegally.
  • The evidence used against you was obtained by police informants (who are known to lack credibility or have ulterior motives).

Drug Possession Jail Alternatives

There are times when the evidence is so compelling that it would be easy to give up hope. But the truth is, it is not over until the very end. And when it comes to matters like these, there is always a way out.

There are several options for avoiding incarceration, such as –

DOSA: This refers to the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative and it is a program designed to help reduce jail time by up to 50%.

First Time Offender Waiver: This program was specifically developed for first-time felony offenders. The program allows you to complete things like community service and drug treatment instead of going to prison.

Probation: This is the most common alternative to jail time. It allows you to serve your sentence in the community and under the supervision of a probation officer.

Diversion Program: This program allows you to complete a term of supervision while in the community. If the term is successfully completed without any incidents, the charges against you might be dropped completely.

Contact an Experienced Spokane Drug Possession Lawyer

Anyone can make a mistake. But it isn’t fair for that mistake to ruin your life and your career. Having a drug conviction on your record can affect you for years to come.

If you get arrested and charged for any drug related offense, your first line of defense is to contact an attorney with a proven track record of getting VUCSA cases either dismissed or greatly reduced. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.