North Dakota Drug Crime Defense Lawyers
Defending Your Rights, Freedom, Reputation, and Future
The prospect of facing drug charges in North Dakota can be daunting because the penalties can include imprisonment, stiff fines, probation, and other sentencing terms. Aside from the impact of these forms of punishment, the consequences of a conviction of a narcotics charge can last long after you have served the formal terms of your sentence. A drug conviction can interfere with college loans, job prospects, promotions, occupational/professional licensing, immigration rights, and more.
Criminal Defense of Drug Crimes in North Dakota
Our North Dakota drug crime defense attorneys at Sand Law, PLLC have offices conveniently located throughout North Dakota to serve clients statewide, including locations in Bismarck, Minot, Williston, and Watford City. We provide effective representation in plea negotiations and criminal proceedings with the goal of keeping you out of jail or prison and preserving your standing in the community. Even if the prosecutor has a compelling case and strong evidence, we work diligently to obtain the best resolution in your case by engaging in a thorough analysis of discovery materials, which include witness statements, crime lab evidence, police reports, audio-video evidence, and more.
Although we engage in negotiations of potential plea agreements with the prosecutor, our attorneys are litigators and prepare our cases for trial. We take this approach so that prosecutors know we will not hesitate to force the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Our objective is to obtain the best possible outcome for you whether that entails a plea agreement, dismissal of the charges prior to trial, or a victory at trial.
While the consequences of narcotics conviction can be harsh, our thorough analysis of evidence, law enforcement procedures, forensic testing, and witness statements enables us to identify effective defense strategies that might include the following issues:
- Unlawful search and seizure of your vehicle, home, person, or workplace
- Miranda violations or compelled confessions
- Dishonest, biased, or unreliable witnesses
- Other forms of law enforcement misconduct
- Insufficient evidence to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt
The charged offense, underlying facts, and circumstances of the cases might justify other defenses.
Why Clients Trust Sand Law to Protect Their Future
The attorneys that comprise our law firm are dedicated litigators committed to fighting for individuals facing the virtually unlimited resources and power of the government. Our clients retain us to handle cases ranging from misdemeanors to serious felonies at all stages of criminal proceedings. Sand Law, PLLC has earned a reputation for aggressive and effective defense of the rights of our clients as evidenced by a wide array of awards, reviews, and honors, such as:
- Highest 5-Star Ratings from Former Clients on Numerous Internet Sites and Legal Portals (Google Reviews, AVVO, Martindale.com, Lawyers.com, and more)
- Cumulative 4.9 Rating (5.0 Scale) from Client Reviews on Facebook
- AVVO’s Highest Superb Rating 10.0 (10.0 Scale) for Managing Partner William Sand
- 100% Excellent AVVO Average Client Review
- Martindale Hubbell 4.9 Rating (5.0 Scale) Based on Peer Review
- Recognition as “Rising Stars” by Super Lawyers
Drug Classifications under North Dakota and Federal Criminal Laws
The penalties for drug offenses like simple possession, possession with intent to deliver, manufacturing, sales, and cultivation can vary significantly based on the controlled substance (CS) at issue, the CS quantity, the offender’s criminal history, and other factors. Drugs are classified into five distinct Schedules under both North Dakota and federal law. Schedule I includes drugs considered to pose a high risk of abuse with no acceptable medical use. Schedule V drugs are on the other end of the spectrum with a minimal risk of addiction and some medical benefits. Examples of Schedule I-V drugs that are unlawful to possess without a lawful prescription are provided below.
- Marijuana (See below as possession of small amounts of marijuana have been “decriminalized” in North Dakota effective 8/1/2019 though they are still illegal under federal law)
- Anabolic Steroids
- (Some) Pain medications
- Certain drugs with a small amount of a narcotic
Simple Possession in North Dakota
Controlled Substances (Excluding Marijuana)
North Dakota state law makes it illegal to possess unlawful controlled substances like cocaine, LSD, opiates, and methamphetamine. This prohibition includes precursors used for the manufacture and cultivation of illegal controlled substances, as well as paraphernalia for the use of these drugs. While N.D. Cent. Code Section 19.03.1-23 (effective 8/1/19) makes a first offense of possession of a controlled substance a conviction punishable as a Class A misdemeanor, subsequent convictions constitute a Class C Felony. If the offense is committed within 1,000 feet of a school, the offense will be charged as a Class B Felony.
Punishment (Controlled Substances Excluding Marijuana)
- Class A Misdemeanor (1st offense simple possession of a controlled substance): Maximum up to 1 year of incarceration and/or fine of $3,000
- Class C Felony (Subsequent offenses of simple possession of a controlled substance): Maximum up to 5 years of incarceration and/or a $5,000 fine
- Class B Felony (Possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school): Maximum up to 10 years of incarceration and/or a $10,000 fine
Although North Dakota has a medical marijuana law and has “decriminalized” possession of a small amount of marijuana effective 8/1/19, marijuana possession remains a criminal offense under federal law. Despite some misconceptions, non-medicinal use of marijuana has not been “legalized” within our state though possession of less than ½ ounce constitutes an infraction that will not result in jail time. Possession of a greater amount of marijuana constitutes a misdemeanor or felony drug possession depending on the amount:
½ ounce – 500 grams: Class B Misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of up to 30 days incarceration and/or $1,500
More than 500 grams: Class A Misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of up to 1-year incarceration and/or $3,000 fine
[See N.D. Cent. Code § 19-03.1-23 Effective 8/1/19]
Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute
The offense of possession with intent to deliver or distribute amounts to a much more serious criminal offense carrying harsher penalties. Generally, intent to distribute (also known as intent to deliver or intent to sell) will be charged as a felony based on a large enough quantity of the controlled substance or other evidence indicating an intent to distribute, such as large amounts of cash, scales, paraphernalia, and/or packaging materials. A conviction with intent to distribute constitutes a Class B Felony when the controlled substance involves most Schedule I, II, or III drugs. Schedule IV drugs involve exposure to a Class C Felony while possession of Schedule V drugs constitute a Class A Misdemeanor. [See N.D. Cent. Code § 19-03.1-23 Effective 8/1/19]. The criminal offense of intent to distribute is a serious crime that can result in a lengthy term of imprisonment and substantial fines for even a first offense. For example, a first conviction of possession with intent to distribute heroin can result in a penalty of up to 10 years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia to Use or Store Drugs [N.D. Cent. Code § 19-03.4-03 Effective 8/1/19]
Schedule I, II, and III Drug Paraphernalia
Many people charged with drug crimes also will face charges of possession of drug paraphernalia charges. Individuals charged with this offense should seek legal advice immediately because the law in this area is both complex and relatively ambiguous. North Dakota defines paraphernalia essentially to include any materials, products, or equipment that are used or intended for using or creating a certain drug. However, many innocent objects can be considered paraphernalia like tin foil, food scales, baggies, and cash.
Because the state legislature recognized that the statute is both vague and broad, it has amended the statute to include 13 categories of items. Since even this specification was too vague, the legislature then added a lengthy list of guidelines to use when evaluating the categories. The bottom line is that these struggles in providing a clear definition of paraphernalia create a lot of room for reasonable doubt, especially if the alleged offending material does not have drug residue and was not found near a controlled substance.
Until recently, you could be charged with a felony, but possession of paraphernalia to use a Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance (other than marijuana) is now charged as a Class A Misdemeanor. However, subsequent offenses can be charged as a Class C Felony.
Possession of Paraphernalia to Use Marijuana
When the paraphernalia is for the use or storage of marijuana, a first offense (beginning in August of 2019) constitutes an infraction subject to a fine but not jail time. However, repeat convictions can result in jail time depending on the specific circumstances.
Special Note Regarding Federal Drug Charges
If you are arrested for possession of a large quantity of a controlled substance, you could face federal charges related to drug trafficking. While a criminal prosecution related to drug charges is never a welcome experience, federal charges pose an especially perilous situation. Federal cases do not offer the same opportunities for lenient sentencing, diversion, and probation. Federal prosecutors also tend to be exceptionally skilled and served by powerful federal investigative agencies like the FBI, DOJ, DEA, and others with sophisticated law enforcement tools and technology at their disposal.
Although recent reforms have eased the hardships imposed by the federal sentencing guidelines and their mandatory minimum penalties, sentencing in federal courts continues to be much harsher than most state court cases. It is even possible to be charged with both state and federal charges. If you have been charged with a federal drug crime, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney with experience fighting drug charges in federal court.
Defense Strategies to Possession and Possession with Intent
While the defenses discussed above might be available regardless of the charged drug crime, some specific defenses we might use if you are charged with simple drug possession charges and/or possession with intent include the following:
> Medical Use: This defense pertains to marijuana-related charges, and successful use of this defense can be tricky if you do not have a medical marijuana card. Sometimes we can effectively use this defense under these circumstances if you have a condition that medical studies have revealed can be effective for patients afflicted with certain health issues. The offense may also be applicable for substances such as Xanax if defendant is able to produce a valid prescription.
> Contesting Ownership: While this is the most common defense in possession cases, the prosecutor can pursue charges even when you do not have the drugs on your person. The government often argues that you had “constructive possession” if you had control over the drugs or the location where the drugs were located, such as your home, vehicle or bedroom. If you are facing this situation, your best option is to refuse consent to a search and exercise your right to remain silent until you can speak to an experienced attorney.
> Malicious Intent: If you have no idea how the drugs came into your possession, you might have a defense that the drugs were planted by someone with malicious intent. Although this defense can be difficult to prove, documents or witnesses might be uncovered after a thorough investigation.
Our North Dakota narcotics offense attorneys offer a fierce defense of the rights of those charged with drug crimes in cities and counties throughout North Dakota that include but are not limited to the following:
- Watford City
- Burleigh County
- McKenzie County
- Ward County
- Williams County
- Morton County
- Dunn County
- Stark County
- Mountrail County
If you or a family member has been charged with a drug crime or you have learned that you are the target of an investigation, we invite you to speak to one of our experienced and zealous drug offense lawyers at Sand Law, PLLC. We have the expertise, experience, resources, and proven results to fight for the best resolution of your case. Call us today at 701-609-1510 or email us for a free consultation.