18 Sep 23

21 U.S.C. § 844 – Simple possession of controlled substance

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Last Updated on: 29th September 2023, 12:46 pm


21 U.S.C. § 844 – Simple Possession of Controlled Substance

21 U.S.C. § 844 is a federal statute that makes it illegal for any person to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine, unless the substance was obtained legally with a valid prescription. This law carries penalties like fines or jail time for simple possession of illegal drugs – even small amounts for personal use. Let’s break it down and see what it really means.

What Does the Law Say?

The main text of 21 U.S.C. § 844(a) states:

It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless such substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter.

In plain English, this means it’s illegal to possess drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, and others listed in the Controlled Substances Act unless you have a prescription for it from a doctor or dentist acting properly as a medical professional. No sneaking around just to get high!

There are some exceptions, like drugs used in research or given out by authorized medical practitioners. But in general, you can’t just walk around with illegal drugs in your pocket, even small amounts for personal use. That’s what this law is all about.

What Drugs Are Covered?

Section 844 covers all controlled substances listed in Schedules I-V of the Controlled Substances Act. This includes many common illegal street drugs like:

  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • MDMA (Ecstasy)
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • And more…

So pretty much all the fun stuff, unfortunately. Even drugs like medicinal marijuana or prescription painkillers are covered if you don’t have a valid reason for possessing them.

What Are the Penalties?

Now for the bad news: getting caught with any of these drugs can lead to fines or jail time. The penalties under 21 U.S.C. § 844 depend on a few factors:

  • Type of drug
  • Amount possessed
  • Your criminal history

For simple possession of a controlled substance in any amount, it’s a federal misdemeanor punishable by:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • A minimum $1,000 fine
  • Or both

Harsher penalties like felony charges can apply for possession of larger amounts, certain drugs like crack cocaine, or if you have prior drug convictions.

Some key things to know:

  • Second offense simple possession can lead to double penalties
  • Third offense can mean up to 3 years in prison
  • Possession of flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) is punishable by 3 years in prison
  • Crack cocaine triggers harsher penalties than powder cocaine
  • Amounts over 5 grams of meth, 50 grams of crack, or 100 grams of heroin become felonies

As you can see, the punishments quickly escalate for repeat offenders or serious drug crimes. Even a small amount can ruin your life with a permanent criminal record.

What About State Laws?

Section 844 only covers federal charges for drug possession. Many states also have their own laws prohibiting controlled substance possession that may have additional penalties. For example, under Texas state law, possession of less than a gram of drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and others is a state jail felony.

So you could face both federal and state charges at the same time for simple drug possession! That means double fines, probation periods, and other consequences. Yikes.

What Defenses Work?

If you do get charged under 21 U.S.C. § 844, having a good defense lawyer can help avoid harsh penalties. Some potential defenses to explore include:

  • Lack of knowledge – Argue you didn’t knowingly possess the drugs
  • No possession – Claim the drugs belonged to someone else
  • Illegal search – Challenge how the drugs were discovered
  • Medical use – Explain you had a valid prescription

An experienced federal drug crimes lawyer can evaluate the details of your case and decide the best defense strategy. But your chances are much better if you have legal representation.

What About First-Time Offenders?

Many people charged under 21 U.S.C. §.

However, first-time simple possession may qualify for a deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion program. This gives you a chance to avoid conviction through completing drug education classes, probation, community service and staying clean.

Federal diversion programs like Drug Court or options like The First Step Act provide alternatives to incarceration for some first-time, nonviolent drug offenders. An experienced lawyer can advise if you qualify.

Don’t Panic, Get a Lawyer

Being charged with any crime is scary, let alone a federal drug offense. But don’t panic! With an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer on your side, you can build the strongest case possible and aim for the best outcome.

Your lawyer can argue to get charges dismissed or reduced, pursue alternatives to conviction, and make sure your rights are protected every step of the way. Don’t leave your fate to chance. The costs of a conviction are too steep.

The war on drugs has taken enough casualties. With compassion and hard work, you can move past this mistake. Know your rights, understand the law, and fight for the future you deserve. We’re all human, after all.