SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY DRUG CRIME LAWYER
Any type of drug offense in Louisiana is taken very seriously, and those accused or charged with such a crime should not take the situation lightly. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, drug crimes can be charged as misdemeanor or even felony offenses and leave a permanent stain on your record and reputation. If you’ve been charged with a drug offense, it is in your best interest to obtain qualified legal help as soon as possible.
Luckily, the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael J. Vergis have handled all kinds of Federal, State, and City drug charges and narcotic cases. Whether you were charged with manufacturing, distribution, possession, possession with intent, or obtaining by fraud, Attorney Michael J. Vergis can represent you in your criminal case and fight for the most favorable outcome for your case. For unparalleled criminal defense representation in the Shreveport-Bossier City area, give our law office a call at (318) 698-3724 or reach out to us online today.
Drug Charges in Louisiana
The state of Louisiana possesses some of the toughest drug possession laws in the United States. In fact, drug crimes are one of the most – if not the single most – common crimes for which people are convicted in prisons and jails in Louisiana. 1 out of every 10 arrests made is a due to a drug or drug-related crime. That’s well over a million drug arrests in Louisiana per year.
Even the smallest amount of any illegal substance can leave a permanent mark on your criminal record.
Your criminal record is public, meaning that having these charges can affect your ability to buy a home, get a job, receive a loan, and much more. That, along with many other reasons, is why it is so imperative that you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help minimize the damage that a drug charge can cause.
Common Drug Offenses in Louisiana
There are a number of different charges one may face for a drug-related offense depending on the facts of the case. Some of the most common drug offenses in Louisiana include simple possession, possession with intent to distribute, possession of paraphernalia or manufacturing supplies, distribution, trafficking, and obtaining drugs through fraud. Below, we’ll highlight some of the most common cases our Bossier City criminal defense attorneys here at the Law Offices of Michael J. Vergis take on.
Depending on the quantity of the drug found in your possession, you may be charged with simple possession, which is a misdemeanor in Louisiana. If the amount of the drug in question does not meet a certain threshold, it is determined to be for personal use and therefore does not warrant the more severe charge of possession with intent.
Possession With Intent to Distribute
Louisiana certainly sees it’s fair share of possession with intent to distribute charges. This means that a person is caught in possession of drugs of a certain amount. Under Louisiana Revised Statute § 40:966, it is illegal for any person knowingly:
(1) To produce, manufacture, distribute or dispense or possess with intent to produce, manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analogue classified in Schedule I.
(2) To create, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute, a counterfeit controlled dangerous substance classified in Schedule I.
(3) To cultivate, possess, process, or sell industrial hemp, industrial hemp products, or viable industrial hemp seeds not in accordance with the U.S. Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 or the plan submitted by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry that is in compliance with U.S. Department of Agriculture rules.
Prescription fraud is when a person illegal obtains prescription medications for personal recreational usage. This can be done by “prescription shopping” or by forging a fraudulent prescription at a pharmacy.
What is a Controlled Dangerous Substance?
A controlled dangerous substance (CDS) in Louisiana includes well-known illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, etc. It also includes the compounds that are used to manufacture them.
These substances are categorized into five different “schedules.” Schedule I contains the most dangerous drugs, while Schedule V poses the least danger. The way these Schedules are categorized is based on the potential harm each drug causes, its probability of abuse, and its potential to be used for medical purposes. Here is a breakdown of each schedule and which substances fall under them:
Penalties for Schedule I drugs are divided into two different categories: marijuana offenses and non-marijuana offenses. Substances in this Schedule are defined as drugs with no current medical use and pose the highest risk of danger and abuse. While marijuana does provide several medical benefits and does not contain addictive properties, it is still considered a Schedule I drug.
Examples of a Schedule I CDS include:
- Marijuana (cannabis)
- Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
- Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy)
- Methaqualone (Quaaludes)
Schedule II drugs are dangerous substances that have a high potential for abuse and dependence. Examples of a Schedule II CDS include:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
Schedule III substances are classified as drugs with a moderate to low potential for abuse and addiction, but are still relatively dangerous. Some examples of a Schedule III CDS include:
- Anabolic Steroids
Schedule IV drugs are substances with a low potential for abuse and dependence. Many of these substances have a sedative effect and are used for depressive or anxiety disorders. Examples of a Schedule IV CDS include:
- Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol or Roofies)
Finally, Schedule V substances are the least dangerous type of drug with the lowest potential for dependence and abuse. These substances consist of limited quantities of certain narcotics and often treat cough, diarrhea, and pain. Examples of a Schedule V CDS include the following:
- Robitussin AC
Is a Drug Charge a Felony or a Misdemeanor?
If you are charged with possession of a controlled substance in Louisiana, you may receive either a felony or a misdemeanor. Felony charges carry much harsher penalties than misdemeanor charges. There are a variety of factors that determine the severity of the charge you may receive.
Generally, an arrest for simple drug possession is a misdemeanor. However, there are factors – known as aggravating factors – that can bump the charge up to a felony. One example of an aggravating factor is the possession of drugs in a drug-free zone. Regardless of the type of drug or amount found on you, possession of a drug in one of these areas automatically becomes a felony. The following areas are considered drug-free zones:
- This includes public or private K-12 schools, vocational or technical schools, and universities
- Religious buildings
- Churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.
- Drug treatment facilities
- Child daycare centers
- Public housing, if posted
Other aggravating factors include repeat offenses. Louisiana possesses the “Third Strike Rule” for misdemeanor offenses. What this means is that the third misdemeanor charge, including one for drug possession, can result in a felony.
Possession with intent to sell or distribute is another automatic felony. Possessing high quantities of certain drugs, even without the intent to sell or distribute, can also entail a felony charge.
Possession of a date rape drug such as Rohypnol or “roofies” without a prescription may also land you a felony charge.
What is the Punishment for Drug Charges?
The potential penalties for a drug charge depends on the circumstances surrounding the charge. Whether it was felony or a misdemeanor charge, the amount found in someone’s possession, and what Schedule the drug falls under all factor into the penalties for a CDS.
Non-marijuana Schedule I offenses can range anywhere from 1-10 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. First and second violations for the possession of cannabis are punishable of up to six months in jail and fines of $1,000. For third or subsequent violations, the penalty increases from a misdemeanor to a felony. A felony offense can carry anywhere from 2-8 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
For Schedule II offenses, sentences range anywhere from 1-5 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. The exception is if a defendant is found with phencyclidine (PCP), in which case the sentence can increase to up to 20 years.
For Schedule III, IV, and V offenses, the maximum sentence is also 1-5 years and a fine of up to $5,000. However, exceptions exist for those found in possession of Roofies without a prescription. In this case, the sentence may increase anywhere from 10-40 years and up to a $100,000 fine. This depends on if the person had intent to commit a violent crime such as rape.
Having a high quantity of certain drugs can also significantly increase a penalty. In addition, possession with intent to sell or distribute can also carry a much heavier prison term and larger fines. Intent to sell or distribute is closely related to the crime of drug trafficking, which can land you up to 40 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
Is Marijuana Legal in Louisiana?
The government approved marijuana for medical use in some cases. However, cannabis for recreational use still remains illegal in Louisiana. It is a Schedule I CDS. Individuals found to have the substance will likely receive criminal charges. However, the penalties have been significantly reduced as marijuana reform increases throughout the country.
How Long Do Drug Charges Stay on Your Record?
In most cases, drug charges will remain on your criminal record for life. However, you do have legal options available. It is possible to get your charges expunged from your record with the help of an experienced Louisiana expungement attorney. Louisiana laws allow a person to “expunge” or “clear” his or her record of arrests, criminal charges, or criminal convictions in certain limited situations.
In this case, a misdemeanor drug charge must stay on your record and be available to the public for 5 years following the completion of your sentence or parole before it is able to be expunged. In addition, you must not have been convicted of any felony offense during this 5-year period.
For a felony drug conviction, ten years must have elapsed since the completion of your sentence or parole to receive an expungement. You must not have been convicted of any other criminal offense during this time. You can typically only expunge a felony drug conviction once every 15 years.
In some cases, a “first offender’s pardon” may be available to you, which will allow you to expunge your record immediately following the completion of your sentence.
Hire an Experienced Louisiana Criminal Defense Attorney to Handle Your Drug Charges
The potential consequences for a conviction of your alleged drug offense in Louisiana can be harsh. That is why you need experienced legal counsel to help you secure the most favorable outcome possible for your case, whether that’s dropped or dismissed charges, an acquittal, a plea deal, or a reduced sentence. A Shreveport-Bossier City criminal defense attorney like Michael J. Vergis can help raise strong drug defenses on your behalf while working to protect your rights and fight hard for you in court.
Rest assured, hiring an experienced Louisiana criminal defense attorney like Michael J. Vergis gives you your best chance at reaching the most desirable resolution for your legal matter. A renowned attorney in Bossier and Shreveport, Michael Vergis has helped numerous people across the region successfully fight their drug charges and ensure they get the best possible outcome for their situation. His creative approach to handling even the most difficult cases and his dedication to resolving his clients’ legal issues have made him a highly sought-after private attorney in City, State, and Federal courts. Whether it be a small misdemeanor possession charge or a serious drug felony, the Law Offices of Michael J. Vergis can give you your best shot at freedom. Call our law firm for your free initial consultation today.