October 27, 2021

What Happens When You’re Arrested for Drug Possession?

Drug Possession Lawyer in Nevada

Adults arrested for drug possession in Nevada can face a felony charge. This is due to the Uniform Controlled Substance Act, which follows federal law and carries severe consequences.

Continue reading to find out more about this law, the consequences of breaking it, and how you can retain a drug possession lawyer in Henderson, Nevada.

What exactly is a drug possession charge in Nevada?
“A person shall not knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance, unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a prescription or order of a physician…”

To put it more simply: unless a controlled substance is prescribed by a physician, Nevada law prohibits “knowingly or intentionally” possessing drugs.

Under Nevada Statute 453.336, someone can be arrested for drug possession in one of three ways.

  • “Actual possession”
    • When drugs were found on your person. 
  • “Constructive possession”
    • Drugs were found in a location you “control,” such as your car or home.
  • “Joint possession”
    • Drugs were found in a location that you and someone else exercise joint control over.
    • To give an example, this means you can be charged for drug possession if your spouse stores illicit substances in a location where you share ownership, i.e. your car or home.

Drug possession charges also depend on the amount, the type, and its “schedule.” Illicit substances are defined by five schedules (classes of drugs) in Nevada. Schedule I carries the highest threat of abuse and penalties, while Schedule V carries the lowest. It’s also important to note that all five can carry a felony conviction.

Keep reading to find out how the location of your arrest for drug possession may be significant.

A judge's gavel

If I’m arrested for drug possession, will it go to municipal court? What does that mean?

Under Nevada statute NRS 453.3361, local authorities “can enact an ordinance adopting the penalties set forth” for drug possession misdemeanors under a local ordinance. 

In other words, if you’re arrested for drug possession within the limits of a city or township, a judge within that municipal district will hear your case. Meanwhile, if you’re arrested outside town or city limits, your case will be heard by the court of that county. 

Since the municipal judge presiding over your case will evaluate the evidence and determine the degree of punishment, it’s best to retain a drug possession lawyer to help you fight.

Drug Court

Clark County is aware of the challenges presented by drug use and drug possession charges. This is why there are currently six courts focused on assisting in the rehabilitation of first-time offenders in low-level narcotics cases. 

  • Adult Criminal Drug Court for felony cases 
  • Prison Reentry Drug Court 
  • Dependency Mothers Drug Court 
  • Juvenile Drug Court 
  • Dependency Drug Court 
  • Child Support Drug Court 

Instead of imprisonment for people battling addiction, these courts set up strictly monitored treatment programs. This does include random drug testing. However, once someone completes the program, charges are dismissed and criminal records are wiped clean.

How much is bail after you’re arrested for drug possession?

If you’ve been arrested for drug possession, you will be booked at the nearest jail while law enforcement identifies, weighs, and documents the drug(s) in question. Next, you will attend a bail hearing, where bail will either be granted or denied.

Bail is the amount of money that you as an offender agree to pay – both to be freed from jail while awaiting your trial and as a guarantee to attend. A first-time drug possession offense may cost you $2,500 to $5,000. With priors, it can go up to $20,000 or more.

If you don’t have the cash on hand to post bail, you can work with a bail bondsman. They will cosign a bail bond to release you from prison, with a fee of anywhere from 10% to 15% of the total bond.

Can a judge dismiss a drug possession case?

courtroom decision

If you have no prior arrests for drug possession, under Nevada statute 453.3363, a judge has some flexibility to drop your case. However, this statute also states that this  “may occur only once with respect to any person.” 

Again, with no prior drug-related convictions, you can offer the following pleas: 

  • A plea of guilty 
  • A plea of not guilty
  • Guilty but mentally ill 
  • Nolo contendere – no contest
    • A no contest plea means that a defendant agrees to accept punishment but does not admit guilt

At this point, the court can suspend all further prosecution and place you on probation. This will include a program for your rehabilitation and education, in addition to treatment. 

However, once you have fulfilled the terms and conditions specified by the judge, the court will dismiss all proceedings “without adjudication of guilt.” This will more or less restore you to your status before the arrest.

However, even if a judge dismisses your case, there may still be repercussions from your arrest.

Learn more about how to get drug possession charges dropped by contacting our law office. 


If your drug possession case is dismissed, the incident is removed from your public record. However, it is still accessible to professional licensing boards, since certain careers have codes of conduct. Therefore, the arrest can affect your licensing eligibility and carry disciplinary actions for professional misconduct. 

The record will remain with the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Parole and Probation. This record can be used against you if you have subsequent arrests for drug possession.

Sentences if Convicted

Nevada law follows the federal precedent for sentencing when you are found guilty. These penalties depend on the number of previous offenses, the amount of the drug, the type of possession, and the “Schedule” that the drug is classified under.

  • Penalties for Schedule I through IV
    • 1st or 2nd-time offender: a fine of no more than $5,000 and up to 4 years of incarceration.
    • 3rd-time or subsequent offender: 4 years is the max incarceration time, but the fine can go up to $20,000 at the discretion of the judge.
  • Penalties for Schedule V
    • 1st or 2nd-time offender: a fine of no more than $5,000 and up to 1 year of incarceration.
    • 3rd time or subsequent offender: the fine remains the same at no more than $5,000, but it carries greater jail time of up to 4 years.

While there is no average sentence, per se, for drug possession, first-time offenders are often granted probation. Instead of jail time, a judge will require the offender to fulfill requirements, such as community service and random drug screenings.

Why do I need a lawyer to contest my drug possession charge?


Legal systems are overwhelmed with drug possession cases, which means you could wind up with a public defender who won’t have the time or resources to dedicate to your case. Though prosecutors also maintain heavy workloads, many take great pride in conviction rates.

So, with an experienced attorney, your drug possession case stands a better chance of working in your favor or being dropped. 

A skillful attorney can leverage several defenses such as:

  • Challenge claims of actual, constructive, or joint possession
    • Your attorney may be able to cast doubt about whether you had any manner of possession or awareness that the substance was illegal. 
  • Use your good reputation in the case of a first and minor offense as the basis for leniency
  •  Dispute the authenticity of the drug evidence seized
    • The prosecution must authenticate that the controlled substance being used as evidence is the same material that law enforcement seized at your arrest. This includes a lab certificate and a chain of custody log.
  • Petition to have your confession suppressed through a Miranda hearing
    • You must have been read your Miranda rights while in custody and before you were questioned, otherwise it cannot serve as evidence.
  • Invoke the rules of full discovery
    • Before the trial, the prosecution must provide you with all evidence that it plans to use against you. 
  • Subpoena or discount witnesses that the prosecution may be unwilling or unable to present at court

What are Nevada’s current marijuana laws?

Marijuana use is legal under Nevada state law for users over 21 years of age, but it has strict limitations around use and quantity. If you are caught smoking in a public space or in possession of more than an ounce, it can result in a misdemeanor charge and up to a $600 fine. Or for repeat offenders, a felony and heftier fines up to $5,000.

If you’re facing marijuana-related charges, you should retain a lawyer who understands the full scope of Nevada’s stringent laws and its statute of limitations on drug charges.

Were You or a Loved One Arrested For Drug Possession? If So, Contact Our Office Today For Dedicated Legal Representation

In the state of Nevada, drug crimes carry a high cost, and more often than not, a federal charge.
If you are arrested for drug possession in Henderson, Nevada, retain Marchiano Law Firm Corporation to help guide you through both this difficult time and intricate legal process. 

Contact us today and discuss your case with an experienced attorney.

If you are arrested for drug possession in Henderson, Marchiano Law Firm Corporation will successfully guide you through the legal process. Make an appointment today to discuss your case.