October 27, 2015

What Happens When You’re Arrested for Drug Possession?

A judge's gavel

Inside Nevada CourtroomIf 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. If you are arrested for a misdemeanor charge within a city’s or township’s limits, a judge within that municipal or township court will hear your misdemeanor case. If you are arrested outside town or city limits, your misdemeanor case will be heard in the county, or district, court. For crimes in Nevada, the judge presiding over your case will evaluate the evidence and determine the degree of punishment.

Drug Court

Las Vegas is well aware of the challenges drug possession charges and use present and has six drug courts: Adult Criminal Drug Court for felony cases, Prison Re-Entry Drug Court, Dependency Mothers Drug Court, Juvenile Drug Court, Dependency Drug Court and Child Support Drug Court. Drug courts are specialty, problem-solving courts that focus on treatment, rehabilitation, and strict monitoring rather than incarceration for nonviolent individuals battling addiction. Once a person completes the program, charges are dismissed.

A judge's gavelCan a judge dismiss a drug possession case?

 Nevada statute 453.3363 provides a judge some flexibility. However, the statute also states, “Discharge and dismissal . . . may occur only once with respect to any person,” and even a dismissal carries repercussions:

– If you have no prior drug-related convictions, you can offer, or tender, a plea of guilty, guilty but mentally ill, or nolo contendere – no contest. The court can suspend all further prosecution, place you on probation, and require that you complete an educational or treatment and rehabilitation program, which you would have to pay for.
– Once you have fulfilled the terms and conditions that the judge specifies, the court will dismiss all proceedings “without adjudication of guilt” and restore you – almost – to your status before the arrest.


Once the case is entirely dismissed, the incident will be removed from your public record. However, it will remain accessible to professional licensing boards. Certain career licenses have codes of conduct, and the arrest can affect licensing eligibility or disciplinary actions for professional misconduct. Also, the record remains with the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Parole and Probation and can be used against you if you have subsequent arrests involving possession of a controlled substance.

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

courtroom decision

Legal systems are overwhelmed with the number of drug possession cases. Public defenders don’t have the time or resources to research each case they’re assigned, are often inexperienced and must prioritize their caseload. Prosecutors, too, are maintaining heavy workloads, but many take great pride in conviction rates.

Several defenses are possible in a drug possession case, but only an experienced attorney who knows the system, the technicalities of the statutes and the personalities involved will have the time and resources to address every facet of your case. Many times, a skillful defense attorney can:

Challenge claims of actual, constructive or joint possession. The prosecution must prove that you knew about the substance or intended for the drug to be present. A defense attorney may be able to cast doubt about whether you had any manner of possession or even were aware that the substance was illegal in Nevada.

Use your good reputation and the occasion of a first and minor offense as the basis for leniency – an education program or dismissal and discharge, rather than jail.

Dispute the authenticity of the drug evidence seized. The prosecution must authenticate that the controlled substance that is being used as evidence against you is the same material that law enforcement seized at your arrest. To do that, a lab certificate must confirm that the material is indeed a controlled substance. Also, a chain of custody log must document the integrity of the evidence. Many times either or both of these can be challenged.

Petition to have your confession suppressed through a Miranda hearing. Even if you confessed to law enforcement, a lawyer may be able to file a motion to suppress, or prevent, it from serving as evidence against you.

Invoke the rules of full discovery. The prosecution must provide you with all evidence that it plans to use against you, and it must do so before the trial. If a prosecutor fails to comply, the error may result in dismissal of the case.

Subpoena or discount witnesses that the prosecution may be unwilling or unable to present at court. Many professionals involved in evidence used in court are unable to testify due to workloads and the expenses involved. 


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.