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Possession of a Controlled Substance in Las Vegas

“Possession of a controlled substance” is one of the most commonly prosecuted drug charges in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County, Nevada. If you are facing a charge of possession of a controlled substance under NRS 453.336 in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Las Vegas, then call for a free and confidential consultation.

In order to establish that the crime of possession of a controlled substance under NRS 453.336, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had dominion and control of a controlled substance and knowledge of the presence of the controlled substance and of its illegal nature. Numerous defenses exist to fight these charges. Depending on the facts of the case, the criminal defense attorney can file a motion to dismiss the charge for insufficient evidence or a motion to suppress evidence after an unlawful search.

Your attorney must thoroughly investigate the legally of the initial stop or detention or the legality of any search warrant. Often, by filing and litigating motions to suppress or exclude evidence the attorney can achieve the best results.

If you were arrested for possession of a controlled substance or another felony drug offense in Las Vegas, Nevada, or the surrounding areas of Clark County, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Gallo Law Office. James C. Gallo represents clients on felony drug possession charges throughout Clark County. Call (702) 385-3131 today to discuss your case and the possible defenses that might apply to the particular facts of your case.

Article last updated on Friday, May 15, 2015.


Nevada Statute Section 453.336 - Possession of a Controlled Substance

As last amended on July 1, 2013, N.R.S. 453.336 provides for a prohibition on the Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance (also known as drug possession). The statute provides, in part:  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….

The penalties for possession a controlled substance in violation of 453.336 are provide in section 2 which provides:

(a) For the first or second offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule I, II, III or IV, for a category E felony…
(b) For a third or subsequent offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule I, II, III or IV, or if the offender has previously been convicted two or more times in the aggregate of any violation of the law of the United States or of any state, territory or district relating to a controlled substance, for a category D felony…
(c) For the first offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule V, for a category E felony…
(d) For a second or subsequent offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule V, for a category D felony as provided in NRS 193.130.3.

Penalties for Possession of Flunitrazepam

A person who is convicted of the possession of flunitrazepam any substance that contains flunitrazepam as an immediate precursor is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years. Additionally, flunitrazepam is included in the definition of controlled substance as used in section (a) of the statute.

Penalties for Possession of Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB)

A person who is convicted of the possession of Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or any substance for which gamma-hydroxybutyrate is an immediate precursor, is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years. The statute also includes Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) in the definition of a controlled substance.

Penalties for Possession of Marijuana

Nevada Revised Statute 453.336 also sets out the penalties for the simple possession of marijuana. A person who is convicted of the possession of one (one) ounce or less of marijuana faced the following penalties:

  • For the first offense of possession of marijuana in Nevada, the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $600 or a drug and alcohol evaluation to complete any recommended follow-up treatment;
  • For the second offense of possession of marijuana in Nevada, the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000; or a drug and alcohol evaluation to complete any recommended follow-up treatment.
  • For the third offense, possession of marijuana is punishable as a gross misdemeanor.
  • For a fourth or subsequent offense, possession of marijuana is punishable as a category E felony.

Read more about the penalties and punishments for the possession of marijuana in Nevada.


Types of Controlled Substances in Nevada

Under Nevada law, controlled substances can include:

  • Cannabinoids
  • Marijuana (also known as cannabis, weed, blunt, skunk, reefer, pot, Mary Jane, bud, dope, ganja, or grass)
  • Hashish (also known as hash oil or hash)
  • Opioids
  • Heroin     (also known as diacetylmorphine, H, or smack)
  • Opium     (also known as laudanum, paregoric)
  • Stimulants
  • Methamphetamine     (also known as desoxyn, meth, ice, crank, crystal)
  • Amphetamine     (also known as biphetamine, dexedrine, bennies or black beauties)
  • Cocaine     (also known as cocaine hydrochloride, blow, coke, crack)
  • Club Drugs
  • GHB (also known as gamma-hydroxybutyrate: (G, Georgia home boy, grievous bodily harm or liquid ecstasy);
  • MDMA (also known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine, Ecstasy, Molly)
  • Flunitrazepam (also known as Rohypnol, the date rape drug, forget-me pill, roofies, roofinol).
  • Dissociative Drugs
  • Dextromethorphan (also known as DXM)
  • Salvia divinorum     (also known as Salvia)
  • PCP and analogs    (also known as Phencyclidine, angel dust)
  • Ketamine (also known as Ketalar SV, Special K,)
  • Hallucinogens
    • Psilocybin (also known as Magic mushrooms)
    • Mescaline (also known as Buttons)
    • LSD (also known as Lysergic acid diethylamide)
  • Other Compounds
  • Inhalants Solvents (includes nitrites (such as cyclohexyl, isobutyl, isoamyl), whippets, snappers, poppers, laughing gas, gasoline, glues, paint thinners, or gases such as nitrous oxide, aerosol propellants, propane, butane)
  • Anabolic steroids (includes Equipoise, Anadrol, Depo-Testosterone, Oxandrin, Durabolin)

Drug Possession Overview


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Elements of the Possession Charges

When most people think of possession, they think of actual possession. "Actual possession" includes holding a controlled substance in your hand, or on your body (in a pocket) or in an item attached to your body (such as a purse or backpack).

Nevada law also defines possession to include “constructive possession.” A person has constructive possession of a controlled substance only if the person maintains control or a right to control the contraband. In other words, possession may be imputed when the contraband is found in a location that is immediately and exclusively accessible to the accused and subject to his dominion and control.

Constructive possession can include drugs found in your hotel room, house, or car. Cases involving "constructive possession" are often more difficult for the prosecutor to prove during pre-trial motions or at trial.

“In order to hold one for narcotics possession, it is necessary to show dominion and control over the substance ... and knowledge that it is of narcotic character.... These elements may be shown by direct evidence or by circumstantial evidence and reasonably drawn inferences.” Fairman v. Warden, 83 Nev. 332, 336, 431 P.2d 660, 663 (1967) (citations omitted). See Sheriff, Washoe Cnty. v. Shade, 109 Nev. 826, 829-30, 858 P.2d 840, 842 (1993).

If the prosecutor has insufficient evidence to prove actual or constructive possession of a drug, narcotic, or controlled substance, then the attorney will often file a motion to dismiss the charges. The issue can also be raised at trial which would cause the judge to grant a motion for judgment of acquittal.


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Joint Possession in Controlled Substance Cases

To complicate matters even more, the prosecutor is sometimes allowed to argue that the drugs were possessed jointly. This means if two people are riding in a car and drugs are found in the vehicle, and both occupants admit to knowing the drugs were in the vehicle, then the prosecutor can argue that both occupants jointly possessed the drugs found. On the other hand, if neither person admits to knowing that the drugs are in the vehicle and the drugs cannot be immediately smelled or seen in plain view, then the case should be dismissed against both individuals.

In a joint possession case, it must be proven that the person exercised dominion and control over the contraband. If the person did not actual physical possession the controlled substance, then sufficient evidence to show constructive possession must exist. If more than one person could be in constructive possession of the controlled substance, then the prosecutor must show facts that would support a theory of “joint possession” such as existed in Maskaly v. State, 85 Nev. 111, 450 P.2d 790 (1969), and Woerner v. State, 85 Nev. 281, 453 P.2d 1004 (1969).

Without more, the mere presence in the area where the narcotic is discovered or mere association with the person who does control the drug or the property where it is located is insufficient to support a finding of possession. Any case for joint possession is the most difficult type of case for the prosecutor to prove at trial.


Additional Resources on Controlled Substance Possession

NRS 453.336 Unlawful possession Not for Purpose of Sale - Visit the website of the Nevada Legislature to find the full statutory language of NRS 453.336 (with links to other statutes referenced). The statute contains information on the definition of controlled substances, the penalties and punishments for felony and misdemeanor offenses, and defenses. Find other statutes related drug possession, sale, distribution, and trafficking. 


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Finding an Attorney for Clark County Drug Possession Cases

If you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas for drug possession charges, then contact James C. Gallo at Gallo Law Office. He provides a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case and possible defenses. Related charges often include DUI drugged driving or misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. More serious drug charges involve allegations of distribution, sale or trafficking of a controlled substance.

Call to find out more about constructive possession, actual possession, and joint possession. Learn more about the potential punishments that apply depending on the way the case is formally charged. Talk with a Las Vegas drug attorney about potential defenses that might apply to your case. Call today at (702) 385-3131 for a free and confidential consultation.