Congdon Law. PLLC.

How Is A Drug Charge Determined To Be A Misdemeanor Or A Felony?


For Marijuana in particular, less than 42.5 grams would be considered a petty misdemeanor offense. If you have more than 42.5 grams of marijuana, and you are facing your first drug offense, it’s a gross misdemeanor, and if it’s a second offense or you have any prior drug crimes, then it could be a felony. Generally what determines whether something is a petty misdemeanor or a felony is the quantity you possess.

That being said, any amount of narcotics such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine and things that fall under those categories are gross misdemeanors and felonies. Even if it’s the most minute amount, a trace amount, the first offense will be charged as a gross misdemeanor. If you have a previous drug charge, any amount of these types of drugs will be a felony.

What Is Considered Possession, Sale, And Distribution Or Trafficking Of Drugs?

The definition of sale is incredibly broad. A sale can include obvious behavior such as exchanging money for a controlled substance. It can also include less obvious things like giving away drugs and not receiving any compensation, possessing large quantities of drugs, or sharing with another person.

Possession is more dependent on the situation. If it’s on your person, you are deemed to be in possession of it. If it’s in your home, you are most likely going to be deemed to be in possession because you have control over that room. If it’s in a common area, and there are many people in the house, that could be a more complicated case for a prosecutor to prove. If it’s in your car, most likely, you are going to be accused of drug possession, but again, a prosecutor has to prove that you knew it was there and that you were acting in a way to control it.

Can A Passenger Be Charged If Drugs Are Discovered In The Vehicle?

I have had several clients who’ve ended up in that position where they are the passenger in the car, and the drugs are underneath the seat closest to them. It is possible for the prosecutor to charge everyone in the car and then argue that multiple people were in possession of the drugs because they all knew where it was or that it was there and you were acting in control of it. It becomes an argument in court to determine whether they can prove a particular person knew the drugs were present. Nevertheless, yes. If you are a passenger in a car, you can be charged with possession, even if it’s not your car.

What Is The Difference Between Distribution And Intent To Distribute?

Distribution and intent to distribute, those are punished more harshly than generally possession crimes. Again, it’s dependent on quantity. Drug crimes in Minnesota are broken down into degrees of offenses. Fifth-Degree possession or fifth-degree sale, even if it is a small amount, that’s the lowest level. Once you get to a first degree, that is a serious charge. It carries a mandatory prison sentence, and that’s based on the quantity of the drugs in your possession, or you sold at the time you were arrested.

How Often Do You Handle Drug Trafficking Cases In Minnesota?

Drug trafficking cases tend to fall more in federal court in Minnesota. They tend to have very, very large quantities of drugs involved, and the drugs will have been brought across state lines, but indeed there have been trafficking cases that have come through state court, most frequently those are first-degree drug cases, and they are facing fairly severe penalties. The maximum for a first-degree drug case in Minnesota is 40 years.

What Are The Penalties Associated With A Drug Charge Conviction?

For a first degree, the maximum punishment is 40 years. For a second-degree crime, the maximum penalty would be up to 25 years in prison. For a third degree, we are looking 20 years in prison. Fourth degree is 15 years in prison, and then a fifth degree, the maximum is five years in prison. These all carry fines in addition to prison time.

What About People Who Are Facing A Second Or A Third Conviction?

They may be confronted with a mandatory minimum sentence, and then their sentence is going to depend on the level of their drug charge. If they are facing a second, fifth degree, the mandatory minimum is going to be six months in jail. If you are looking at one of the higher-level charges, it could be 24, 36, or 48 months depending on the degree of charge.

Are There Any Alternative Programs For Drug Offenders In Minnesota?

It varies by the county if alternative programs are available. Most of the metro counties will have a drug court type program, which gives people an opportunity to participate. There are a very intensive court and probation program where they can go through addiction treatment, and check in with probation officers on a very regular basis. They do come to court more frequently than an average person with a charge would. They can check in, and everyone can make sure that they’re on the right track. Those programs tend to keep people out of prisons and treat the addiction that most frequently underlies these types of charges, whether someone is selling or just in possession, it stems from an addiction issue.

The drug court programs are great because they provide accountability, but they also provide an opportunity for someone to stay out of prison.

For more information on Alternative Programs Available For Drug Offenders, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (800) 684-9740 today.

Jennifer Congdon, Esq.

Call For A Free Consultation (800) 684-9740