If you’ve been charged with a drug offense in North Carolina, don’t panic. You may be eligible for some form of a first offender program under North Carolina law, which may give you a path to a complete dismissal of your case. But before you do anything else, you should make sure you have an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner to help you navigate the system — whether you want to enter into a deal, or take your case to trial.
Conditional Discharge: N.C.G.S. § 90-96
North Carolina law has what is known as a “conditional discharge” option for certain first time drug offenders, under N.C.G.S. § 90-96. If you are charged with a misdemeanor drug offense, or a felony charge for mere possession, you may be eligible for conditional discharge under 90-96. This can apply to possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, or felony possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy (aka Molly, or MDMA), etc. In short, that means there may be an option for you to get your case dismissed in its entirety if you are willing to jump through some hoops, including drug classes, probation, and other potential conditions over a period of time.
If you have no prior felony convictions and no prior convictions for drug possession, or possession of drug paraphernalia (PDP), then you can plead guilty — or be convicted following a trial — of a misdemeanor drug charge, or felony drug possession charge under N.C.G.S. 90-95(a)(3) — and be placed on probation without judgment being entered by the judge. If you complete probation and any associated conditions successfully under the 90-96 program, your case will be dismissed. (Note: The judge can technically only deny your entry into 90-96, when otherwise eligible, by determining in writing, and with the agreement of the District Attorney, that you are “inappropriate for a conditional discharge for factors related to the offense” — but who knows what that means.)
If you fail to complete probation successfully, on the other hand, a criminal conviction may automatically result, because by entering into the program you must admit guilt and give up your right to a trial. As long as you do everything you’re required to do, that won’t be a problem.
Informal Deferred Prosecution
But, you can only enter 90-96 once, and there may be other options available. In some cases, an attorney is able to negotiate an informal deferred prosecution agreement outside of the formal 90-96 statutory framework, which would allow you to preserve your ability to take advantage of 90-96 at some time in the future.
Or you may want to take your case to trial, in which case you don’t want just any attorney bumbling through your case.
Call Our Office for a Free, Confidential Consultation
Call a Durham criminal defense lawyer if you have been arrested or charged with any misdemeanor or felony drug offense in Durham, North Carolina or surrounding counties. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation at (919) 899-9404.