Part II: How Reclassification of PDP Effects Felony Sentencing

A few weeks ago we introduced and broke down the recent reclassification of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (PDP) charges. The Gist... On December 1st of 2014, North Carolina Legislature reclassified PDP charges as Class 3 Misdemeanors when the paraphernalia is used with marijuana. Prior to December 1st, PDP charges were considered Class 1 Misdemeanors, which have harsher punishments and fines. Read the Full Article Here...

As criminal defense lawyers in Raleigh, North Carolina, a good portion of our clients are individuals who have been charged with a felony drug offense. When our clients hire us as their defense in court, it is our responsibility to fully educate ourselves on their previous convictions and sentences... Which is why we have some concerns with this particular reclassification.


Our Main Concern... Does the reduced classification have any effect on individuals with prior PDP convictions who are now being sentenced for felony crimes committed after December 1st?

Broken down a little further... When sentencing a felony charge, if the defendant was charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor for PDP in conjunction with marijuana prior to December 1, 2014, will these charges be viewed as Class 3 Misdemeanors in the sentencing of felony offenses after the reclassification date?

Here's an example...
Bob was convicted and charged with a series of Class 1 Misdemeanors before December 1, 2014, for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (PDP) being used with marijuana. He then committed a felony on December 2, 2014, and is currently being sentenced for it. The weight of his misdemeanors will have an effect on his felony sentencing.

What we know:

  • On December 1, 2014, North Carolina State Legislature reclassified Possession of Drug Paraphernalia charges as Class 3 Misdemeanors IF used in conjunction with marijuana
  • Before December 1, 2014, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia was considered a Class 1 Misdemeanor
  • Bob committed his most recent felony on December 2, 2014, but had prior PDP with marijuana convictions
  • Individuals charged with a Class 3 Misdemeanor receive a lesser sentence, and possibly only a fine. Those charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor typically receive harsher punishments

Since his prior convictions dealt with paraphernalia being used with marijuana, will his prior PDP Class 1 Misdemeanor charges be classified as Class 3 Misdemeanors in the sentencing of Bob's most recent felony?

What the new classification may mean for Bob...
When reading the new classification literally, there is no language in the statute that requires a case-by-case review of each PDP conviction. What this means is that if the PDP was committed before December 1, 2014, then it is acceptable to assume that it was a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which will ultimately result in a harsher felony sentence.

Looking forward...
We feel certain that state prosecutors will continue to offer up old PDP convictions as Class 1 Misdemeanors, forcing future trial courts to provide clarity and answers to these questions. If you have been charged with a felony drug offense, call attorneys with over 45 years of combined criminal defense experience. As former Wake County Assistant District Attorneys, the lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh have the legal experience to favorably represent you.

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