How Does Reclassification of PDP Affect Felony Sentencing?

As mentioned in our previous blog, as part of a nationwide relaxation of marijuana laws, North Carolina lawmakers recently reclassified PDP charges as Class 3 Misdemeanors, if the paraphernalia is used in conjunction with marijuana. This change represents a significant reduction from the old Class 1 Misdemeanor classification. Class 1 offenses have harsher punishments and fines.

Our criminal defense lawyers in Raleigh frequently represent individuals who have been charged with felony drug offenses. So, we have considerable experience in this area. Most people viewed the PDP stepdown as another step towards more lenient marijuana laws in North Carolina. However, after carefully reviewing this matter, we have some serious concerns about this particular reclassification.

Does the Reduction Affect Individuals with Prior PDP Convictions who are Now Facing Sentencing for Felony Crimes Committed after December 1st?

In other words, during current felony drug crime sentencing, if the defendant was charged with Class 1 PDP prior to December 1, 2014, will the PDP be a Class 1 or a Class 3 Misdemeanor for criminal history purposes (i.e. is the reduction retroactive)?

Assume Juan was convicted of a series of Class 1 Misdemeanors before December 1, 2014, for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (PDP) used with marijuana. He committed a felony on December 2, 2014, and is currently awaiting sentencing. The weight of his prior misdemeanors will affect his felony sentencing. Here’s what we know:

  • Effective December 1, 2014, the North Carolina State Legislature reclassified Possession of Drug Paraphernalia charges as Class 3 Misdemeanors, if the defendant used the pipe, bong, roach clip, or other paraphernalia for marijuana.
  • Prior to December 1, 2014, any Possession of Drug Paraphernalia was a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
  • Juan committed a felony on December 2, 2014, and his criminal history included prior PDP with marijuana convictions.
  • Individuals charged with Class 3 Misdemeanors receive lesser sentences, possibly only a fine. Class 1 Misdemeanors typically involve harsher punishments.

So, what does the reclassification mean for Juan? As written, the new classification includes no language which requires a case-by-case review of each prior PDP conviction. So, if the PDP was committed before December 1, 2014, even if it involved marijuana, prosecutors and probation officers will still consider it a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which could ultimately result in a harsher felony sentence.

If you were charged with a felony drug offense, call attorneys with over 50 years of combined criminal defense experience. As former Wake County Assistant District Attorneys, the lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law, have the legal expertise needed to favorably represent you.

To speak with a criminal defense lawyer in Raleigh, call (919) 845-6688 right away. We will examine the details of your case and fight to pursue a successful outcome.