In North Carolina, General Statute (GS) 90-96 provides a conditional discharge for people facing drug charges for the first offense. In the past, many people have been incarcerated both at the state and federal levels because of drug offenses. As a result, a very large portion of people have criminal records because of prior drug convictions. North Carolina has put a law in place to assist first-time drug offenders that will lessen convictions for first-time offenses and also decrease jail and prison populations.
The 90-96 program is an alternative punishment that allows people with certain drug charges to benefit by avoiding the harshest penalties. Through this program, you may have your charges dismissed, thereby having the charges expunged from your record.
At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh Attorneys at Law, your Raleigh drug crime lawyers, we have extensive experience representing people who have been charged with drug offenses. In this article, we discuss what the 90-96 conditional discharge program is, eligibility requirements, and other specific aspects of the program, as well as options that are available for first-time drug offenders in North Carolina.
N.C. GS 90-96– Conditional Discharge for First Offense Drug Charges
G.S. 90-96 is a law that provides a way for a first-time drug offender and/or an offender of certain drug convictions to be granted a conditional discharge. Upon conviction, a defendant who is eligible for the 90-96 program is placed on probation. The actual judgment of the case is not entered into the criminal record at that time. The program has several requirements, including a drug education class that the offender must complete while on probation. Upon successful completion of the terms of his/her 90-96 conditional discharge, the charges are dismissed, which means that the charges are immediately eligible for an expunction.
Eligibility for the 90-96 Conditional Discharge
To be considered eligible for a 90-96 conditional discharge, you must have been charged with an eligible offense and have an eligible criminal history. (In 2011, the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) (S.L. 2011-192) made changes to GS 90-96 regarding who qualifies for the program.) Anyone with any misdemeanor controlled substance or drug paraphernalia case or a simple felony drug case may qualify for the 90-96 program. The list of drugs that are eligible includes marijuana, cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, methamphetamine, opiates, and LSD.
Charges that qualify for conditional discharge under 90-96:
- Any misdemeanor controlled substance charge
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Felony simple possession of any controlled substance under 90-95(a)(3)
To be eligible for a conditional discharge under 90-96(a):
- You cannot have any prior felony convictions of any kind under any State or Federal law
- You cannot have had any prior conviction for a controlled substance or for possession of drug paraphernalia
The requirements for conditional discharge under 90-96(a1):
- Can include those with non-drug related felony convictions
- Can include those with drug convictions more than seven (7) years ago
For example, felony possession of cocaine is 90-96 eligible, while possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute is not eligible. All misdemeanor drug crimes are eligible because none of these crimes involve the intent to distribute.
Requirements of the 90-96 Program
The court may order a variety of requirements for a defendant who is taking part in the 90-96 program:
- Paying court fees (approximately $200)
- Taking a drug assessment
- Taking at least 15 hours of drug education classes (approximately $100-$400 with a non-profit State-run program being less than a for-profit private provider)
- Paying for the drug education coursework
- Complying with supervised probation
- Paying fees for supervised probation (approximately $40/month)
Duration of the 90-96 Program
Initially, you have a conviction for the charged crime. After the trial, you are convicted through a guilty plea or being found guilty. If you are eligible, the duration of the 90-96 program is up to the judge in the court where you were charged. The judge determines how long you have to take drug education classes, the length of your probation, and whether your probation is supervised or unsupervised.
Violation of the 90-96 Program Terms
If you violate the terms of the 90-96 program, the court may enter a guilty verdict and sentence you. In some cases, you may serve time in jail and get significant fines. If you are accused of violating the terms of your 90-96 program, you should immediately contact an experienced drug crime lawyer. Having legal defense makes all the difference in negotiating new terms or defending against violation allegations.
Contact a Felony Drug Charge Attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina
If you are facing a felony drug charge and you think you meet the qualifications for GS 90-96, contact our experienced team of legal experts. At Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh, we can help you through the complexities of the law to determine if you qualify for the GS 90-96 program and to fight for you to get the best outcome. You can speak to an attorney 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or schedule a free consultation by calling us today at (919) 887-8040 or filling out the form below.