ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Been caught with drugs in the state of Mississippi? Not certain how the legal proceedings will go? We review laws, penalties, and basics for alternate sentencing like drug court and voluntary rehab.
Table of Contents:
- Zero Tolerance and Basics
- Specific Laws and Schedules
- The Legal Process in Mississippi
- Burden of Proof
- Misdemeanor Possession
- Felony Possession
- Other Penalties
- Alternative Sentencing
- When to Contact a Lawyer
Zero Tolerance and Basics
Like much of the south, Mississippi has zero tolerance when it comes to their drug possession laws. Therefore, a drug possession charge is taken very seriously. Strong penalties go with convictions. Penalties for holding controlled substances depends on the amount you have on you. In Mississippi, possession charges are put into one of two categories. These include:
- Personal Amount. Depending on the drug, you can only have so much on you for it to be considered a personal amount. For example, a personal amount of cocaine is considered less than one-tenth of a gram, or one dosage unit. In terms of Scheduled I and II CDS, once you possess more than one-tenth of a gram, you risk being charged with…
- Sales of Controlled Substances in Mississippi. This is when authorities believe you’re either distributing or trafficking drugs. These penalties are always much more intense than that of a personal amount (see below for details).
Specific Laws and Schedules
There are two specific laws in Mississippi that cover the charges for drug possession and distribution: Ms. Code Ann. § 41-29-113: House Bill 1031, and Ms. Code Ann. § 41-29-115: Senate Bill 2379.  
In Mississippi, a drug is referred to as a “controlled dangerous substance,” or CDS. Like other states, Mississippi classifies each drug according to a schedule. These are defined under MS. Code Ann. § 41-29-113 . CDS Schedule I are considered to be the most dangerous drugs. So, getting caught in possession of these kinds of drugs will result in harsher penalties.
Drugs classified by schedule are as follows:
Schedule I Substances
- Synthetic cannabinoids
- Opiates like heroin
- Opiate derivatives such as morphine
Schedule II Substances
- Depressants like barbituates
- Opioid pain medications like codeine, fentanyl, and hydrocodone
Schedule III Substances
- Anabolic steroids
Schedule IV Substances
- Certain depressants such as alfaxalone, barbital
- Certain stimulants such as cathine, phentermine
Schedule V Substances
- Certain prescription depressants
- Certain prescription stimulants
The Legal Process in Mississippi
Within the state of Mississippi, the stages of a criminal case work in 9 distinct steps. . These The rules of criminal procedure in cases of drug possession are as follows.
If police are suspicious of a crime, they’ll collect all the evidence they can on the crime scene. They’ll also interview witnesses. The length of investigations varies depending on the circumstance of the crime. However, most drug possession crimes don’t require much of an investigation considering the drug itself is all the evidence a police officer needs.
2. Arrest, Initial Appearance, and Bond Setting
Upon arrest, you’ll be taken to your town or city’s police headquarters. From there, you’ll immediately be placed before a judge to make an initial appearance. During this time, a bond will be set for your release.
3. Preliminary Hearing
If you aren’t able to pay the bond, then you’ll be entitled to a preliminary hearing. This might be referred to as a probable cause hearing. Through this, the court system will decide whether or not enough probable causes exists to convict you of a crime.
Your case will then be brought before a grand jury. It should be noted, all that will be shown to this jury is the evidence the prosecutor chooses to present. During this time, you will not be able to defend yourself.
Not too long afterward, the Court will give your case an arraignment. During this time, you’ll be told your official charges and given the opportunity to inquire as to whether or not you need an attorney. From there, you’ll be asked to submit a plea to the charges and then the court will set an initial trial date.
During this part of the legal process, you’ll now have the ability to file a motion for discovery. In order to do so, the State will produce all evidence to you. In turn, you’ll also be allowed to present evidence in your favor to the State.
7. Plea Negotiations
You may want to make a deal with the State and resolve the case before having to go to trial. Most people go through with a plea negotiation when they’re trying to reduce their punishment. There are many plea negotiations the state of Mississippi has to offer (see below). You’ll want to talk to your lawyer about the matter.
If there is no agreement made based on your plea, then you must go to trial. A trial usually begins with an opening statement by the prosecutor and attorney defending you. From there, the State will present its case by calling witnesses and introducing the evidence taken against you.
Then, you will have your opportunity to present your witnesses and evidence, proving your innocence. After your presentation, the State will go again against you. They bring back evidence they had shown prior. From there, the judge will tell the jury of all the laws applicable to your case. Then you’ll be offered a closing argument along with the prosecutor. And the case is finally submitted. The jury will come to its decision and you will receive …
9. Sentencing, if applicable
If you’re found guilty of a drug possession crime in the State of Mississippi, then you’ll receive a sentence. This is usually a separate hearing in which both you and the prosecutor will be allowed to present your evidence again. Furthermore, the Court may ask for a pre-sentence investigation, or PSI, which would be managed by a probation officer. This investigation will look into your background and determine whether or not the sentence is appropriate for your circumstances.
Burden of Proof
Under Mississippi law, the prosecutor must demonstrate specific elements in order to properly convict you. These elements include:
1. LEGALITY. The evidence that you were in possession of a controlled dangerous substance when you were arrested.
2. KNOWLEDGE. The evidence that you knew of the illegal nature of this controlled dangerous substance and you knew it was present at the time of your arrest.
3. CONTROL. The evidence that you had control over both the presence and location of the controlled dangerous substance.
Drug sentencing will entirely depend on your case. As mentioned earlier, Mississippi considers the schedule of the drug and how much of it was in your possession in order to determine your sentence. The higher the schedule and the more of a drug, the higher your penalization.
Still, the purpose of a trial is to figure out all the details surrounding the charges. A trial will paint a picture of the circumstances and, in turn, the idea is that you will be penalized accordingly. In order learn more about potential sentences, you’ll want to talk to a lawyer. Also, you may qualify for alternative sentencing (see below).
When you’re charged with a misdemeanor, your punishment is taken less seriously than that of a felony. However, in the state of Mississippi, very few drug possession crimes are considered a misdemeanor. Typical misdemeanor penalties include:
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- Jail time between 6 months and 1 year.
What might be considered misdemeanor drug possession in Mississippi? If you have less than 30 grams of marijuana, then you’ll probably be charged with a misdemeanor. This is because marijuana has recently been removed from the list of Schedule I drugs in Mississippi. Also, if you’re caught solely with drug paraphernalia, you’ll also only be charged a misdemeanor. With any other drug possession crime, you’ll be charged with a felony.
In the state of Mississippi, most cases of drug possession result in a felony charge. Levels of severity in the charge depend on your circumstances. People in possession of a Schedule I drug will end up with a more severe penalty than someone in possession of a Schedule V drug. Still, even just a personal amount of a top schedule controlled dangerous substance will land you a felony.
Typical punishments for a felony charge include:
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Prison time between 1 to 4 years.
Often, you’ll find yourself facing other penalties due to your drug possession crime. The state of Mississippi decides on these crimes on a case to case basis. Due to this, it’s not entirely certain which penalties you’ll face for your crime. In order to get a better sense, you’ll want to talk to your lawyer. Other penalties for possession of a controlled dangerous substance include:
- Ineligibility to obtain certain employment.
- Ineligibility to obtain certain types of government employment.
- Ineligibility to qualify for certain types of college scholarship or financial aid.
- Ineligibility to qualify for public housing.
- Ineligibility to receive a state license or certification.
- Potential community service.
- Potential enrollment in drug treatment programs.
- Suspension of your driver’s license.
In Mississippi, you do have the opportunity to face alternative sentences . It’s difficult for people with drug possession crimes to qualify for these considering Mississippi’s zero tolerance policy on controlled dangerous substances. Still, if you’re looking to reduce jail time and other punishments, it’s in your best interest to take a look at these.
In order to get a real sense of which alternative sentences you apply for, you’ll want to talk the matter over with your lawyer. Some options include:
1. Drug Court.
These specialized courts are used solely for drug offenders and their purpose is to reduce crime on the streets.  The idea is drug abusers will benefit more from rehabilitation rather than traditional punishments. Rehabilitation often includes supervised drug testing and treatment services. You’ll receive counseling, incentives, and must make consistent court appearances. If you successfully complete your drug treatment, then your charges will be dropped.
2. Non-adjudicated Probation
If you enter as a guilty plea, you might be offered non-adjudicated probation. This works like probation in the sense that you’ll need to pay fines and court costs, report to a supervising officer, and take regular drug tests. However, if you complete it all successfully, you’ll be discharged.
3. House Arrest – Intensive Supervision Program
Under very certain circumstances, people can avoid incarceration through house arrest. You must be screened and approved in order to qualify. If you are approved, you’ll have to wear an electronic monitor which checks to make sure you’re always in agreement with your curfew requirements. A house arrest will allow you to work, go to church and receive both medical attention and drug treatment. If you break your house arrest circumstances, you will be charged with further penalties.
4. Pre-trial Diversion
If you’re a first offender of a non-violent crime who wasn’t charged with drug sales or possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, you can qualify for a pre-trial diversion in Mississippi. Through this type of sentence, you’ll be placed on special probation where you must attend court on a regular basis. It should be noted, rules for pre-trial diversion vary from court to court.
5. Recidivism Reduction Program
Also known as RRP, this program aims to rehabilitate drug-offenders rather than incarcerate them. You can expect to be placed into a rigorous drug treatment program and receive important therapy.
6. Restitution Center
If you owe a good amount of fines, you might be sentenced to a restitution center while you’re on probation. This is where you’ll be educated of your crimes and the criminal system. You will also be monitored and aided in finding work.
When to Contact a Lawyer
Immediately upon your arrest, you should consider finding yourself a lawyer. Part of the reason is drug possession charges in Mississippi are taken very seriously and almost always have strong consequence. However, due to the fact that penalties vary from case to case, a lawyer will be able to figure out the best possible solution for YOU.
Can’t afford a lawyer?
Then the State will provide you with one as long as you qualify. If you do qualify, it’s important to take as much advice from this lawyer as possible for the sake of your trial. In order to get a real sense of which lawyers in Mississippi are best for your case, you should check out the Mississippi Bar Association and their member directory. 
Have more questions about drug possession laws in Mississippi?
Feel free to ask them in the comments below. If you have more information to share pertaining to these laws or advice about Mississippi’s legal system, we’d also love to hear from you. We try to get back to everyone in a prompt and personal manner.