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3rd degree drug charge

Facing a third-degree drug charge can feel like being swept into a riptide—disorienting, frightening, and leaving you unsure where to turn.

Third-degree drug possession typically involves the possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell, and if convicted, can result in serious penalties. 

If you or someone you care about is charged with a 3rd-degree drug charge in Minnesota, Arechigo & Stokka’s experienced criminal defense attorneys can help.

Below, we explain the charge and its penalties in detail to help you understand the legal aspects of this difficult situation. 

If you have questions or, would like to share your story, please contact us today.

Explaining the Classification of 3rd Degree Drug Possession in Minnesota

In Minnesota, drug crimes are categorized by their severity. A third-degree drug possession charge falls under the umbrella of “controlled substance crime in the third degree,” as defined in Minnesota Statutes § 152.023.

This statute defines the crime as one or more occasions within 90 days of possessing a controlled substance in a certain amount or within a designated place  

Possession, in this context, extends beyond simply having drugs on your person; it also involves having control over them within a specific area.

Factors Leading to a Third-Degree Drug Possession Charge

There are two main ways a third-degree drug possession charge can be brought against you:

Quantity-Based Offenses

The amount of the controlled substance you possess plays a crucial role:

  • Three grams or more—applies to mixtures containing specific narcotics like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.
  • Ten grams or more—applies to mixtures containing other narcotic drugs besides those listed above.
  • Heroin and Fentanyl—owning three grams or more of heroin or five grams or more of fentanyl mixtures within 90 days qualifies as a third-degree offense.
  • Dosage Units—unlawfully possessing 50 or more individual doses of controlled substances classified in Schedule I, II, or III (other than heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana) can result in a third-degree charge.
  • Cannabis and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—owning more than ten kilograms of cannabis flower, more than two kilograms of cannabis concentrate, or any combination of infused products exceeding 200 grams of THC falls under this category.

Location-Based Offenses

Possession of certain controlled substances in certain areas can also lead to a third-degree drug charge.

This applies to any amount of a Schedule I or II narcotic drug or five or more dosage units of LSD (acid), Ecstasy (MDMA), or MDA in designated zones, including:

  • Public housing,
  • Schools,
  • Parks, 
  • Correctional facilities, and
  • Drug treatment facilities.

Being aware of these designated areas and the types of drugs restricted can help you avoid a potential offense in the future.

Ramifications of a 3rd Degree Drug Possession Charge in Minnesota

In Minnesota, a 3rd degree drug charge is classified as a felony with severe penalties. Here’s what you may be facing if convicted:

  • Imprisonment. Up to 20 years in prison, which can severely disrupt your life, career, and relationships.
  • Fines. A maximum fine of $250,000, potentially creating a substantial financial burden for you and your loved ones.
  • Probation and Court-Ordered Programs. These can restrict your freedom and require additional time commitments.
  • Permanent Criminal Record. This can have long-lasting consequences, impacting employment opportunities, housing options, and professional licensing.

The complexities of the legal system and the potential severity of the penalties underscore the importance of seeking legal representation.

Strategies to Defend Against Third-Degree Drug Possession Charges

A third-degree drug possession charge can feel overwhelming, but there are legal defenses available. Here are some common strategies explored by Minnesota criminal defense attorneys:

  • Illegal Search and Seizure—police conduct during your arrest is crucial. If your rights were violated during a search or seizure, evidence obtained may be inadmissible, potentially leading to dismissal of the charges.
  • Lack of Possession—the prosecution must prove you had known possession of the drugs. If the drugs were found in a shared space, on someone else, or if your control is questionable, a strong defense can be built.
  • Misidentification of Substance—mistakes can happen. An attorney can challenge the substance’s classification through lab results or expert testimony.
  • Entrapment—law enforcement cannot induce you to commit a crime you wouldn’t have otherwise. If police pressure or coerce you, this defense can be explored.
  • Medical reasons—you may have a valid defense if you have a lawful prescription or legal medical marijuana card for the drugs in your possession.

Each case is unique and requires a personalized defense strategy. Consulting with a qualified Minnesota criminal defense attorney ensures the most effective defense strategy.

The Importance of Legal Representation in Your Case

An experienced criminal defense attorney specializing in drug charges acts as your lifeline, pulling you to safety and navigating the legal system on your behalf.

Other ways a lawyer is invaluable when facing third-degree drug possession charges:

  • Investigating the Case. They will analyze the details of your arrest, including potential violations of your rights during searches and seizures. Identifying these weaknesses can lead to dismissal or reduction of charges.
  • Building a Defense Strategy. Tailored to your specific situation, this might include seeking dismissal due to police misconduct, negotiating a plea bargain, or presenting a solid defense at trial (challenging evidence, providing alibis, etc.).
  • Courtroom Representation. An experienced attorney familiar with Minnesota drug laws will advocate for you in court, impacting the outcome through expertise in presenting evidence and cross-examining witnesses.
  • Petition for Expungement. In some cases, your lawyer can petition the court for individual expungement of your conviction after you meet specific criteria, such as completing your sentence, probation, and remaining offense-free for a designated period.

A skilled drug crimes attorney can be the difference between a conviction and your freedom. Don’t attempt to take on these charges alone. 

Arechigo & Stokka: Your Minnesota Drug Charge Defense Team

Facing a third-degree drug charge can be a life-altering experience. With Arechigo & Stokka’s extensive experience defending clients against drug charges, you have a dedicated team to support you through this challenging time. 

We understand the emotional toll drug charges can take and are committed to providing compassionate, effective, and aggressive legal representation.

Our seasoned criminal defense attorneys have a successful track record defending clients against various drug charges in St. Paul and throughout Minnesota. 

Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you navigate this challenging situation. 

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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