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How to Fight a Charge for Maintaining a Vehicle or Dwelling for Drugs in North Carolina

If you have been charged with a drug-related crime in North Carolina, you may also be charged with an additional crime called "keeping or maintaining a drug dwelling or vehicle for the use of a controlled substance." You may be wondering what this type of criminal charge means. Maintaining a vehicle or dwelling for drugs can be charged as a misdemeanor or a more severe felony charge. If you are convicted, it could result in serious penalties, including jail time and heavy fines.

The Crime of Keeping or Maintaining a Drug Dwelling in North Carolina

When a person's car is stopped for a drug charge or their house has been searched, and the police have found evidence that the vehicle or dwelling is being used to sell drugs, they can be charged with maintaining a drug dwelling or vehicle. For prosecutors to convict someone of a misdemeanor-level charge, they must prove that the defendant knowingly maintained or kept a shop, residence, building, store, boat, warehouse, plant, or some other place that is being unlawfully used for the purpose of selling, keeping, or using a controlled substance.

North Carolina General Statute 90-108(a)(7)

The crime of maintaining a vehicle or dwelling for drugs is covered under North Carolina General Statute 90-108(a)(7). The statute is broad in scope. As a result, a wide range of properties can be subject to this charge, including a house, apartment, vehicle, boat, aircraft, or any other location being used to use controlled substances, keeping or selling them. The prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly kept or maintained a dwelling to use or sell controlled substances to pursue a conviction.

Your attorney may be able to show that you did not knowingly keep or maintain a vehicle or dwelling for drugs. Perhaps your roommate was storing and selling drugs in their bedroom, but you did not know that was occurring because you never set foot in your roommate's room. Perhaps you were driving your own vehicle, but your spouse had been using the vehicle's trunk to transport drugs. In that case, you could argue that you did not knowingly keep or maintain a dwelling used to own or sell drugs.

Proving Criminal Intent

For prosecutors to convict someone of a felony, they must prove that the person intentionally and knowingly acted in the same way as a misdemeanor charge. Prosecutors can prove the elements of this type of drug-related crime by establishing that you maintained, leased, owned, or otherwise were responsible for the dwelling, property, or vehicle in question. Proving this element can occur in several ways, including the following:

  • The accused had legal title to the property in question
  • The accused paid taxes on that property
  • The accused paid for upkeep and repairs on the property
  • The accused paid the rent
  • The accused paid utilities or otherwise contributed to covering expenses
  • The accused lived on the property or occupied it
  • The accused possessed the property in question for some time
  • The accused kept a key to the property

Showing that you occupied the property may not be enough for prosecutors to prove that you were keeping or maintaining a drug dwelling in North Carolina. Your defense attorney can poke holes in the prosecution's case by casting doubt on whether you were in control of the home or vehicle. If you prove that you were simply present or occupying the property, you can successfully defend yourself against a conviction.

The Penalties for Keeping and Maintaining a Drug Dwelling in North Carolina

Those convicted of maintaining a drug dwelling can face misdemeanor or felony charges if convicted. The crime is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor when prosecutors bring misdemeanor charges. If found guilty, the defendant can face up to four months in jail and other penalties, including drug treatment, fines, probation, and a permanent criminal record. For a felony conviction, the penalty for a Class 1 felony is more severe and includes up to a year in prison, along with fines, probation, drug treatment, and house arrest.

Discuss Your Case With a Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with maintaining a drug dwelling, you may face additional charges related to possessing or distributing controlled substances. It is crucial that you receive an effective criminal defense attorney who can provide you with a robust legal defense. Contact the Charlotte criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation case evaluation and learn more about how we can represent you.