Nevada "Ecstasy / MDMA" Drug Laws
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers


 

Definition

Ecstasy (MDMA) is an illegal schedule I drug. It is against Nevada law to possess, possess with intent to sell, sell or manufacture, or traffic ecstasy.

It is also against Nevada law to be under the influence of ecstasy whether or not the police can find any drugs on or near the defendant.

Penalties

Most MDMA crimes are charged as felonies in Nevada. It is often feasible to plea bargain the case down to a misdemeanor or a full dismissal. Otherwise, the judge may hand down the following punishments:

Nevada Ecstasy crime Penalties for a first-time conviction

Possession for personal use

category E felony:

A first offense is typically probationable. If not, the court will impose:

Possession with the intent to sell it

category D felony:

  • 1 – 4 years in prison, and
  • up to $5,000 (at court's discretion)

Selling, importing, trading, transporting, dispensing, giving away, administering, or manufacturing

category B felony:

  • 1 – 6 years in prison, and
  • up to $20,000

Trafficking MDMA is any act involving at least 4 grams of ecstasy, and the sentence turns on the quantity of ecstasy involved. If the amount is less than 14 grams, trafficking is prosecuted as a category B felony, carrying:

  • 1 – 6 years in prison, and
  • up to $50,000

Defenses

The circumstances of the charges and the case dictate which defense strategies would be most effective. Typical defenses are:

  • The defendant had no knowledge that the ecstasy was there,
  • Law enforcement entrapped the defendant, and/or
  • The police conducted an illegal search and seizure

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers discuss:

Person taking ecstasy pill under disco ball lights
Ecstasy possession, manufacturing, and selling are illegal in Nevada.

1. What is ecstasy, and is it illegal?

Ecstasy is a schedule I narcotic that is typically taken in pill form. Its colloquial names are "E", "X", "MDMA," or "molly."1

Since ecstasy is an illegal drug, people face criminal charges in Nevada for doing any of the following with ecstasy:

  • possessing for personal use (a.k.a. "simple possession"),2
  • possessing with the intention to sell (a.k.a. "possession for sale"),3
  • selling,
  • manufacturing,
  • bartering,
  • administering,
  • exchanging,
  • dispensing,
  • giving away,
  • importing, or
  • transporting4
Pink ecstasy pill
Ecstasy crimes are prosecuted as a felony in Nevada.

The definition of trafficking is doing any of the aforementioned actions with at least four (4) grams of ecstasy.5 Even simple ecstasy possession could be prosecuted as trafficking if the suspect allegedly has four (4) grams of ecstasy.

2. What are the penalties for Nevada MDMA crimes?

It depends on which offense the defendant was convicted of. Nevada law levies the harshest punishments for trafficking and the least harsh punishments for simple possession.

The punishment for simple possession, possession with intent to sell, and selling increases if the defendant has previous convictions. Meanwhile, trafficking punishments depend on the quantity of ecstasy in the case:

Nevada Ecstasy crime Punishments

Possession for personal use

(NRS 453.336)

1st or 2nd conviction

category E felony:

  • 1 – 4 years in prison, and
  • up to $5,000 (at court's discretion)

Note that courts usually grant probation in lieu of prison for a first-time conviction.

3rd or 4th conviction

category D felony:

  • 1 – 4 years in prison, and
  • up to $20,000 (at court's discretion)

Possession with the intent to sell

(NRS 453.337)

1st conviction

category D felony:

  • 1 – 4 years in prison, and
  • up to $5,000 (at court's discretion)

2nd conviction

category C felony:

  • 1 – 5 years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 (at court's discretion)

3rd conviction

category B felony:

  • 3 – 15 years in prison, and
  • up to $20,000 (at court's discretion)

Selling, giving away, trading, transporting, importing, dispensing, administering, or manufacturing

(NRS 453.321)

1st conviction

category B felony:

  • 1 – 6 years in prison, and
  • up to $20,000

2nd conviction

category B felony:

  • 2 – 10 years in prison, and
  • up to $20,000

3rd conviction

category B felony:

  • 3 – 15 years in prison, and
  • up to $20,000

Trafficking

(NRS 453.3385)

4 grams to less than 14 grams

category B felony:

  • 1 – 6 years in prison, and
  • up to $50,000

14 grams to less than 28 grams

category B felony:

  • 2 – 15 years in prison, and
  • up to $100,000

28 grams or more

category A felony:

  • 25 years or life in prison (with the possibility of parole after 10 years), and
  • up to $500,000

Note that being under the influence of ecstasy in Nevada is a category E felony, carrying:

  • 1 – 4 years in prison, and
  • up to $5,000 (at court's discretion)

Note that courts usually grant probation in lieu of prison for a first-time conviction.6

3. What are defenses to Nevada ecstasy offenses?

The most effective methods of defending against drug allegations depend on the charge and circumstances of the case. Typical defenses are:

Ecstasy pills spread out on a surface
There are several possible defenses to ecstasy charges in Nevada.
  • The defendant did not have knowledge the MDMA was there,
  • The police entrapped the defendant, and/or
  • The police executed an illegal search and seizure

3.1. No knowledge of the ecstasy

Defendants are not guilty of drug possession if they are honestly unaware of the drugs being there.7Moapa criminal defense attorney Michael Becker illustrates how a defendant may lack knowledge of possessing drugs:

Example: Jan and Jennifer share a Las Vegas apartment. Jan buys some MDMA and hides it under the living room floorboards without Jennifer's knowledge. Acting on a tip, a police officer gets a search warrant to search the house and finds the ecstasy. The officer then arrests Jan and Jennifer for simple possession because they share the apartment. But Jennifer should not be convicted of drug possession because she genuinely had no idea the ecstasy was in her home.

If the D.A. in the above example cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jennifer knew the ecstasy was in her apartment, the case should be dismissed.

3.2. Entrapment

Law enforcement is not allowed to trick suspects into committing a crime that the suspects are not predisposed to commit.8 Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Castillo provides an example of police entrapment:

Example: In Laughlin, an undercover police officer goes to a rave and observes Hannah popping MDMA. The officer accosts Hannah and requests to buy one of her ecstasy pills. Hannah politely declines and says she is not a drug dealer. The officer then threatens to beat Hannah if she refuses to sell him the pill. Hannah then sells him the ecstasy, after which the officer arrests her for selling drugs. But Hannah committed no crime because the undercover officer entrapped her with threats. Hannah was not predisposed to sell drugs, and the only reason she did was because she was scared for her physical safety.

If Hannah in the above example accepted the officer's first offer to buy the drugs, then Hannah would have a much harder time arguing that she was entrapped. Police are allowed to go undercover and lie to suspects -- they just cannot threaten suspects to get them to carry out a crime.

3.3. Illegal search and seizure

Grey ecstasy pill
Ecstasy found as the result of an unlawful police search may be excluded as evidence in Nevada.

Police must abide by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when executing a search and seizure. Whenever officers cross the line, the defense attorney should then request that the judge exclude all the evidence found from the unconstitutional search. Pahrump criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:

Example: Officer Thompson receives a tip that Isabelle sells ecstasy. The officer follows her to her house and asks to search her place. Isabelle refuses, but the officer searches anyway. He finds ecstasy in her kitchen compartment and arrests Isabelle. As the case proceeds through the court system, Isabelle's attorney files a "motion to suppress evidence" the ecstasy as evidence. The attorney explains that Officer Thompson's search was illegal because he did not get a search warrant after Isabelle refused to consent to a search. The court grants the motion and disregards the ecstasy as evidence. Without the ecstasy, the state's case is severely weakened. The D.A. then drops the case since there is little chance the state could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the above scenario, Officer Thompson's illegal conduct paved the way to Isabelle's legal victory. When crafting a defense, sometimes the defendant's behavior is not nearly as important as the police's misbehavior.

4. Can I get my Nevada ecstasy charge reduced or dismissed?

The prosecutor may be willing to lessen or drop drug charges to avoid going to trial. First-time drug defendants with minimal criminal history are more likely to receive favorable plea deals.

Pillbox full of ecstasy pills
Many drug charges can get dismissed to lesser offenses in Nevada.

First-time defendants accused of simple possession are often given the opportunity to go on probation and avoid jail by completing Nevada's drug court program, an intensive rehabilitation program. Upon successful completion, the D.A. will dismiss the case entirely.

Another typical plea bargain is for the D.A. to lessen a felony drug charge to the misdemeanor drug charge commonly called ITS (a.k.a. "drugs which may not be introduced into interstate commerce"). The maximum ITS penalties include:

  • 6 months in jail, and/or
  • $1,000 in fines

But it is rare for the judge to impose incarceration in ITS cases.9

5. Can I go to trial on my Nevada MDMA case?

Yes. Defendants have the constitutional right to a jury trial or a bench trial.10 The only difference is that bench trials do not have a jury, and the judge is the one who delivers the verdict.

Note that most drug cases settle without a trial. The D.A. is usually willing to extend a decent plea deal that involves a charge reduction or dismissal.

Pink ecstasy pill
A simple drug possession charge can usually be sealed 2 years after the case closes.

6. When can a Nevada ecstasy case be sealed?

If the defense attorney succeeds in getting the ecstasy charge dismissed, then the defendant can pursue a criminal record seal immediately.11

If the ecstasy charge gets lessened to the misdemeanor drug offense of ITS (defined above in question 4), the waiting period to pursue a record seal is one (1) year after the case closes.12

Otherwise, the defendant has to wait two to ten years to get a seal depending on the specific charge he/she was convicted of:

Nevada Ecstasy conviction Record seal waiting period

category E felony:

  • 1st or 2nd conviction of simple possession, or
  • being under the influence

2 years after the case ends

category D felony:

  • 3rd or 4th conviction of simple possession
  • 1st offense of possession for sale

5 years after the case ends

category C felony:

  • 2nd conviction of possession for sale

5 years after the case ends

category B felony:

  • 3rd conviction of possession for sale
  • selling, transporting, or manufacturing
  • trafficking less than 28 grams

5 years after the case ends

category A felony:

  • trafficking at least 28 grams

10 years after the case ends13

7. Can I get deported for an ecstasy crime?

Yes, MDMA is a deportable crime in Nevada. Non-U.S. citizens convicted of drug offenses can be removed from the U.S. Furthermore, merely admitting to having a substance abuse problem or dealing drugs makes aliens vulnerable to deportation from the U.S. whether or not the court convicts them.14

Hands trading cash for drugs in drug deal
Drug crimes are deportable.

Consequently, immigrants facing drug charges should retain a skilled immigration and criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The attorney would try to convince the D.A. to dismiss the charge or else lessen it to a non-deportable crime. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

8. Related drug offenses

8.1. Heroin

Just like ecstasy, heroin is a schedule I drug and carries the same penalty scheme. Learn more about Nevada heroin laws.

8.2. GHB and Rohypnol

The law treats GHB and Rohypnol as schedule I narcotics (like ecstasy) whenever they are illegally possessed or sold.

Note that possession of GHB and Rohypnol for personal use carries up to six (6) years in prison, whereas simple possession of ecstasy carries a maximum four (4)-year sentence.

Learn more about Nevada GHB and Rohypnol laws.

8.3. Meth

Methamphetamine is a schedule II narcotic. Drug crimes involving meth are punished the same as ecstasy except for trafficking. Learn more about Nevada methamphetamine laws.

8.4. OxyContin and Vicodin

The painkillers OxyContin and Vicodin are schedule II narcotics. Drug crimes involving these painkillers are punished the same as ecstasy except for trafficking. Learn more about Nevada OxyContin and Vicodin laws.

8.5. Cocaine

Cocaine is a schedule II narcotic. Drug crimes involving cocaine are punished the same as ecstasy except for trafficking. Learn more about Nevada cocaine laws.

8.6. PCP

PCP (phencyclidine) is a schedule II narcotic. Drug crimes involving this hallucinogen are punished the same as ecstasy except for trafficking. Learn more about Nevada PCP laws.

8.7. Ketamine

Ketamine is a schedule III narcotic. Simple possession charges are prosecuted the same as ecstasy. However, the judge may grant probation for a first offense of possessing ketamine for sale or of selling ketamine. And there is no such thing as ketamine trafficking offenses. Learn more about Nevada ketamine laws.

8.8. Codeine

Codeine is a schedule II narcotic. Drug crimes involving this opioid are prosecuted the same as ecstasy except for trafficking. Learn more about Nevada codeine laws.

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Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation.

Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

If you have been charged with an ecstasy-related offense in Nevada, call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers can discuss your case with you for no charge. We may be able to get your charges lessened or thrown out.

Arrested in California? Go to our informational article on California ecstasy laws.

Arrested in Colorado? Go to our informational article on Colorado ecstasy laws.


Legal References:

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration.
  2. NRS 453.336.
  3. NRS 453.337.
  4. NRS 453.321.
  5. NRS 453.3395.
  6. NRS 453.411.
  7. Sanders v. State, 110 Nev. 434, 874 P.2d 1239 (1994)("In order to establish that the crime of possession of a controlled substance has been committed, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had dominion and control of a controlled substance and knowledge of the presence of the controlled substance and of its illegal nature.").
  8. Sheriff, Humboldt County v. Gleave, 104 Nev. 496, 761 P.2d 416 (1988)("[T]his court held that "[e]ntrapment as a matter of law exists where the uncontroverted evidence shows (1) that the state furnished an opportunity for criminal conduct (2) to a person without the requisite criminal intent.").
  9. NRS 454.351.
  10. Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  11. NRS 179.255.
  12. NRS 179.245.
  13. Id.
  14. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B).

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