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What happens if I’m arrested for drugs at EDC in Las Vegas?
Every summer dozens of drug busts mar the Electric Daisy Carnival (“EDC”). People caught with up to an ounce of marijuana will probably just be cited. But possessing other types of narcotics will result in being arrested and booked at the Clark County Detention Center. And defendants will face charges for drug possession (NRS 453.336).
The EDC is a three-day-long morning-to-night electronic music festival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. EDC 2020 is scheduled for May 15th through the 17th. Patrons usually go through metal detectors and have their bags searched before entering the premises.
Marijuana possession at the EDC
Recreational marijuana is now legal in Nevada. But it is still illegal to consume it in public.
Festival-goers caught smoking marijuana will likely be given a citation carrying a $600 fine.
People caught with more than one ounce of marijuana will be arrested and booked. A first-time offense is a category E felony if the amount is less than 14 grams. Courts grant eligible defendants who plead guilty or no contest a deferral of judgment, which means the charge will get dismissed if the defendant completes various court-ordered sentencing terms. Otherwise, category E felony convictions carry probation and a suspended sentence, with a possible jail sentence of up to 1 year. (But if the defendant has two or more prior felony convictions, the court may order one to four years of Nevada State Prison and a maximum of $5,000 in fines.)
A first-time possession offense is a category E felony. (This does not include marijuana, GHB, or Rohypnol.) Courts grant eligible defendants who plead guilty or no contest a deferral of judgment, which means the charge will get dismissed if the defendant completes various court-ordered sentencing terms. Otherwise, category E felony convictions carry probation and a suspended sentence, with a possible jail sentence of up to 1 year. (But if the defendant has two or more prior felony convictions, the court may order one to four years of Nevada State Prison and a maximum of $5,000 in fines.)
Penalties get harsher with each successive conviction.
Typical drugs found at the EDC include cocaine, meth, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, and PCP.
Fighting drug possession charges
Four common defenses to possession charges are:
The defendant did not know the drugs were there. Perhaps someone planted the drugs on the defendant.
The police arrested the wrong person. It is easy for police to make mistakes in chaotic and noisy festival settings.
The defendant had a right to possess the drugs. People with valid prescriptions for drugs may possess them in public (except for marijuana).
The police performed an illegal search. In these cases, the defendant can ask the judge to disregard evidence from the unlawful search. Then the D.A. may be left with too weak a case to prosecute.
Even if the prosecutor has strong evidence against the defendant, it still may be possible to get the charge dismissed. First-time defendants struggling with addiction may be eligible to do Drug Court. This is an intensive rehabilitation program. And upon successful completion, the court would dismiss the charge.
Alternatively, the prosecutor may agree to plea bargain a felony charge down to a misdemeanor. The defendant usually would need to pay a fine and/or do community service. And drug misdemeanors are sealable from the defendant’s record only one year after the case ends.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.