This year the Rhode Island General Assembly made significant changes to the Uniform Controlled Substance Act.  Specifically, legislation was introduced that amended RI Gen Laws §21-28-4.01, making possession of small amounts of certain drugs a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

What quantity of drugs is now considered a misdemeanor?

Now, in Rhode Island, possession of 10 grams or less of certain controlled substances is a misdemeanor.

What constitutes possession under Rhode Island law?

Under RI law, drug possession requires the “intentional control” of the controlled substance with “knowledge of its nature.” Possession of an object can be either actual or constructive. Constructive possession occurs when an individual exercises dominion and control over such object, even though it is not within his immediate physical possession. Proof of constructive possession of a controlled substance therefore requires a showing that defendant knew of the presence of the substance and that he intended to exercise control over it; these two elements can be inferred from a totality of the circumstances.

What drugs are included in this new law?

This law includes controlled substances in Schedule I, II, III, IV and IV or mixtures of these substances. Some examples include:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methamphetamine
  • LSD
  • Ecstasy

It should be noted that marijuana is not included under this new law, as marijuana possession laws have already been drastically changed over the last several years.

What are the new misdemeanor penalties for drug possession?

Those individuals found possessing 10 grams or less off the above controlled substances are facing:

  • Up to two (2) years in prison
  • Up to a $500 fine
  • Or both

Where are these cases prosecuted?

Although possession of 10g or less of a controlled substance is now considered a misdemeanor, it carries up to two years to serve, so these cases will be prosecuted in the Superior Court rather than District Court (where misdemeanors are normally prosecuted).  Since the cases will be in Superior Court, they be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office, rather than by City or Town Solicitors.

Can drug possession still be a felony?

Yes, anyone found in possession of more than 10 grams of a controlled substance (other than marijuana) will still face a felony and the penalties vary by quantity, type of drug, and previous drug convictions.

Quantity Penalty
More than 10 grams (10g) but less than one ounce (1oz)
Prison: not more than 3 years
Fine: not more than $5,000
1oz to 1 kilogram (1kg.) of heroin, cocaine, fentanyl
Prison: 50 years
Fine: up to $500,000
1 kg or more of heroin, cocaine, fentanyl
Prison: up to life
Fine: up to $1,000,000


Under RI Gen. Laws § 21-28-4.11, a person convicted of a second offense drug possession charge would see both the maximum prison sentence and fine double.  For example, someone convicted of a second offense possession of 10 grams to 1oz of heroin would face up to 6 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Those convicted of a third of subsequent drug possession charge could see both the maximum prison sentence and fine triple. For example, someone convicted of a third offense possession of 10 grams to 1 oz of heroin would face up to 9 year in prison and/or a fine of $15,000.

In addition to the above penalties for possession of a controlled substance, sentences for drug possession can also include community service, drug counseling, and even a suspension of one’s driver’s license.

RI Drug Possession Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance in Rhode Island, call the experienced and aggressive lawyers at Abilheira Law now.  Our criminal defense attorneys handle the following cases:

  • Rhode Island possession of marijuana
  • Rhode Island possession of cocaine
  • Rhode Island possession of heroin
  • Rhode Island possession of fentanyl
  • Rhode Island possession of prescription drugs

Our drug possession defense lawyers will immediately begin working on your case and will tailor a defense to your particular facts and circumstances.  Don’t hesitate call us now!

Available 24/7 to take your call 401-245-5100