Rhode Island Drug Possession Lawyer

Possession of a Controlled Substance

Under Rhode Island Criminal law, Possession of a Controlled Substance may be found under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act at Rhode Island General Laws, Chapter 21, Title 28.

This offense penalizes the conduct of knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled substance. The penalties are listed according to the specific drug and quantity that was possessed.  

Each drug is placed within one of the five Drug Schedules based upon its potential for abuse and medical treatment.

If charges include intent to deliver go to the drug possession with intent to deliver page.

Legal Elements for Possession of a Controlled Substance

In order to be convicted of Possession of a Controlled Substance under Rhode Island criminal law, there must exist strong evidence of the following three legal elements:

  1. that the defendant possessed the specific drug in question
  2. the defendant did so knowingly and intentionally
  3. the drug is a controlled substance, as defined by Rhode Island law

What is Possession for Purposes of Possessing a Controlled Substance

Under Rhode Island criminal law, there are two ways to possess a controlled substance:

  1. actual possession
  2. constructive possession

Actual Possession

A person has actual possession of a drug if he or she has direct physical control over it, with knowledge of its narcotic or illegal drug nature. Absent physical or actual possession, a person may constructively possess and item. 

Constructive Possession

One has constructive possession of a drug if he has knowledge of the substance and has both the power and intent to exercise dominion or control over it, either by himself or through a third person.  

Sole or Joint Possession

Possession may also be sole or joint.  A person has sole possession of a drug if he or she alone has actual or constructive possession of it. 

If two or more persons share actual or constructive possession of the substance, that is called joint possession.  Possession is not conditioned on the length of time that a person has an item under his or her control.

Knowing or conscious contact with an item, even though fleeting or momentary, is enough to prove the element of possession for the crime, Possession of a Controlled Substance.

What Drugs are Considered Controlled Substances

Under Rhode Island General Laws, Section 21-28-2.08, each drug is listed in a specified drug schedule.

There are many drugs listed in the schedules and are identified by their scientific name rather than the more well-known street names.   

For example, some drugs contained in Schedules I and II are as follows:

  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Coca Leaves
  • Cocaine
  • Ecgonine
  • PCP
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA

Any form of these drugs is prohibited under Rhode Island criminal law.  This includes leaves, salts, optical and geometric isomers, salts of isomers, derivatives, extracts and more.  

Though the drug may change form, the law targets and prohibits the chemical composition that makes up the substance.  Therefore, changing a drug’s physical properties does not enable you to avoid application of and prosecution under the Rhode Island drug laws.    

Drug Possession Penalties and Potential Punishment if Convicted of Drug Possession in Rhode Island

As a general rule, Possession of a Controlled Substance is considered a felony under Rhode Island criminal law.  One exception to this rule exists for simple possession of marijuana over one once, which is considered a misdemeanor.  

However, possessing higher quantities of marijuana is a felony.  Upon a conviction for Possessing a Controlled Substance as a first offense, an offender may be sentenced to a term in prison of not more than three years.  Subsequent convictions will result in increased maximum sentences, which may be found at Rhode Island General Laws, Section 21-28-4.01.

Rhode Island criminal laws regarding illegal drugs also provide for a separate sentencing scheme when a specified controlled substance is possessed in a certain, specified quantity.

Specifically, Rhode Island General Laws, Section 21-28-4.01.1 provides a term of imprisonment up to 50 years for possessing any of following drugs at the following specified drug quantities:

  • One ounce to one kilogram of Heroin, Cocaine, Ecgonine, Coca leaves, synthetic drugs, or Fentanyl;
  • One kilogram to five kilograms of Marijuana;
  • One gram to ten grams or 100 tablets to 1,000 tablets of PCP; and
  • One-tenth of a gram to one gram or 100 tablets to 1,000 tablets of LSD.

Furthermore, Rhode Island General Laws, Section 21-28-4.01.2, provides a term of imprisonment of up life for possessing the following drugs at the following specified drug quantities:

  • More than one kilogram of Heroin, Cocaine, Ecgonine, Coca leaves, synthetic drugs, or Fentanyl;
  • More than five kilograms of Marijuana;
  • More than ten grams or 1,000 tablets of PCP; and
  • More than one gram or 1,000 tablets of LSD.

The war on drugs is a never-ending fight.  From police in the streets to judges and prosecutors in the courtrooms, the government has many tools at its disposal to investigate, arrest and prosecute drug offenders.  

Steep jail sentences are among these tools and are designed to both punish convicted offenders and deter others from becoming involved with illegal drugs.  If you are charged with a Rhode Island drug crime, you need an honest, experienced and effective attorney on your case.  Call Attorney John L. Calcagni III for a free consultation. 

Why Hire RI Drug Possession Defense Lawyer John L. Calcagni III

Former Federal Prosecutor with a proven track record. John Calcagni’s Law firm has an unmatched trial record for winning verdicts.

Get a free consultation today with an award winning criminal defense attorney that is licensed in multiple state and federal jurisdictions.

Collateral Consequences of Drug Possession in Rhode Island

Being charged with Drug Possession may have serious collateral consequences. These may include:

  • denial of public housing
  • financial aid to attend school
  • the ability to serve in the military or armed forces
  • various employment opportunities
  • and in some states, a license to operate a motor vehicle.

What Happens When a Drug Possession Offender Has Children?

If an offender has children, a Drug or Narcotics Offense charge may also implicate state agencies such as the Department of Child Services (DCS) or Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

These agencies may initiate independent investigations to consider the welfare of child or children who may have been exposed to a parent who is either abusing or dealing illegal drugs.

This could lead to removal of a child or children from the household or limiting or restricting parental rights.

A Drug Possession charge is a serious matter. Therefore, if you have been charged with Drug Possession, it is important to seek legal representation immediately in order to protect your rights and minimize the impact that a charge of his nature may have on your life.


If you have been charged with drug possession and need expert legal representation, contact the Rhode Island Drug Defense Attorneys at the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III by email or call today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a free consultation.