UPOCS (Unlawful Possession of Controlled Substance)

What is a controlled substance?

In 2013, 82.3% of all drug arrests were for UPOCS.  That equates to more than 1.2 million arrests in that year.  There are several Alabama laws, included in the Criminal Code, that relate to the prohibitions against the unauthorized possession or distribution of controlled substances.  So, which drugs are considered controlled substances, under the law?

Definition of a controlled substance

According to criminal law, drugs that have been determined to be dangerous, habit-forming, or otherwise inappropriate for use without a prescription, are designated as controlled substances.  There are federal laws that were enacted for the purpose of categorizing these controlled substances, based on the factors such as their medical benefits and their potential for abuse.

The schedules of controlled substances

The benefit of categorizing controlled substances into schedules is that criminal statutes can be written to apply to entire categories of drugs, based on their harmful nature.  This system eliminates the need to list all substances covered by a particular law. The most dangerous or harmful controlled substances are identified in Schedule I.  Drugs with the following characteristics are included in Schedule I:

  • high potential for abuse
  • no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States
  • lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision

No prescriptions may be written for these Schedule I substances.  Drugs such as marijuana, heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, are all Schedule I controlled substances.  Although marijuana is also a controlled substance, it is governed by a separate criminal statute in Alabama.

In Alabama, possession of a controlled substance (UPOCS) is a class C felony, potentially punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.  If you have questions regarding controlled substances, or any other criminal defense matters, contact Ketcham Law at (205) 296-4233.

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