Sentencing in Maine criminal drug charges

In Maine, sentencing for drug charges depends on the type of drug (Schedule W, X, Y, or Z), the amount possessed, and the activity involved (e.g., trafficking, manufacturing, etc.). Other factors, like criminal history, play into sentencing as well. These other factors may be “aggravating factors,” which elevate the level of the crime and require judges to impose a mandatory minimum sentence.

Thus, there are many parameters that play into sentencing for drug charges. This article lays out the basics.

Drug Schedules

Maine classifies drugs into different schedules: Schedule W, X, Y, or Z. These schedules largely correspond to the level of crime and sentence.

  • Schedule W drugs include certain amounts of heroine, cocaine, oxycodone, and methamphetamine.
  • Schedule X drugs include hallucinogens like psilocybin (mushrooms) and hashish.
  • Schedule Y drugs include certain prescription drugs like codeine, diazepam, and phenobarbitals.
  • Schedule Z drugs include all other drugs that are not categorized above.

Levels/classes of crimes

The drug schedule largely determines what class of crime (A, B, C, D, or E) a defendant can get convicted for. Each class has a maximum penalty defined by number of years of imprisonment and fine.

  • Class A crime: a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
  • Class B crime: a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
  • Class C crime: a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
  • Class D crime: a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • Class E crime: a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.

While judges have discretion in sentencing, the law mandates judges to impose a mandatory minimum sentence for certain drug felonies. Mandatory minimum means that a judge cannot grant a sentence below a term of jail without finding exceptional circumstances. The mandatory minimums are:

  • 4 years for a Class A felony, 2 years for a Class B felony, and 1 year for a Class C felony if a defendant used a gun against a person in the commission of the drug crime, or for aggravated drug trafficking (see below).
  • 1 year for a Class C felony related to trafficking marijuana.

Drug possession

The sentence for drug possession depends on the drug schedule, prior convictions, and amount of drug in possession. For example:

  • Possession of over a certain amount of Schedule W drugs is a Class C felony.
  • Possession of a Schedule Y or Z drug is a Class E misdemeanor.
  • If a defendant is in possession of crack cocaine and has a prior conviction for drug possession or trafficking, that serves as an aggravating factor. It elevates the possession of crack cocaine to a Class C felony.

Marijuana possession and cultivation

Marijuana has its own set of laws and penalties, largely because medical marijuana is legal.

Possession of marijuana is a Class B, C, D, or E crime depending on the amount possessed.

  • Possession of over 2.5 to 8 ounces is a Class E misdemeanor.
  • Possession of over 8 ounces to 16 ounces (one pound) is a Class D misdemeanor.
  • Possession of over one pound to 20 pounds is a Class C felony.
  • Possession of over 20 pounds is a Class B felony.

Marijuana cultivation is a class B, C, D, or E crime depending on the number of plants.

  • Cultivating 500 or more plants is a Class B crime.
  • Cultivating between 100 to 500 is a Class C crime.
  • Cultivating between 5 to 100 is a Class D crime.
  • Cultivating fewer than 5 is a Class E crime.

Illegal drug importation

Generally, carrying drugs into Maine from another state is a Class B or C crime depending on the drug schedule.

  • Importing a schedule X, Y, or Z drug is a Class C felony.
  • Importing a schedule W drug is a Class B felony.

The law attaches certain aggravating factors on the illegal importation of scheduled drugs, which elevate the charges. Aggravating factors include prior drug offense convictions, possession of a firearm, amount imported, death resulted, and involvement of a child. For example:

  • With one or more prior convictions for illegal drug importation: If the current drug at issue is a Schedule W drug, the current conviction elevates to a Class A felony. For other drug schedules, the current conviction will elevate to a Class B felony.
  • With possession of a firearm during the commission of the illegal drug importation: The current offense will elevate to a Class A felony with Schedule W drugs and a Class B felony for other drugs.
  • Soliciting the aid of a child: The solicitation is an aggravating factor that elevates the crime to a Class A felony with Schedule W drugs and a Class B felony with other drugs.
  • Importing larger quantities of certain drugs, such as over 6 grams of heroin, 300 or more pills of MDMA, or 112 grams or more of cocaine, is a Class A felony.
  • If death results by someone using a Schedule W drug, that is a Class A felony.

Questions? Contact us at Law Office of Richard Berne. We have 40+ years of legal experience that form the cornerstone of our criminal defense and civil litigation practice of our Portland, Maine law firm.