It is a federal crime to “knowingly open, lease, rent, use, or maintain any place, whether permanently or temporarily, for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.”
In simple terms, a person who rents or buys a house, apartment, warehouse, or other place and uses that place as a laboratory for making drugs, a place from which to sell drugs, or a place to use drugs is guilty of maintaining drug premises (also known as “maintaining a drug dwelling.”) The crime can also be committed by individuals who “manage or control” the premises even if they do not own or lease it.
Defining Maintaining a Drug Premises or Dwelling
When a place is used for more than one purpose — for instance, for sleeping and for selling drugs — the defendant’s purpose in maintaining the premises is not always clear. Most courts have concluded that a drug-related purpose need not be the only purpose for which a defendant maintains the premises.
On the other hand, most courts have concluded that merely using a controlled substance in the privacy of your own home does not constitute maintaining a drug dwelling.
While personal use of drugs by a home’s owner does not convert a home into drug-involved premises, the question of the home’s “purpose” becomes less clear when the defendant invites other people into the home for the purpose of consuming drugs.
Using premises as a “drug house” violates the law but courts do not always regard the occasional or consumption of drugs in a home by guests as proof that the home is a “drug house.” In those cases, the defense usually focuses on the ambiguity of the government’s proof that drug use was the purpose for which the defendant maintained the home.
Drug Premises Penalties
The maximum sentence for maintaining drug premises is 20 years in prison. Additional fines and costs can be imposed as well as a term of supervised release.
How a Drug Lawyer Can Help
If you have been charged with maintaining drug premises, contact Hamilton, Hull & Byrd for an experienced attorney to defend your interests and make sure your rights are protected.