Sale of a Controlled Substance

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Sale of a controlled substance in Las Vegas involves the transfer of an illegal drug from one person to another. These charges are frequently brought in Las Vegas courts and can be based upon transactions that include:

  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Marijuana
  • Ecstasy / MDMA
  • Heroin

In Las Vegas, charges for the sale of drugs commonly arise from illegal drug transactions which occur in nightclubs, strip clubs, pool parties, as well as hand-to-hand street sales of illegal drugs. Under Nevada law, a “sale” means that with the intent to exchange an illegal drug for money or something else of value, a person actually, or attempts to, barter, exchange, furnish, supply, gift, or offer a controlled substance to another person for something of value – most often, money.

In Nevada, the act of transfer is essential. The controlled substance must go from person A (seller), to person B (buyer). If there is no pickup or delivery of a substance the prosecution cannot convict someone of the sale of controlled substance. There must be an exchange of something of value for a controlled substance. The transactional nature of the crime lies at the heart of the charge.


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Another element of sale of a controlled substance requires that the prosecution prove that the seller knew that the substance was a narcotic drug. This essential element of the charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in every instance in which someone is charged with selling an illegal substance for the charge to be legally valid. Knowledge of the nature of the substance being sold is critical and must be supported by adequate evidence in every case.

The prosecution is not required to prove that anyone necessarily profited from the illegal drug transfer. This means that the prosecution does not need to show any amount of money exchanged for the drug. Also, the quantity of drug transferred does not matter. Therefore, all that the prosecution needs to show in this regard, is that something of value was paid for, or bartered for, a controlled substance. Again, the amount of money given for the illegal drug, or the amount of the controlled substance itself, is irrelevant. As long as a transaction between two persons occurs which involves money, or an item of value being exchanged for a controlled substance, criminal liability for sale of a controlled substance will attach.


As one would expect in Las Vegas, sale of a controlled substance fact patterns usually involve a transaction directly between a seller and buyer. However, liability can also occur through the conduct of a third-party. A third-party (agent) transaction for a controlled substance, will be deemed a sale between the seller (principal) and the buyer. In other words, if a person (agent) sells an illegal drug on behalf of another person (principal), the original seller (principal) can still be prosecuted for the act of his agent and properly be convicted of selling illegal substances.

Nevada courts have consistently held that any party involved in the sale, who has the requisite criminal intent, can be properly convicted of the crime. A person cannot be relieved of criminal liability for selling illegal substances by having the illegal drug sale done by his or her agent. He or she will be deemed equally culpable for the crime of sale of controlled substance so long as he or she has the criminal intent to effectuate through his or her agent.


Often, innocent persons in the vicinity of a sale of controlled substance are improperly charged as participants in the drug sale. When this occurs, it is important to remember that under Nevada law, a person who is merely present during a drug transaction (meaning a person who is present at the illegal drug transaction and does not have any criminal intent) cannot properly be convicted of the crime. This defense occurs often in Las Vegas drug cases.


If convicted, a person will face the following penalties:

First offense: This is a category B felony. The penalties include 1-6 years of prison time and a fine up to $20,000. For persons convicted of a first offense, probation is possible.

Second offense: This is a category B felony. The penalties include 2-10 years of mandatory prison time and a fine up to $20,000. A second offense is non-probational.

Third offense (or more): This is a category B felony. The penalties include 3-15 years of mandatory prison time and a fine up to $20,000. A third offense is non-probational.

If you’ve been charged with selling illegal drugs, you need the strongest legal defense available to you to ensure that you are fairly represented under Nevada or federal law. 

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