What Is a Controlled Substance?

What is a controlled substance? Certain medications and drugs are controlled under both Pennsylvania and federal law. In general, a controlled substance is a drug that is illegal unless it is prescribed. These drugs can harm your health, leading state and federal governments to regulate them. If you are caught with a controlled substance for which you do not have a valid prescription, you can face penalties, including prison time and fines.

Possessing a controlled substance is not always illegal. However, certain controlled substances are always illegal. You can learn whether a particular controlled substance is illegal by looking it up in the controlled substance schedules. If you are charged with the unlawful possession of a controlled substance, an experienced drug crimes attorney at DiCindio Law is available to help you defend against your charges.

The federal controlled substance schedules

Under federal law, controlled substances are those that are listed in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which includes schedules of drugs in five categories. Schedule I drugs are considered to be unsafe, have high abuse potentials, and are not recognized as having any accepted medical uses. Some examples of drugs that are classified in this schedule include LSD, heroin, ecstasy, peyote, and marijuana.

Schedule II drugs are drugs that have a high potential for abuse and that can cause physical or psychological dependence while also having some limited medical benefits. Some examples of drugs in this category include hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, opium, codeine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine.

Schedule III drugs are drugs that can cause a moderate level of physical dependence and a high level of psychological dependence but a lower potential for abuse. These drugs may have a recognized medical benefit and might be prescribed. Some of these drugs include suboxone, anabolic steroids, Tylenol with codeine, and ketamine.

Schedule IV drugs are drugs that may be prescribed and that have a lower abuse potential than the drugs found in Schedule III. These include drugs like Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Restoril, Klonopin, Soma, and Halcion.

Schedule V drugs primarily consist of preparations that contain limited amounts of narcotics such as cough syrups with codeine.

While it is illegal to possess any of the scheduled drugs without a prescription, it is not illegal when you have a valid prescription and have purchased the prescribed drug. If you have a prescription and have purchased one of the listed controlled substances, you cannot be prosecuted for possessing it.

The penalties that you might face for possessing controlled substances will depend on the type of drug that you possessed and the amount that was involved. It will also depend on whether you are charged under state or federal law. For example, if you are convicted of possessing 100 grams or more of cocaine in Pennsylvania, you will face a minimum sentence of four years in state prison up to a maximum of seven years. If you are charged with possessing 100 grams up to 499 grams of cocaine under federal law, you will face up to 20 years in prison. You can be prosecuted under both state and federal law for possessing substantial quantities of drugs with the intent to deliver, and your intent to deliver can be inferred when you possess a larger amount than what would be deemed to be for personal use.

Understanding the law that applies

Since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 is a federal law, criminal cases that are prosecuted under it go through the federal court system. Pennsylvania has its own law called the Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetics Act. Cases that are prosecuted under it go through the state criminal court system.

Federal laws preempt state laws. However, Pennsylvania and other states do have flexibility in how they enforce the CSA. Most states have adopted the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1973 and do not conflict with the CSA.

For marijuana, it remains illegal under the CSA. Pennsylvania has passed a medical marijuana law and allows people to possess medical marijuana for limited medical reasons. Recreational marijuana use is still illegal, however.

Controlled substances crimes

The CSA makes it illegal to do any of the following with counterfeit or controlled scheduled drugs:

  • Distribution, including importing, exporting, or trafficking
  • Manufacturing drugs
  • Possession with the intent to distribute, dispense, or manufacture
  • Dispensing drugs
  • Conspiring or attempting to do any of the above actions

These actions are interpreted vary broadly. Possessing a drug that is listed in the controlled substances schedules can be prosecuted and punished with imprisonment or a fine. The state laws in Pennsylvania vary and depend on the type of drug, the amount that is possessed, and the specific action in which you are alleged to have engaged. Possessing counterfeit controlled substances can also be prosecuted.

Contact an attorney at DiCindio Law

Understanding what is considered to be a controlled substance is important. If you are facing criminal charges for possessing a controlled substance, you should talk to a criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible. An attorney can help you to understand the potential penalties that you might face and help to design defense strategies to protect your rights. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us at (610) 430-3535.