Possession of a Controlled Substance Attorney
The severity of drug possession charges in Pennsylvania depends on several things, including the amounts of drugs in your possession, what your intent was in possessing the drugs, and the specific types of drugs that were in your possession. The severity of your potential sentence will also depend on whether you are facing state or federal drug charges. If you are facing drug possession charges, it is best for you to retain a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in defending against drug crimes. The legal team at DiCindio Law can help you to understand the charges you are facing and their potential consequences. Here is some information about drug possession under state and federal law.
Types of drug possession in Pennsylvania
The different types of drug possession offenses are found in 35 Pa.CS § 780-113.. One of the most commonly charged drug possession offenses is found in 35 Pa.CS § 780-113(a)(16), which forbids people from intentionally or knowingly possessing controlled substances or counterfeit controlled substances. This offense is also known as simple possession, and it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. However, if the substance you are charged with possessing is gamma-hydroxybutyric acid or GHB, this offense will be a felony carrying the potential of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Possession with intent to distribute or deliver controlled substances is found in 35 Pa.CS § 780-113(a)(30). This offense may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the type of substance you possessed. However, in most cases, it is a felony offense carrying up to 15 years in prison. Possession with intent to deliver, manufacture, or distribute the following drugs is a felony:
If you have a valid prescription for a controlled substance but sell or give them away to a friend, you could still face charges of possession with the intent to deliver.
Police officers frequently determine whether to charge people with a misdemeanor simple possession offense or a felony PWID based on how many drugs they have in their possession. Even if you did not intend to sell or deliver drugs, you could be charged with a PWID if you have a larger quantity. Police also look for other indicators that you intended to distribute drugs, including things like scales, baggies, ledgers, large amounts of cash, and contact lists.
What prosecutors must prove in a Pennsylvania drug possession case
What the prosecutor must prove in a drug possession case in Pennsylvania will depend on whether the defendant is charged with simple possession or PWID. In general, a prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant was located in Pennsylvania on the date and time of the offense.
- The defendant intentionally and knowingly possessed a drug without a prescription.
- The defendant actually had control of the drug.
If the defendant is charged with a PWID, the prosecutor will also be required to prove the quantity of the drug and his or her intent to deliver, distribute, or manufacture it.
Federal drug crimes
The criminal drug laws, procedures, and sentences in federal court differ greatly from what might be expected in Pennsylvania’s state courts. Because of this, retaining an experienced lawyer who practices in both state and federal court is critical if you are facing federal drug crime charges.
Federal courts have sentencing guidelines for criminal offenses, including drug crimes. Sentences in federal court are often much harsher than sentences in state court for similar offenses. Another difference is that there is no federal parole system for people convicted in federal court unlike in state courts. This means that people who are convicted of federal drug crimes cannot look forward to a potential early release on parole.
If you passed drugs with the intent to distribute when the drugs were sent into Pennsylvania from a different state or when they were sold across state lines, you can be charged with federal drug trafficking. Depending on how many drugs you possessed and their type, you could face a harsh mandatory minimum sentence. Federal judges have very little discretion to deviate below a mandatory minimum sentence since these are set by Congress. While judges generally cannot give you a federal sentence below the mandatory minimum sentence, they do have the discretion to increase the length above the minimum based on the circumstances and your criminal history.
Drug sentencing factors
Courts consider aggravating and mitigating factors when they determine sentences. Some of these factors include your background, criminal history, education, work, and any notable accomplishments. They also consider aggravating factors such as whether you possess a firearm while committing a drug crime.
Defenses to drug possession charges
Whether you are charged in state court or indicted in federal court, getting help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible will be important. An experienced drug crimes attorney at DiCindio Law will begin by analyzing the evidence, police reports, documents, lab analyses, and other things the prosecution is using against you. Your attorney will review how the police investigated your case. Through this approach, your lawyer will assess the potential defenses that may be available to you.
Drug possession defenses will depend on the circumstances and facts of your case. Some of the potential defenses might include the following:
- You were not in actual control of the drugs.
- You did not knowingly or intentionally possess illegal drugs.
- You had a valid prescription.
- The police searched your vehicle or home without consent or a valid warrant.
- The police did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop and search you.
- The confidential informant received payment or sentence benefits to provide information to the police, and what he or she said cannot be trusted.
Get help from an experienced defense lawyer
Facing drug possession charges can be frightening. If you are convicted of a drug offense, the repercussions can last much longer than the end of your sentence. Getting help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law might help you to achieve a better outcome than you might otherwise receive. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535.