Pennsylvania, like all other states, has regulations governing the possession of controlled substances and the penalties for violating the state laws on controlled substances. However, while all states regulate the possession of controlled substances, state law differs on what is classified as a controlled substance and the penalties for possessing certain substances.
Pennsylvania Law on Possession of a Controlled Substance
What Pennsylvania Classifies as a Controlled Substance
In Pennsylvania, the controlled substances that are subject to possession laws include common street drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc. However, Pennsylvania also regulates the elements used to compose these drugs. The penalties for illegally possessing controlled substances differ from the possession of the components used to make these substances. Additionally, the penalties for possession of controlled substances may vary depending on how it is scheduled and whether or not you are charged with intent to deliver.
Controlled Substance Schedules and Penalties
As an initial matter, the possession of any substance classified as a controlled substance under Pennsylvania law is illegal without a valid medical prescription. Pennsylvania, like most states, categorizes controlled substances into five different schedules. Schedule I substances are the most addictive and dangerous. Additionally, they have been determined to have no medical benefit. As such, possession of a controlled substance that falls into Schedule I under Pennsylvania law will always result in a violation of illegal possession of a controlled substance.
For controlled substances classified in Schedules II-V, it is illegal to possess such substances without a valid medical prescription. The different schedules are intended to categorize substances based on how their potential danger and the value of their medicinal use. As such, Schedule II substances are seen as more dangerous when their medical benefit is weighed against their potential for abuse. Considered less dangerous are Schedule III, IV, and Schedule V, with Schedule V considered the least dangerous of the five schedules of substances, with the most potential for medical benefits.
Why the Schedule Classification of a Controlled Substance Matters
If charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver in the state of Pennsylvania the penalties will generally be more severe for the higher level scheduled substances compared to the lower ones. However, there will be exceptions to this. This is why it is a good idea to understand every element if you are charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession with the intent to deliver.
Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance in Pennsylvania
Without a valid medical prescription to possess a controlled substance, it is illegal in Pennsylvania to have in your possession a substance classified as a controlled substance. For first violations, a charge of unlawful possession carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Subsequent charges of illegal possession of controlled substances have higher penalties. Another conviction of possessing a controlled substance in Pennsylvania without a valid medical prescription can result in more potential jail exposure.
Other Penalties for Possession Related to Controlled Substances
Certain substances cannot be possessed without a legitimate use. Moreover, other controlled substance precursors are illegal if they are possessed with the intent to manufacture a controlled substance. Penalties for unlawful possession of these substances in Pennsylvania can include a fine of up to $15,000 and prison time of up to seven years.
Related Laws on Possession of a Controlled Substance in Pennsylvania
Possession of a controlled substance With Intent to Distribute
Possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute that substance typically carries higher charges and penalties. This charge will depend on factors such as the amount in your possession and what type of substance it was. In Pennsylvania, the laws vary substantially depending on the kind of substance and other pertinent factors such as past criminal background, drug packaging, and whether there was money involved. This list is not exhaustive, so it is wise to seek legal advice if you are unsure of your circumstances and believe you could be facing these charges.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Pennsylvania law also prohibits the possession of drug paraphernalia. The definition is widespread and includes many devices that could be used to transport, use, make, distribute, or consume a controlled substance.
If you are charged with violating multiple laws surrounding possession of a controlled substance in Pennsylvania, such as possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, then each offense counts as a separate offense. That will mean that each conviction will carry its own fines and penalties, which can add up substantially.
Defenses to Charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance in Pennsylvania
There are potential defenses to a charge of possession of a controlled substance in Pennsylvania. Some of these include:
- Situations in which the police discovered the substance in a non-legal situation (e.g., without a valid warrant to search an individual’s car or home)
- Instances where the warrant was deficient in some manner that violates the individual’s Constitutional rights
- Situations where there is insufficient evidence to prove that the individual had actual possession of the controlled substance.
- The laws on this are complicated, so it is wise to consult an experienced attorney to learn more about what possible defenses you may have and the nuances involved.
Protect Yourself and Contact an Attorney Today if You are Charged With Possession of a Controlled Substance
Given the high fines, penalties, and possible incarceration time, if you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance or a component used to manufacture controlled substances, then you may want to contact an attorney with expertise in this area. The laws on this are complicated, and it is crucial to understand the charges that you are facing to understand your options and the potential consequences.
If you are concerned about a potential charge of possession of a controlled substance in Pennsylvania and need help understanding the legality and consequences for your situation, fill out our contact form. Someone will get back to you to discuss the specifics of your case and how we may be able to help.