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Which Drug Carries The Highest Criminal Penalties In PA?

Pennsylvania’s controlled substances law closely tracks the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. This federal law divides regulated drugs into five schedules. The different schedules range from I, which are drugs with the highest potential for abuse and addiction with little medical benefits, to five, which include drugs with the lowest potential for abuse and addiction that do offer medical benefits. All scheduled drugs are called controlled substances. If you are charged with possessing, distributing, manufacturing, or selling controlled substances without a license or valid prescription, you could face state or federal prosecution.

Since Schedule I and Schedule II drugs are considered to be dangerous, you are much likelier to face felony charges if they involve substances that fall into one of these two classifications. If you are convicted, the court can sentence you based on the mandatory minimum sentences that apply to scheduled drugs. If you are facing these types of drug charges, it is critical for you to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible.

Understanding Schedule I drugs

The government views drugs classified under Schedule I as carrying the greatest potential to cause severe psychological and physical dependence.

These drugs are also considered to not have any legitimate medical purpose and include the following substances:

  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Peyote
  • MDMA
  • Marijuana
  • Many others

While there is a current push in Congress to remove marijuana from Schedule I, it is still classified as a Schedule I substance under federal law.

Understanding Schedule II drugs

Drugs classified as Schedule II drugs also are considered to have a high potential for abuse but somewhat less than the abuse potential of Schedule I drugs. These drugs are recognized as offering some medical benefits, and some are available by prescription.

Some examples of Schedule II drugs include the following:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Oxycontin
  • Percocet
  • Methadone
  • Demerol
  • Cocaine
  • Adderall
  • Fentanyl
  • Ritalin

Penalties for possessing Schedule I or Schedule II drugs

If you are convicted of possessing a drug classified under Schedule I or II as a first offense, you will face up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Schedule I or II possession convictions also will result in a suspension of your driver’s license for the first offense of six months. A second conviction will result in a 12-month suspension, and a third offense will result in a 24-month suspension.

Any drug conviction will also likely impact other areas of your life, including trouble keeping or finding a job, difficulty being approved for housing, trouble securing federal loans for college, custody problems, and more.

Penalties for selling or possessing with the intent to distribute Schedule I or II drugs

While the penalties for possessing controlled substances are harsh, the penalties you might face for selling or possessing with the intent to sell Schedule I or II drugs are much more severe. Selling or possession with the intent to distribute Schedule I or II drugs carries the harshest penalties of all of the crimes involving controlled substances.

If you are charged with possessing a Schedule I or II substance with the intent to distribute it, you could face as much as 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Any charge for possessing with intent to distribute a substance derived from opiates or chemical synthesis can result in a felony with 15 years in prison and a $250,00 fine. If you are charged with possessing with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, or PCP, you can face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Because of the opioid epidemic, more prosecutors are charging people with d, which is a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania.

The court can also hand down a harsher sentence if certain aggravating factors are present. For example, you could face more time based on the weight of drugs found in your possession, the presence of a weapon, if your offense occurred near a school, and any prior convictions you might have.

Prosecutor’s burden of proof

The prosecutor will have the burden of proof to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He or she must prove each of the elements of the charged offense to meet the required burden. You can also be convicted if you possessed a drug that is otherwise available by prescription when you did not have a valid prescription for it.

To convict you of a possession offense, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • You intentionally and knowingly controlled an illegal drug.
  • You knew the drug was present and illegal, and you intended to control or use it.
  • You constructively or actually possessed a controlled substance.

The prosecutor can charge you with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance based on the weight of the drugs in your possession and other evidence, including things like scales, baggies, large amounts of cash, drug ledgers, and others.

What to do if you are facing drug charges

The first thing you should do if you have been charged with a drug crime is to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney who is experienced in handling drug cases will understand how to investigate your case to identify potential defenses that might be available to you.

A lawyer might know the prosecutors who are handling your case and be prepared to use his or her past experience and knowledge of the local courts to negotiate a favorable plea agreement. In some cases, an attorney might be able to secure a dismissal of the charges against you.

You should never attempt to talk your way out of an arrest. Anything you say to the police or a prosecutor can be used against you. If you are arrested, you should also refrain from discussing your charges with a cellmate or over the phone from the jail with family members or friends. Jail calls are recorded, and recordings are often used as evidence against people at trial.

When you meet with your attorney, he or she will talk to you about what happened both before and after you were arrested. Your lawyer will analyze whether the police and prosecutors had sufficient probable cause to charge you with a drug crime, including determining whether or not the drugs were yours. Your discussions with your attorney are confidential and cannot be used against you in your case.

How do I find a good criminal defense attorney near me?

Facing drug charges can be frightening. Right after you are arrested, avoid talking to the police. If you are asked to make a statement or to sit for an interrogation, simply refuse and assert your rights to remain silent and to have an attorney. Then, contact DiCindio Law for a free consultation at 610.430.3535.

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Michael DiCindio

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