All drug crimes are not equal in the eyes of the law. Like most states, the Pennsylvania courts penalize drug crimes differently according to the type of drug, the defendant’s intent, criminal history, and other details of the arrest. Learning the potential consequences of different drug crimes can give you an idea of what to expect should you find yourself in the defendant’s position for drug possession or use in West Chester.
Simple Drug Possession
Possession of controlled substances is illegal by both federal and state laws in Pennsylvania. Marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, LSD, and “club drugs” are all illegal substances according to the law. If you are found in possession of small amounts of illegal drugs for personal consumption, you could face penalties such as a misdemeanor charge, fines, and jail time. Proving possession requires showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the drug was illegal and knew he/she had the drug in possession. Simple possession comes with smaller penalties compared to possession with intent to sell or distribute.
Possession with Intent to Sell
This type of drug crime comes with more severe consequences as punishment for intending to spread drugs throughout the community. Police may be able to prove possession with intent instead of simple possession if there is a large quantity of drugs, if they find paraphernalia such as scales or baggies, or if the initial stop occurred when the defendant was loitering on a street corner in an area known for drug sales. Since the goal of law enforcement is to deter drug dealers, possession with intent to distribute is often a felony, with prison time and hefty maximum fines.
Even if police don’t catch you in possession of a controlled substance, you could still get into trouble for having drug paraphernalia. Police can charge you with two crimes – one for drug possession and one for paraphernalia. Paraphernalia can include pipes, syringes, bongs, scales, and any other items used to create, store, sell, or consume drugs. It is also a crime to possess certain chemicals commonly used for the creation of drugs. Conviction of drug paraphernalia charges can result in penalties that are much less severe than those of possession of drugs. However, a federal conviction can lead to up to three years in prison and fines.
Drug Manufacturing and Cultivation
If police catch you in connection with an illegal drug manufacturing facility or with drug manufacturing chemicals and equipment within your home, you could face drug manufacturing and cultivation charges. Conviction typically results in a felony, with prison time and steep fines. If the courts find someone guilty of drug manufacturing or cultivation near a school or playground, the courts can double your sentence. In Pennsylvania, the cultivation of marijuana plants will remain illegal even when the Medical Marijuana Program comes into effect.
One of the most serious drug crimes you can commit is drug trafficking or distribution. If caught transporting, smuggling, selling, or illegally importing drugs, you could face severe punishments, including life in prison. Drug trafficking is a felony and much more serious than just drug possession. The penalties will depend on the amount of drugs the police find, type of substance, location of distribution, and whether the defendant targeted children. Convicted drug traffickers can face penalties on both a federal and state level.
Find an Attorney for Drug Crimes
Always arm yourself with a competent defense attorney in the event of a drug-related arrest and drug crime charge. There is no guarantee an attorney will be able to reduce or dispute the charges against you, but you will have a better chance of avoiding severe penalties than you would without an experienced defense lawyer. A lawyer might be your only chance of lightening your prison sentence, reducing fines, and saving your future after a drug crime charge against you.