Possession of a Controlled Substance occurs when someone is in “Actual Possession” of an illegal controlled substance. Actual possession occurs when the drug is found on the individual’s person or in their belongings. “Constructive Possession” occurs when the drug is found in proximity to the individual. Constructive possession cases typically occur when drugs are found inside a vehicle with multiple people having access to the controlled Substance. These crimes are “ungraded” misdemeanors with a maximum penalties of 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If convicted of drug possession in Pennsylvania, there is a mandatory 6 month driver’s license suspension for a first offense and a 1 year suspension for a second conviction.Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia occurs when someone is in possession of items used to ingest, transports, store, manufacture or package a controlled substance. The most common forms of drug paraphernalia are smoking bowls, bongs, plastic pouches, plastic baggies, rolling papers, scales and needles. Even common items such as pens, sandwich baggies and film canisters can be consider drug paraphernalia. Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is also an ungraded misdemeanor and does not carry with it a license suspension.Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Delivery
Possession with Intent to Deliver and Delivery of a Controlled Substance are also referred to as drug trafficking. This is a Felony of the 3rd degree and carries up to 7 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines if convicted. The crime occurs if an individual delivers (sells, trades, gives) a Controlled Substance to another individual. Possession with Intent occurs when a delivery does not occur, but the facts and circumstances would lead one to believe the drugs were intended for sale. Factors such as the weight of the drugs, existence of unused packaging such as plastic baggies, scales, large sums of cash and ledgers, or “owe sheets” are taken into consideration for Intent. Depending on the weight and type of drug, there could be substantial state prison time if convicted.Prescription Fraud
Prescription Fraud cases have been increasing recently due to the opioid crisis. Many individuals are finding themselves addicted to pills and the crime of Prescription Fraud occurs when one forges a prescription or otherwise tries to obtain a prescription through fraudulent means. The law is defined as “the acquisition or obtaining of possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge.” Typically, the crime of Forgery usually gets charged along with Prescription Fraud. This crime is also a Felony of the 3rd degree which could carry with it up to 7 years in jail and $15,000 in fines.Drug Delivery Resulting in Death
This offense has become more and more common with the proliferation of heroin and other opioids. This occurs if someone gives, sells, or distributes a controlled substance and a person died as a result of using the substance. The maximum sentence is 40 years in prison and if convicted, and conviction usually results in substantial state jail time.Criminal Use of a Communication Facility
This crime is sometimes charged alongside felony drug charges such as Possession With Intent to Deliver or Delivery of a Controlled Substance. This offense is a felony of the third degree and can carry with it up to 7 years in prison. This crime occurs when an individual uses a communication device, such as cell phone or computer to set up a drug deal. This is a separate offense from the narcotics charge and additional jail time can be imposed in addition to the penalties for the narcotics offense.Defenses to Drug Violations
The most common defense is that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion (probable cause) to stop a vehicle or to detain and search an individual. This defense would occur pretrial by way of a Motion to Suppress. If the judge determines that a police officer did not have probable cause to either stop a vehicle or to search a person, then the evidence would be suppressed and not allowed to be introduced into evidence. Once this occurs, the prosecution usually does not have any evidence and the charges are dropped.Forfeiture of Property
If you are found guilty of Felony Delivery of a Controlled Substance or Possession with Intent to Deliver, your personal property may be subject to drug forfeiture in which the government seizes any property that was the result of drug trafficking or was used in drug trafficking. This may include vehicles that were driven to a drug deal, real estate if drugs were stored or packaged there, cash, electronics, etc. Once the property has been seized, a forfeiture hearing will be scheduled in civil court, and the government must prove that the seized property was either obtained through drug money or was used in a narcotics sale.Drug Court
Drug court is relatively new to the criminal justice system and is designed to rehabilitate, rather than punish. Drug court varies from county to county and not every county has this type of program. This program is typically used for Felony Drug cases and probation violations where the individual is facing jail time. Drug courts keeps the individual out of jail and gets him into treatment, typically inpatient residential treatment and/or outpatient treatment. Drug court is a lengthy process and could last up to 2 years. Multiple court appearances are mandatory, but if drug court is successfully completed, it keeps the individual out of jail and on some occasions, the District Attorney can agree to reduce the Felony to more minor misdemeanor charges.What to Expect if you are Convicted of a Drug Crime
If you are found guilty of a narcotics offense it could have far reaching consequences on your life, including:
- Potential prison time Substantial fines
- A permanent criminal record
- Probation or parole
- Possible loss of your driver’s license
- Potential seizure of your property.
- Loss of employment
- Difficulty becoming admitted to college or loss of financial aid.
- Difficulty obtaining rental housing
- Ineligibility to own/carry a firearm.
No matter what drug crime you are charged with, you should immediately contact an experienced, local defense attorney to assist you. Local attorneys are more knowledgeable about the local court system and would be aware of any special programs that might be available to you.
Call the attorneys at Ellis B. Klein & Associates immediately for a free consultation. We gladly talk to potential clients over the phone, or in person if you prefer, for free. We would be happy to answer all of your questions and guide you in the right direction so you can make an informed decision about choosing a defense attorney who is right for you. Call us at 800-536-0501 immediately for a free consultation.