In Pennsylvania, there are critical distinctions between two types of illegal drug charges: Simple possession of a controlled substance, and possession with the intent to deliver or distribute.
When compared with simple possession, possession with the intent to distribute is a much more serious case. It could come with felony charges. If the court convicts you of a felony, that will impact your life much more than a lesser charge. For example, future employers could decide not to hire you just because of this type of conviction.
Depending on the type of drug, the type of possession, and the amount of the substance in question, you could be looking at a range of charges. Penalties also vary from relatively low fines and short stints in jail for simple possession to six-figure penalties and years of incarceration for proven intent to distribute.
The charges and penalties associated with intent to distribute are generally much steeper than those related to simple possession. It's key to know how police will decide which charge you merit - and how a skillful drug defense lawyer might build a strong case for a lesser charge.
Possession or Distribution: What's the Difference?
Many people believe that the difference between drug possession and possession with the intent to distribute comes down to quantities. For example: If the police find you with a large quantity of illegal substances, then you're going to face charges for distribution. If you're only caught with a small amount, then you face the lesser charge of simple possession.
In reality, it's not that simple. The difference between a charge of simple possession and intent to distribute depends on several factors at the time of the arrest. To charge you with intent to distribute, the police will need to have evidence of observed transactions or sales - preferably, eyewitness testimony. If that evidence exists, the quantity of illegal substance doesn't matter. You'll face charges for possession with the intent to distribute.
If there is no eyewitness evidence to prove your intent, the prosecution may try to argue that the presence of any sales-related paraphernalia suggests an intent to sell. Typical items of this nature include:
- Large reserves of cash
- Vacuum sealers
- Plastic ziplock bags
In some cases, the prosecution might even call up a ‘drug expert' who will say, in his practiced opinion, that the co-existence of the paraphernalia with the drugs establish intent to sell.
Fortunately, your lawyer can take many steps on your behalf to demonstrate your innocence or argue for reduced charges. For example, suppose the police found the illegal substances and drug-related paraphernalia as a result of an illegal stop and search. In that case, your lawyer may be able to get that evidence against you completely thrown out.
The Best Drug Lawyer in PA is Ready to Help You
One thing is clear: If you face drug charges in Pennsylvania, you need a drug defense attorney that has experience successfully building customized, strong defenses for those who need help. Joseph D. Lento is that attorney. Contact the Lento Law Firm today or call 888.535.3686 for more information about how we can help you.