Possession of Cocaine in Pennsylvania

In recent years, the rate of cocaine use and possession has dropped immensely in the United States. But this doesn't mean that it isn't still an issue. In rehabilitation programs across the state of Pennsylvania, this drug is one of the top reasons for admittance. Although there has been a shift in focus to the prosecution of heroin and marijuana users in the state, the repercussions for possessing cocaine are still harsh. Depending on the circumstances of a case, defendants may be subject to penalties like costly fines and imprisonment.

Possession of Cocaine Laws in Pennsylvania

According to state statutes, cocaine possession can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of a charge is determined by your intended use of the drug.

Simple possession

Simple possession cases are typically clear-cut. A prosecutor is solely tasked with proving the following elements:

  • You knew the drugs were illegal, that they were present, and you had intentions of using them or controlling them
  • You had actual or constructive possession of the cocaine

Actual possession refers to cases when an illegal drug is physically discovered on you during an arrest. Having the drugs in your pocket, for example, would establish an actual possession. Constructive possession, on the other hand, is assigned when drugs are found in a place that you've previously or currently have control of. This includes places you've occupied, like your car, your house, or in a bag that belongs to you.


Even a small amount of cocaine can lead to criminal charges in Pennsylvania since there is no reasonable quantity of cocaine to possess in the eyes of the law. A charge for the simple possession of cocaine is an ungraded misdemeanor.

Upon conviction of a first offense, an individual may be sentenced to imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine that does not exceed $5,000. A second conviction will warrant penalties of imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine up to $25,000.

Possession with the intent to distribute (PWID)

In comparison to simple possession, proving a PWID charge requires an extra step. A prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • You had actual or constructive possession of the cocaine
  • You knew the drugs were illegal, that they were present, and you had intentions of selling them

In these cases, the courts will have to assess many factors to determine whether a defendant intended to use the drugs for personal consumption or distribution. These factors include, the quantity of the drugs possessed, the way in which the drugs are packaged, the existence of items commonly used in the sale or distribution of drugs (scales, packaging materials, several cellular devices), the state of the defendant upon arrest (was he or she under the influence), a drug defendant's history of drug use etc.


Since PWID is a felony charge, a conviction for this offense results in dire penalties. For a first offense, a defendant is facing 15 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000 or more. Subsequent offenses will double the penalty for a first offense.

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with the possession of cocaine, or any other drug offense, the first step you should take is to retain an attorney. Drug possession charges entail immutable laws and prosecutors that long to make you an example. A skilled attorney will be able to assess your options and help you achieve the best outcome for your circumstances. Contact knowledgeable criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento today for assistance.

Contact Us Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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