Possession of Heroin in Pennsylvania

Heroin is one of the most widely used and easily accessible drugs in Pennsylvania. In order to deter its use, possession, and distribution, the state has enforced exceedingly harsh mandatory minimums to punish drug offenders. If you have been arrested and charged with the possession of heroin, it's important you understand what you're up against.

Possession of Heroin Laws in Pennsylvania

Heroin possession can be charged as either a misdemeanor a felony. Courts determine the severity of a punishment by assessing a defendant's intended use of the drug. There are two types of heroin possession offenses in the state: simple possession and possession with the intent to distribute.

Simple possession

In Pennsylvania, being caught with microscopically small quantities of heroin - less than 1 gram to be specific - is a crime. But in order to convict a defendant of this crime, the fact that a defendant possessed the illegal drug must be proven. A prosecutor must provide evidence of the following to prove heroin possession in a drug case:

  • A defendant knew the drugs were illegal, that they were present, and the defendant had planned to use them or control them
  • A defendant had actual or constructive possession of the heroin

An actual possession is established when an illegal drug is discovered physically on a person upon an arrest. Drugs that are found in the pocket of a defendant, for example, would constitute an actual possession. A constructive possession refers to drugs that are confiscated in a place that a defendant previously or currently have control of. This includes places like your car or your house.


A charge for the simple possession of heroin is a misdemeanor, but it still carries pretty harsh penalties. A first offense results in a one year of imprisonment and/or a fine of $5,000. A subsequent offense leads to a maximum prison term of 3 years and/or a $25,000 fine.

Possession with the intent to distribute (PWID)

It is also a crime for people to obtain drugs with the intent to sell or distribute them. In order to constitute the crime of PWID, a prosecutor must prove the following:

  • A defendant had actual or constructive possession of the heroin
  • A defendant knew the drugs were illegal, that they were present, and had intentions of distributing them

It's important to note that whether or not an actual transaction occurred is irrelevant in these cases. If it is apparent that a defendant was planning to give the drugs to another person, they will be charged and convicted of this crime.


The penalties for the conviction of this offense are incredibly harsh, even for a first offense. A defendant will be facing 15 years if imprisonment the first time they are charged with PWID, and/or a fine of at least $250,000. Subsequent offenses will cause this penalty to double.

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

If you've been charged with the possession of heroin, or any drug offense, it is important that you immediately retain an attorney. An attorney will be able to handle all interactions with the police and prosecutors and will be able to provide the best available options for your circumstances. Skilled legal professional Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience advocating for defendants who've acquired drug charges, and helping them significantly reduce their sentencing or completely getting their case dismissed. Contact him today for help.

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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