Drug Possession Versus Trafficking: Distinct Crimes Under Pennsylvania Law

You may be aware that if you’re found with certain controlled substances on your person, you can be charged with drug possession under Pennsylvania law. However, under certain circumstances, the charges can be elevated to the more serious crime of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance; that offense is more commonly known as drug trafficking. There are numerous variables involved in determining how law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys will charge the separate offenses of drug possession and trafficking. Some general background information is useful, but you should also consult with an experienced Pennsylvania drug crimes attorney about your circumstances.


Drug Possession

It’s a crime to knowingly possess, carry, or otherwise have on your person a controlled substance. Pennsylvania has adopted a system that categorizes drugs into different groups. The most serious controlled substances fall into the Schedule I category as drugs with high potential for abuse and no use in treating medical conditions. This group includes LSD, crystal meth, marijuana, and cocaine. Mixtures, blends, or other concoctions of Schedule I controlled substances are included for purposes of possession laws.


Depending upon the drug and amount, a person convicted of possession faces misdemeanor charges, which can mean up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. However, marijuana is in a special category: Having less than 30 grams in your possession is a lower-class misdemeanor, which may lead to a fine up to $500 and maximum 30 days in prison.


Trafficking in Controlled Substances

When you are in possession of a certain amount of a controlled substance and there is an indication that you intend to sell it, you may face drug trafficking charges. Intent to distribute includes Schedule I drugs but may also include prescription drugs if you don’t have a license to sell them. In addition, growing, developing, and manufacturing components of controlled substances may also meet the definition of trafficking under the law. Note that a prosecutor is required to show intent in proving crimes, including drug trafficking. However, it’s possible to establish intent from the circumstances surrounding your arrest.


In most cases, drug trafficking is a felony – even for first-time offenders. The severity of the charge depends on such factors as the type of drug and the amount in a person’s possession. Penalties can include up to 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both.


A Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You Fight Drug Charges

While there are differences between possession of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute, both drug crimes carry considerable penalties. You will face hefty fines, probation, and potential jail time if you’re convicted. However, you increase your chances of a favorable outcome by hiring an experienced attorney who will point out weaknesses in the case against you and present proper defenses. Skinner Law Firm has extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania’s drug laws and can help you fight the chargesPlease contact us with questions or to schedule a free consultation at our West Chester, Pennsylvania, office.

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