Drug crimes in Pennsylvania are serious and when people are arrested on drug charges, they often don’t know how it will affect their lives. While attitudes towards drug use are shifting in favor of treatment, drug convictions still carry stiff penalties in Pennsylvania with possibly life-long consequences. That’s why it is always best to discuss your situation with an experienced drug crime attorney.
If you have been charged with a drug offense in West Chester, Phoenixville, Exton, Wayne, Kennett Square, Oxford, Coatesville, or anywhere in Chester County, contact attorney Michael J. Skinner. As a highly-skilled criminal defense lawyer, he knows the PA drug laws, which makes a huge difference in drug cases, and will aggressively fight to protect you.
Skinner Law Firm knows what’s on the line for those facing drug charges. Sometimes, people need help with substance abuse rather than harsh punishments. We are knowledgeable about the local drug court and pre-trial diversion programs, and will always pursue the best possible outcome in your case. Call (610) 436-1410 today for a free, initial consultation with an experienced drug lawyer.
Controlled substances in Pennsylvania are defined as drugs, substances or immediate precursors listed in the state’s drug schedules. Criminal offenses associated with controlled substance offenses can be either or state or federal offenses, and although both can lead to harsh penalties, federal charges usually incur much more severe punishments.
Some of the most common drug offenses in Pennsylvania include:
Pennsylvania drug crimes involving possession are contingent on either being in “actual possession” or “constructive possession” of the drugs in question.
Actual possession is defined as having physical custody or control over the drugs like having it in your pocket. Constructive possession extends this concept to include situations where a person does not have custody over the drugs but does have knowledge of its presence and illegal nature Constructive possession is most commonly seen in cases where drugs are found in a house or vehicle, rather than an individual’s person.
Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act lists and categorizes all controlled substances based on how addictive the substance is, and whether there is any type of medical purpose to the drug. The Act places the substances into four Schedules, ranging from the most serious drugs with the harshest penalties for any drug offense related to the drugs to the least serious drugs with the lightest penalties for any related offense.
In addition to Pennsylvania drug crimes, the Federal Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. §§ 807 et seq.) defines federal drug charges and the penalties these offenses can incur. The federal Controlled Substance Act also categorizes controlled substances into Schedules similar to Pennsylvania’s Drug Schedules.
Federal charges typically arise when someone commits a drug offense while crossing state borders, or commits a drug offense when coming into the United States. However, many federal drug offenses can occur within state borders because the controlled substance was brought in from another country or state.
Federal drug offenses are usually more serious than state drug offenses and can incur very harsh penalties, including longer prison sentences and larger fines. A conviction for a federal drug offense can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the controlled substance, the quantity of the substance, type of offense and whether the offender has any other prior drug convictions.
In addition to outlining the schedule of controlled substances, The Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act (35 P.S. §§ 780-101 – 780-144) also defines numerous prohibited acts associated with the drugs listed and provides the statutory penalties for these offenses.
While still illegal for recreational and unauthorized medical use, Pennsylvania punished small amounts of marijuana possession a little differently than the Schedule I designation would normally dictate. PA defines a small amount of marijuana as 30 grams or less and 8 grams of hashish or cannabis concentrates. If convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana, it is treated as an ungraded misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a max fine of $500, or both.
Aside from small amounts of marijuana, knowingly or intentionally having actual or constructive possession of any of the substances listed in Pennsylvania’s Schedule of Drugs. Any person that is not registered as a practitioner or licensed to have the drug can be found guilty of this offense. Depending on the Schedule the controlled substance falls into, a conviction is a misdemeanor and penalties can include imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine up to $5,000.
The purchase and sale of controlled substances, or the delivery or importation of illegal drugs across state or national borders, or throughout the state. Depending on the Schedule the controlled substance falls into, a conviction for this offense is a felony, and penalties can include imprisonment for up to 20 years and/or a fine up to $250,000
Knowingly or intentionally having actual or constructive possession of any equipment, products or materials used or designed for use in growing, cultivating, manufacturing, injecting, inhaling, storing or containing any controlled substance in the Act. Depending on the Schedule the controlled substance falls into, a conviction for this offense is a misdemeanor, and penalties can include imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine up to $2,500.
Knowing or intentional transfer of a controlled substance from one person to another. Depending on the Schedule the controlled substance falls into, a conviction for this offense is a felony, and penalties can include imprisonment for up to 15 years and/or a fine up to $250,000.
The production, preparation, compounding, conversion or processing, packaging or repackaging of a controlled substance by a person not authorized to do so. Depending on the Schedule the controlled substance falls into, a conviction for this offense can be a misdemeanor or felony, and penalties can include imprisonment up to 15 years and/or a fine up to $250,000.
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Either as a misdemeanor or a felony, most people understand that a drug conviction will negatively affect their criminal record. However, a drug conviction can also impact your ability to drive legally in Pennsylvania, even if your offense did not involve a motor vehicle.
Section 1532 of the Vehicle Code (Title 75) states that PennDOT will suspend the privileges of anyone convicted of possession, sale, delivery, offering for sale, holding for sale, or giving away controlled substances. This suspension can occur from a Pennsylvania conviction, a federal drug conviction, or any conviction in any state court within the United States.
While a PennDOT suspension is a severe consequence, it is dependent on you being convicted for a drug crime. By working with a drug lawyer early-on, there are steps you can take to protect your license.
For instance, if you complete certain pretrial diversion options, like the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) program, your charge can ultimately be dismissed and your license won’t be suspended.
Aside from possible jail time, fines, and the loss of your driving privileges, a drug conviction will be permanently attached to your criminal record.
For many in West Chester and particularly for college students in the area this can mean difficulty finding employment after graduation, ineligibility for financial aid, and possible disciplinary action for your school.
For others, a drug conviction will also mean problems with their current employer, potential immigration issues, negative effects on child custody, and losing the right to own a firearm if the offense was a felony.
Illicit drugs encompass a wide variety of controlled substances and anything used to affect the structure or function of the human body, including street drugs, designer drugs, and various prescription medications.
A few commonly abused controlled substances that may result in charges are:
Police officers and prosecutors may make it seem as though a drug conviction is all but guaranteed. With help from an experienced lawyer with a background in drug cases, you can defend yourself, make informed decisions about your case, and greatly improve your situation.
When you work with Skinner Law Firm, you’ll benefit from an experienced and highly dedicated drug lawyer reviewing the facts, working on your behalf, and fighting to secure the best possible outcome. This can mean drastic charge reductions, outright dismissals, or admission into diversion programs that offer you treatment as well as the opportunity to preserve a clean criminal record.
A Pennsylvania drug charge is serious, but you always have rights and options to consider. Don’t let a drug arrest in Chester County limit your future. Contact the Skinner Law Firm today for a free consultation about your situation and what we can do to help.
As an experienced and skilled drug crime attorney, Michael J. Skinner will listen to your side and help you identify any mitigating factors or defenses that may lead to your charges being reduced or dismissed.