West Chester

Drug Crimes Lawyer

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 defense 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.

Pennsylvania Drug Laws & Charges

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:

Actual vs Constructive Drug Possession in PA

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 Schedule Of Controlled Substances

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.

  • Schedule I –Schedule I have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and no safe accepted use under medical supervision. Examples of Schedule I drugs include Heroin, Mescaline, Peyote and Marijuana.
  • Schedule II – These substances have a high potential for abuse, some currently accepted medical use, or an accepted medical use with restrictions. Abuse of Schedule II substances may lead to severe dependence. Examples include opium, opiates, cocaine, methamphetamines, and methadone.
  • Schedule III – The substances in Schedule III have less potential for abuse than the drugs in Schedules I and II, a well-known medical use, and abuse will only lead to moderate dependence. Examples include Lysergic acid (LSD), anabolic steroids and barbituric acid.
  • Schedule IV –Schedule IV have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs, a currently accepted medical use, and limited potential for dependence if abused. Phenobarbital and many prescription medications are included in Schedule IV.
  • Schedule V –Schedule V substances have the least potential for abuse, currently accepted medical uses, and very limited dependence if abused. Examples include mixtures or very limited quantities of codeine and opium.

Federal Controlled Substance Act

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.

our awards & memberships

  • A professional non-profit dedicated to the improvement of the criminal defense bar, and to providing valuable information to the public about drunk driving laws. Members of the NCDD are considered the most experienced DUI defense attorneys in the United States and Canada.

  • The preeminent organization in the United States. NACDL serves as a leader in identifying and reforming flaws in the criminal justice system, and addressing systemic racism, and ensuring that the criminal defense bar is fully equipped to serve all accused persons at the highest level.

  • PACDL is the premier network of the best defense attorneys in PA with a mission to educate, advocate, and inspire by providing support for criminal defense lawyers, promoting effective competence, leveling the playing field, and protecting freedoms.

  • The Pennsylvania Bar Association promotes and protects the legal profession, the rights of Pennsylvania citizens and access to justice for all. Membership is open to any lawyer in good standing who is licensed by the Bar of Pennsylvania.

  • The American Bar Association is one of the world’s largest voluntary professional organizations, with over 400,000 members and more than 3,500 entities. Their mission is to serve its members, the legal profession, and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.

  • The CCBA promotes professionalism, inclusion, and collegiality within the Chester County legal profession, and enhances the quality of life of its members and the practice of law within the community.

  • The NORML Legal Committee (NLC) is composed of attorneys committed to the overall goals of NORML. NLC attorneys meet each year to discuss emerging legal issues related to defense of marijuana consumers and to support each other in the pursuit of justice.

  • The American Institute’s Criminal Law Division is an impartial third-party rating service recognizing the excellence of fellow practitioners. To help clients across the United States make educated decisions, we compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State. Our “10 Best” is a prestigious honor extended only to those who have reached the top of their profession while doing so with the client’s satisfaction being of paramount importance.

  • The American Institute’s DUI/DWI Division recognizes the excellence of practitioners in the field of DUI/DWI defense. We compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State for potential clients to utilize. We look for Attorneys that have achieved unparalleled success but most importantly have done so for the benefit of their client. Very few Attorneys can do so and our organization recognizes this significant achievement.

  • Attorney Michael Skinner has been consistently recognized as among the best lawyers in Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. Attorneys are nominated via peer balloting, then vetted through our editorial process in various fields of practice.

  • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state. Membership is extended only to the most qualified attorneys who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile. Each of our distinguished members possesses the knowledge, skill, experience, and success held by only the best and finest lawyers in America.

  • The Super Lawyers list recognizes no more than 5 percent of attorneys in each state. The Rising Stars further distinguishes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys, and to be eligible, a Rising Stars candidate must be either 40 years old or younger, or in practice for 10 years or less who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Pennsylvania Drug Offenses & Penalties

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.

Marijuana Possession

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.

Possession of a Controlled Substance

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.

Drug Trafficking

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

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

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.

Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID)

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.

Unlawful Manufacturing

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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Pennsylvania Drug Convictions & Your License

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.

  • A first-time drug conviction can result in a six-month license suspension.
  • A second drug conviction can result in a one-year suspension.
  • A third offense or subsequent drug conviction can result in a two-year suspension.

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.

Collateral Consequences of Drug Conviction

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.

Common Drugs in West Chester, PA

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:

  • Alprazolam, also known as Xanax
  • Codeine or Hydrocodone with a NSAID or acetaminophen, also known as Vicodin, Lortab or Lorcet
  • Dextropropoxyphene, also known as Darvon or Darvocet
  • Diazepam, also known as Valium
  • Methadone, also known as Dolophine or Methadose
  • Methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin, Concerta or Adderall
  • Morphine, also known as Roxanol or Kapanol
  • Oxycodone Hydrochloride, also known as OxyContin, Percocet or Percodan
  • Oxymorphone, also known as Opana, Numorphan or Numorphone
  • Pure Codeine
  • Pure Hydrocodone
  • Zolpidem, also known as Ambien
  • Amphetamines, also known as Speed or Uppers
  • Benzoylmethylecgonine, also known as Cocaine, Coke, Blow, or Crack Cocaine
  • Cathinone, also known as Bath Salts
  • Diacetylmorphine, also known as Heroin, Black Tar or Smack
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, also known as GHB or the Date Rape Drug
  • Ketamine, also known as Special K or K
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as Acid or LSD
  • Mescaline, also known as Peyote
  • Methamphetamine, also known as Meth or Speed
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as X, Ecstasy or MDMA
  • Opium, also known as Opiates or Poppy
  • Phencyclidine, also known as PCP or Angel Dust
  • Psilocybin, also known as Psilocybin, Magic Mushrooms or Shrooms
  • Salvia Divinorum, also known as Salvinorin A, Salvia or Synthetic Marijuana
  • Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), also known as Marijuana, Cannabis, Pot or Weed.

Defending Against PA Drug Crimes

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.

Drug Resources in Chester County

  • Drug Enforcement Administration – The DEA is a national governmental agency that regulates and enforces the United States’ laws regarding drugs and controlled substances.
  • Federal Drug Penalties – The Drug Enforcement Administration has information about specific federal penalties, including prison sentences and fines for possessing, trafficking, manufacturing and distributing controlled substances.
  • Narcotics Anonymous – NA is a non-profit organization designed for people who have controlled substance addictions to meet and support each other in order to stay drug-free and find resources for maintaining a drug-free lifestyle. The website contains more information and where meetings are held in Pennsylvania.
  • Chester County Drug Court – A 12-month to 24-month program, consisting of four phases of supervision, drug court is designed to treat non-violent drug offenders by focusing on treatment to supervise and support the offender’s performance in treatment.

Contact a Chester County Drug Crimes Lawyer

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.

Schedule a consultation today by calling (610) 436-1410 or contact us online.