Philadelphia Drug Possession Charges: Categories & DefensesMarch 7, 2017
Did you know that, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, nearly 46% of all inmates are incarcerated on drug charges? In other words, out of all codified criminal offenses committable in the United States, which can number in the hundreds, nearly half of those sentenced are drug offenders. Do not be one of them.
Pennsylvania Drug Offense Categorizations
Generally, the severity of your Pennsylvania drug offense is dependent upon two factors: (1) the type of drug possessed and (2) the quantity of that drug. Pennsylvania law prohibits “[t]he manufacture, sale or delivery, holding, offering for sale, or possession of any controlled substance,” but the Commonwealth recognizes three different categories of possession:
- Knowing and/or Intentional Possession of a controlled substance – 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(16));
- Possession with Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance, i.e., dealing drugs – 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30)), and
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(32).
Although possession of a controlled substance without intent to distribute can be considered a felony if certain substances, such as GBH, are possessed, simple possession and possession of drug paraphernalia are generally only punishable as misdemeanors. Possession with intent to deliver, however, can be punishable as a felony and can result in a 15-year prison sentence.
Defenses to Pennsylvania Drug Charges
If you or a loved one has been charged with possession, an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney may be able to help by mounting one of many potential defenses to drug possession. These defenses may include the following:
- Lack of Knowledge: Occasionally, whether at school or in the car, a guilty party will attempt to hide his or her drugs in your personal belongings. If you had no knowledge that any drugs were on your person, then you have a defense to possession charges;
- Defeating the Elements: In any criminal action, the prosecuting attorney is responsible for proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, if you are charged with possession with intent to deliver, you can defeat this charge by showing that such intent did not exist;
- Qualification as a Lawful Possessor: Under Pennsylvania law, certain individuals are legally permitted to possess controlled substances without a license. These include employees of certain drug manufacturers or lawful carriers;
- Constitutional Violations: If controlled substances were found in your possession, but they were found in an unlawful manner, then this is a complete defense to a possession charge. For example, if your vehicle is pulled over without cause and the police officer searches the vehicle after smelling pot, then this was likely not a legal search, and any evidence discovered can be suppressed.
Contact Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Zeiger to Protect Your Rights
The law is designed to protect Pennsylvania citizens, but that includes those who have been charged with a qualifying offense. You are innocent until proven guilty, and there are a variety of defenses that might be available to you in order to defeat a possession charge. Attorney Brian Zeiger can work to review the specific facts of your case and help you build the best defense possible. Contact him today at 215-546-0340 or online.