An arrest for drug possession can derail your future. If you are charged with possessing controlled substances, such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, or prescription painkillers, you will face Pennsylvania’s harsh drug penalties. You could be incarcerated, be heavily fined, and lose your driving privileges. A drug-related conviction can also have consequences for employment, loans, college scholarships, and housing opportunities – even if your case involves a misdemeanor or first-time offense. With such severe penalties for possessing narcotics, you need to protect your rights by retaining the services of an experienced drug possession defense lawyer.
At Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates, we are criminal defense attorneys with more than 30 years of combined experience serving communities throughout the Philadelphia region. We represent men, women, and juveniles in all types of drug possession cases, including the possession of drug paraphernalia, drug possession while on probation or parole, and possessing prescription medication without a prescription. If you or a family member has been charged with possession in Philadelphia, we urge you to contact our law offices online, or to call (215) 372-8667 for a free consultation about how we can help.
What is Simple Drug Possession?
Pennsylvania drug laws distinguish between a few different types of drug possession charges. One of the most common is known as “simple possession.” Simple possession refers to the possession of controlled substances, such as marijuana, for personal use. Other examples of controlled substances – which are categorized as either Schedule V, Schedule IV, Schedule III, Schedule II, or Schedule I drugs – include the following:
- Crack cocaine
- LSD (“acid”)
- PCP (“angel dust”)
- Psilocybin mushrooms
“Simple possession” is separate from “possession with intent to distribute” (PWID), which is a different and more serious offense. Unlike simple possession, PWID involves a plan to deliver or manufacture the drug in question. While simple possession is generally the lesser charge, it can still result in dire consequences. This is particularly true for teenagers and young adults, whose high school or college careers – including eligibility for student loans, volunteer work, or internship programs – might be jeopardized. If your son or daughter was arrested for drug possession in Philadelphia, it is vital to speak with a drug defense attorney as soon as possible.
In addition to “simple possession” and “PWID,” drug possession can also be described as “actual” or “constructive.” Actual possession means having drugs on your person – for instance, in your purse or pocket – while constructive possession means that the drugs were allegedly under your control in a nearby location, such as a parked car.
Pennsylvania Drug Possession Penalties
In recent years, Philadelphia has adopted lighter penalties for marijuana possession, which are discussed in more detail below. Nonetheless, criminal penalties for drug possession in Pennsylvania can be severe, especially for repeat offenders.
How Long Do You Go to Jail for Drug Possession?
The answer to this question depends on factors like whether it is the defendant’s first offense, the type and amount of drugs involved, and whether the defendant committed other crimes, such as possessing a weapon.
In Pennsylvania, simple possession of controlled substances is charged under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(16), which makes it illegal to “Knowingly or intentionally possess… a controlled or counterfeit substance” without the proper prescription or medical credentials. Violating this law by possessing drugs can result in the following jail or prison sentences:
- First Offense – Up to 1 year in jail
- Second Offense – Up to 3 years in prison
- Third Offense – Up to 3 years in prison
Fines and License Suspension
Jail or prison time, while frightening to think about, isn’t the only consequence of a drug possession conviction. In addition to risking incarceration, defendants also face fines, license suspension, and other penalties, such as community service.
- First Offense – Fine of up to $5,000, 6-month license suspension
- Second Offense – Fine of up to $25,000, 1-year license suspension
- Third Offense – Fine of up to $25,000, 2-year license suspension
What are the Penalties for Selling Drugs in Philadelphia?
If you are accused of possessing drugs, you will face a far lesser penalty than if you are accused and convicted of selling them. Whether you are accused of possessing or selling drugs will be determined by the quantity that you have on you at the time of your arrest.
For example, if you are convicted of having thirty grams or less of marijuana, the chances of you being accused of selling drugs are very slim. However, if you have ten to fifty pounds of marijuana on you, you could be facing felony charges, three years in prison, and a $25,000 fine.
If you are accused of possessing cocaine, you could end up spending one year in prison and paying a $5,000 fine. However, if you are convicted of selling cocaine you could spend up to fifteen years in prison and have to pay a $250,000 fine.
Since possession and selling are determined by the quantity of the drug you had on you, it is entirely possible for the charge to not match your intent. It is absolutely critical to hire an experienced Philadelphia drug possession lawyer who can work to have the charges reduced from selling to possessing whenever possible.
What are the Penalties for Manufacturing Drugs in Philadelphia?
A charge for manufacturing drugs carries an even stiffer penalty than possessing or selling them.
Under marijuana laws, cultivation can result in a felony with one to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. This is significantly higher than the typical consequences for using or selling smaller quantities of the same drug.
For example, if you are distributing less than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, the maximum time in jail you’ll receive is three years in comparison to the potential five years resulting from cultivating it. With harder drugs like crystal meth, you can be convicted for manufacturing drugs by simply having the ingredients required for doing so.
Is Marijuana Legal in Philadelphia?
Marijuana remains illegal to possess at the federal level, despite the increasing number of medical marijuana programs throughout the United States. It also remains illegal to possess marijuana in Pennsylvania, unless the person in possession is a qualified patient with the appropriate medical identification and documentation. Though the city of Philadelphia has decriminalized the personal possession of small amounts of marijuana, those in possession can still be fined.
Drug Possession Defense Attorneys Serving Philadelphia
If you or one of your loved ones was charged with possessing narcotics in Philadelphia, you need immediate legal support from a knowledgeable and experienced drug possession lawyer. At the law offices of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates, our simple possession attorneys have spent decades representing adults and juveniles arrested for drugs in Pennsylvania. Our trusted team is prepared to dedicate ourselves to your defense. We may be able to reduce your penalties, show that the police violated your rights, or obtain a dismissal of the charges against you. However, it is critical to assess your legal situation as soon as possible.
For a free consultation about drug possession charges in Philadelphia, contact Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates online, or call (215) 372-8667 today. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.