Penalties for simple possession of drugs or possession with intent to deliver can result in extensive prison time. Though penalties for drug convictions vary, so many of them are determined by the volume and type of drug seized. Every case is unique because of other factors, such as whether or not an individual had the intent to deliver the drug and/or if a weapon was involved when the drugs were found. Also, the amount and type of drugs found have different penalties based on which state you are in. Pennsylvania has some of the toughest penalties for drug charges, so it’s important to consult with a criminal defense attorney who has experience successfully representing clients in drug cases.
How Are Drug Possession Cases Classified?
There are five classifications for drug possession in Pennsylvania, which are: Simple Possession, Possession with Intent to Distribute, Distribution, Trafficking, and Manufacturing. The Pennsylvania General Assembly provides more detailed information about drug trafficking and possession laws in Pennsylvania.
For each of these classifications, factors such as those listed below will be considered in a drug possession case:
- Prior criminal history
- Whether it is the offender’s first time being arrested for a drug charge
- The type of drug in the offender’s possession
- The amount of the drug in the offender’s possession
- The way the drug was packaged at the time it was found (one small bag versus many individual larger bags)
- The seriousness of any previous drug charges against the offender (such as trafficking)
- The length of time between the offender’s drug charges (if there were priors)
Common Types of Drugs and Drug Amounts
Schedule I Controlled Substances: These drugs have no accepted medical use and a high potential for addiction and abuse.
Marijuana possession is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. Possession of no more than 30 grams can result in a $500 fine or 30 days jail time. If you were found with over 30 grams, the maximum penalty is one year in jail, and this sometimes comes with a $5,000 fine. It is possible to get less time or probation if it is your first offense.
THC and Hashish Possession
Like marijuana, possession of hashish (hash) is a misdemeanor. If you’re charged with possession of no more than 8 grams, you could face a maximum of 30 days imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500. If found with more than 8 grams, you could face up to one year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Heroin possession is subject to mandatory minimum sentencing, which means you can face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 even if it is a first offense and you possess only 1 gram or less. The penalties increase with multiple offenses and/or if there was possession with the intent to distribute.
MDMA (Ecstasy) Possession
MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, is subject to mandatory minimum sentencing in Pennsylvania. Penalties can include one year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Possession of over 100 grams with the intent to sell can result in an individual being sentenced to at least five years in prison and fined up to $25,000.
Schedule II Controlled Substances: These drugs have some limited medical uses but come with severe restrictions on their use, and also have a high abuse potential.
If someone is found in possession of cocaine and it’s a first offense, it is a misdemeanor with penalties of up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. A second offense can bring up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. If someone is convicted of possession with the intent to sell cocaine, the penalty can be up to 15 years in prison with a minimum fine of $25,000.
A person found with less than 2 grams of PCP or phencyclidine can face up to one year in prison and is subject to a $5,000 fine. Simple possession is a misdemeanor. If evidence shows the individual intended to sell the drug, the penalty can be two years in prison (with the $5,000 fine) for up to 10 grams and five years in prison (with a $25,000 fine) for more than 100 grams.
Methamphetamine or “meth” possession can be more complex based on the amount found and the intent of the possessor. Simple possession of less than 5 grams of meth can result in serving up to one year in prison or $5,000 in fines. If a person is found in possession of meth with the intent to sell, they can face at least three years in prison. The sentence or penalty also depends greatly on the exact amount of the drug found at the time of seizure.
Oxycodone is often prescribed legally to people with moderate to severe pain; therefore, it is legal to possess the drug with a valid prescription. Without a valid prescription, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Simple possession of oxycodone without a prescription can lead to a year in prison or a fine of $5,000. If an individual is convicted of possession with the intent to distribute, the penalties can be up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Common Charges for Different Volumes of Drugs
The federal government prohibits any person from manufacturing, dispensing, or possessing controlled substances. The following are details about prison sentencing guidelines for common drug possession charges:
- 1 kilogram of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine, 1000 kilograms of marijuana – 10 years to life in prison
- 100 grams of heroin or 500 grams of cocaine – five to 10 years in prison
- 50 kilograms of marijuana – no more than five years in prison
Since possession of drugs can result in a wide range of penalties, the specific facts of each individual’s case matter – beyond just the volume of drugs found in their possession. For example, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to show a lack of knowledge or intent to possess the drug in your possession, the drugs found belonged to someone else, or that the police or other authorities conducted an illegal search and/or seizure of the drugs or paraphernalia.
Getting Legal Help After Being Caught with Drug Possession
It is possible for a felony drug charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor if your defense attorney gathers enough evidence to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charges, including details of your criminal history, the volume of drugs in your possession, and the way the search was conducted. If you’ve been charged with drug possession, please contact us for a confidential consultation.