Drug Possession Charges in Pennsylvania Explained

Drug Possession

Penalties for simple possession of drugs or possession with intent to deliver can result in extensive prison time. Pennsylvania has some of the toughest penalties for drug charges in the country, so it’s important to consult with a drug crime lawyer who has experience successfully representing Pittsburgh clients in drug cases.

How Drug Possession Cases Are Classified

There are five classifications for drug possession in Pennsylvania, which are:

  1. Simple Possession,
  2. Possession with Intent to Distribute,
  3. Distribution,
  4. Trafficking, and
  5. Manufacturing.

Schedule I Controlled Substances

Schedule I drugs are that are categorized as having no accepted medical use and a high potential for addiction and abuse.

Marijuana Possession

Marijuana laws in Pennsylvania state that possession is a misdemeanor. 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

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.

Cocaine Possession

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.

PCP Possession

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 Possession

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 Possession

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.

How Volume Affects Drug Possession Charges

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 the criminal defense attorneys at SMT today for a confidential consultation.

Follow us on social media

Keep up with our latest news, see how we're giving back to the community, and stay connected!

Schedule your FREE Case