Being charged with a drug crime can have serious consequences including hefty fines, loss of your driver’s license, a permanent felony record and mandatory prison time. Seeking the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the complexities of the court system and levels of drug charges in Pennsylvania can ensure that your rights are protected. A good defense attorney may even be able to help you get charges reduced or dismissed.
Types of Drug Charges
Pennsylvania drugs are separated into schedules based on the level of risk or addiction. Penalties for drug convictions often depend what schedule they fall under. There are two general categories of drug charges in Pennsylvania – simple possession or possession with intent to deliver (PWID). PWID charges are more serious and come with stiffer penalties.
Possession of Marijuana: Marijuana possession is a misdemeanor in PA. If you possess 30 grams or less, you face a maximum penalty of up to 30 days in jail, and a fine of $500. For possession of more than 30 grams, the maximum penalties are up to one year in jail, $5000 in fines and an automatic six-month suspension of your driver’s license. First-time offenders may be eligible for probation. Subsequent convictions can double the penalties listed above.
Sale or Distribution of Marijuana: Selling or distributing more than 30 grams of marijuana is a felony and carries penalties of up to five years in prison and $15,000 in fines. Cultivation of marijuana is also a felony that can come with similar penalties. If you are charged with selling marijuana within 1000 feet of a school or within 250 feet of a playground you may face 2-4 years in prison, and if you are caught selling to or using a minor to distribute marijuana, penalties may be doubled. Penalties for selling or trafficking hashish are the same as the penalties for marijuana.
Municipalities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have decriminalized possession of marijuana in small amounts, but you can still face charges if you are in possession of more than 30 grams. Although marijuana is now legal for medical use in Pennsylvania, you must have a valid medical marijuana card and purchase it only at a licensed dispensary.
Possession of paraphernalia is a crime. It includes anything used or intended to be used for planting, propagating, cultivating, growing harvesting, manufacturing, packing and storing. For example: baggies, roach clips, rolling papers, bongs, blenders, needles and scales. Penalties can be a maximum of one year in prison and a $2500.00 fine. If you are charged with providing paraphernalia to a minor, you face a two year prison sentence and a $5000.00 fine.
Possession and PWID of other Controlled Substances
Pennsylvania and the federal government divide drugs into five different schedules. Pennsylvania also assigns mandatory jail sentences to those convicted of dealing certain drugs. Mandatory sentences are left to the discretion of the prosecutor. Having one of the best criminal attorneys in Eastern PA represent you can make all the difference when it comes to negotiating your sentence with prosecutors.
Schedule I, II and III drugs such as heroin, cocaine, meth, LSD, ecstasy, and narcotic prescription drugs like Oxycontin or illegal steroids come with varying penalties. You may face up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine for a first possession offense. Jail time and fines increase with multiple offenses.
Any PWID charge for a drug that is derived from an opiate or chemical synthesis may result in a felony charge, up to 15 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. For PCP, meth or cocaine, you could face up to 10 years and a $100,000 fine. Recently, the surging number of deaths due to the opioid crisis has led prosecutors to charge more and more people with “Death by Drug Delivery,” a first-degree felony in PA.
If you or a loved one is facing charges for a drug crime, our experienced defense attorneys in West Chester can help. Contact Carosella & Associates to learn more.