Drug penalties are increasing across the country, and Pennsylvania is no exception.
Under current law, it is illegal to possess drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, opioids and methamphetamines. Below are six things to know about drug possession charges in Pennsylvania.
1. Drug charges carry penalties besides jail time and fines
Those facing drug possession charges may suffer consequences beyond what the jail time and fines may be. Drug possession charges also have more serious lifestyle penalties.
For example, those who work in professional occupations requiring a license or heightened background screening, such as nurses, CDL drivers, or schoolteachers, may lose eligibility to maintain employment in that field.
Professional licenses may be revoked and employers may not hire those with convictions on their record. In addition, drug possession charges may affect custody cases or cause general damage to one’s reputation.
Drug cases, more often than not, lead to deportation. Also, those with possession charges on their record face much more serious penalties if arrested a second or subsequent time for drug charges.
2. Drug possession charges may be permanent
Once convicted, it is difficult to get a drug charge off one’s record. While Pennsylvania does allow for expungements, meaning that a criminal record is sealed and no longer appears on background checks, it is not easy to obtain one for a drug possession charge.
In order to qualify, the arrest had to be for a “summary offense” (such as underage drinking or other minor charges) or the arrest had to fail to result in a conviction.
Since these provisions do not apply to most misdemeanor or felony drug possession cases, it is likely that a conviction will result in permanent damage to one’s criminal record.
3. Possessing drug paraphernalia carries more severe charges than possessing marijuana
The possession of a small amount of marijuana carries less penalties than possessing a bong, vaporizer, bowl, or other device typically used to smoke marijuana is a misdemeanor charge that is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
This is the case even if the person arrested only has the paraphernalia in her possession and no actual controlled substance.
4. Penalties for drug possession can be severe
Drug possession charges have a range of penalties based on the type and amount of the drug found on the person arrested.
For example, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is classified as an “ungraded misdemeanor” which carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
On the other hand, possessing a small amount of heroin will result in a misdemeanor conviction with up to one year in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.
Subsequent convictions for possession increase jail time, the severity of the charge, and fines. In addition to these penalties, judges may order substance abuse counseling, random drug testing, and other conditions for those arrested for drug possession charges.
5. There are defenses available for those charged with possession
Many people believe that if officers find drugs on or around them, there are no defenses available. They simply plead guilty and serve the punishment given.
This is a flawed way of thinking. There are many defenses available to for those charged with possession.
For example, an experienced attorney can argue that the suspect did not intend to possess the drugs, that she was entrapped, or that the drugs did not belong to the suspect.
Also, an attorney can review the specifics of the arrest or search and determine whether the police violated any of the suspect’s rights under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which limits the type and extent of searches that police can conduct.
6. An experienced attorney can help in cases where no defense is available
Occasionally, there are cases where there are not very many defenses available because the person arrested was caught outright.
For example, if an officer somehow had visual and video evidence of someone ingesting a controlled substance, it might be difficult to convince a jury that the person was unaware that they were in possession of drugs.
Even if traditional defenses are not available in a case, an experienced attorney can still be an asset.
An attorney with knowledge and experience in the court system can work with the judge and prosecuting attorney to negotiate a less severe charge, less punishment, and lower fines for those who are facing a conviction.
Contact The Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC Today
Those facing charges for drug possession must act quickly to defend themselves.
The best step one can take when in this situation is to consult with experienced, effective attorney at Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC.
Contact our offices today at 215-515-3360 for a free consultation.