Drug Possession Charges in Pittsburgh
When you are facing charges of drug possession in Pittsburgh, you could be facing steep fines and in some cases, may even face jail time. In addition, you will also have to live with a criminal record for the rest of your life unless you are able to have the record expunged.
While many believe that possessions of drug crimes are relatively minor, the penalties are harsh and you have to be aware of the potential charges you are facing as well as the repercussions of a conviction. It is important that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately after being arrested so that you know your options and you will have someone representing your interests.
Proving Possession Charges
Keep in mind, if you are operating your motor vehicle and you have a friend in the car in possession of drugs, you may also face possession charges, even if the drugs were not on your person. In order to prove a drug possessions charge, the prosecutor must be able to demonstrate the following:
- You knew and had the intent to possess a controlled substance without having a prescription
- You had a general awareness that the drug in your possession was a controlled substance
- That you had “constructive” or actual possession of the drug
Only your criminal defense attorney who understands the law can fight prosecutors who wish to incarcerate and fine those who are in possession of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. In many cases, your attorney can work to mitigate the charges against you by presenting other evidence to benefit you, such as a documented addiction wherein you may be eligible for treatment options instead of incarceration.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
In many cases, prosecutors will try to enhance a possession charge by claiming you had the intent to distribute drugs in your possession. It is important to understand that a law enforcement officer did not have to actually see you selling drugs before lodging these charges against you. In some cases, they will consider the location where you were arrested, how you were acting at the time of your arrest and how the drugs were packaged at the time of your arrest.
Penalties for Drug Possession
Drug penalties nearly always involve steep fines and in some cases may even include jail time. While there were mandatory sentence requirements associated with many drug crimes, some defendants may no longer be facing automatic jail time thanks to recent court rulings which determined that mandatory sentences may be a violation of the constitution. However, you can still face steep fines, between $1,000 and $10,000 depending on the drug you are in possession of and amount of drugs. In general, misdemeanor offenses for a first-time conviction will entail a $5,000 fine while subsequent convictions could mean higher fines and potential jail time.
In most cases, defendants are charged with a misdemeanor charge if they are in possession of a controlled substance. However, it is fairly common for the prosecutor to attempt to enhance the crime by adding on factors such as distribution or use of a telephone or the Internet for illegal drug purchases. These mitigating factors could result in felony charges.
Long-term Implications of a Conviction
It is important to remember that under Pennsylvania law, you will have a criminal record after you are convicted of any drug crimes and there is also a potential that you will face additional charges on federal level, particularly if you used a fraudulent prescription to obtain drugs. In addition to the high fines and other penalties associated with a possession charge, you will also have to live with a criminal record which could impact your job prospects and even housing prospects. If you are convicted under federal statutes, you could also face problems obtaining loans in the future. Anyone who is convicted under The Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act is prohibited from owning a firearm; even after they have paid their fines and served any sentence.
A drug possession charge should never be taken lightly; you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Your attorney will look at all of the facts surrounding your case and force the prosecution to show the cause of the charges and do everything possible to reduce the charges against you or have them dismissed entirely.
Possession of a Controlled Substance
Under The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act in Pennsylvania drug possession is broken out into five categories known as schedules. The least serious possessions are considered Schedule V while the most serious are Schedule I. The schedules are broken out as follows:
- Schedule I – Those drugs which have been determined to have no known medical use. Possession of marijuana and heroin fall into this category.
- Schedule II – These drugs have limited medical use and have a high potential for abuse. These include cocaine, opiates, and methamphetamine.
- Schedule III – These drugs have been determined to have a medical use and are believed to have less potential for abuse. Lysergic acid (LSD) and anabolic steroids are included in this category.
- Schedule IV – This category mostly pertains to prescription drugs which have a low potential for abuse and are commonly used for medical reasons.
- Schedule V – Generally these drugs are used medicinally and have the least potential for abuse. Cough medicines and other drugs with small amounts of opium or codeine would be categorized as Schedule V.
Possession of a Controlled Substance Charges
In nearly all possessions cases, you could be facing steep fines even for small amounts of a controlled substance. In addition to possession charges, you may also face charges for distribution if you have more than certain minimum amounts of any controlled substance and you may also face charges including Manufacture, Delivering or Possession with Intent to Deliver Controlled Substances (PWID). Keep in mind, any drug conviction regardless of whether it is classified as a misdemeanor or penalty will result in your losing your legal right to possess a firearm in Pennsylvania.
Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance
When you are charged with possession or the more serious PWID crimes, you could face very steep fines as well as jail time. It is important to note that early in 2015, a court determined that mandatory sentencing was a violation of the constitution and therefore, most drug possession charges may no longer be subjected to mandatory sentences. However, those who are charged and convicted could still face:
- Simple possession – First convictions could result in fines of up to $5,000 with enhancements if you were in possession of more than 30 grams. Subsequent convictions could result in fines of up to $25,000.
- Possession of paraphernalia – A first conviction could result in fines of up to $5,000.
- Criminal Use of a Communications facility – If you are found guilty of having used a telephone or computer to facilitate the purchase, sale or distribution of drugs, you could face felony charges and fines of up to $15,000.
In most cases of drug possession, you will be facing misdemeanor charges although there are cases where you could be charged with a felony. Felony convictions could result in longer jail time as well as higher fines. Keep in mind, in addition to the charges you could be facing on the state level, in some cases, you could also be facing federal drug charges.
Annual Drug Abuse Violations in Pittsburgh
Drug abuse violations in Pittsburgh have been decreasing the past several years. From 2010 to 2017, offenses have decreased by 41%. The three areas which experience the most drug abuse violations are Golden Triangle, Knoxville, and South Side Flats, which since 2010 have experienced 660, 659, and 583 offenses respectively. All of these areas have seen a general decrease in violations since 2010. Combined, the number of drug abuse violations has decreased by 54% from 2010 to 2017.
The vast majority of drug abuse violations occur in the evening (between 5 PM and 11 PM) and are distributed fairly evenly throughout the week. These offenses account for 45% of the total violations in a given week.
More Information on Possession Charges