Charges Related To Drugs And Controlled Substances
The sentencing guidelines for drug crimes in Pennsylvania are some of the harshest in the country. The severity of the penalties depend on the actual crime, the type of drug or controlled substance involved and the quantity of the controlled substance. Pennsylvania ranks drugs based on the two factors; the therapeutic value of the drug and how addictive it is. These rankings are called “schedules” and divide controlled substances into five groups:
- Schedule I: Highly addictive substances with little or no therapeutic value. These include heroin, marijuana and MDMA (ecstasy).
- Schedule II: Highly addictive substances with very limited therapeutic uses. These include cocaine, methamphetamines and oxycodone.
- Schedule III: Substances with a low risk of addiction with therapeutic uses. These include Vicodin, anabolic steroids and ketamine.
- Schedule IV: Controlled substances with a low potential for addiction and a high therapeutic value. These include Valium, Xanax and Klonopin.
- Schedule V: Substances with minimal risk of addiction and high medical value. These include cough suppressants containing codeine and other prescription drugs.
The federal government uses the same system to rank controlled substances. The severity of penalties is highest for Schedule I drugs and controlled substances and lowest for Schedule V drugs.
Drug Charges In Pennsylvania
Most Pennsylvania drug crimes fall into one of two misdemeanor charges or one of three felony charges. The misdemeanor charges are simple possession, defined as possessing small amounts of a controlled substance, or possession of drug paraphernalia. The amount of the controlled substance that qualifies for the charge of simple possession varies based on the type of drug. A conviction on misdemeanor drug charges in Pennsylvania may result in up to one year behind bars and/or fines of up to $5,000.
Most felony drug charges are categorized as drug trafficking (felony possession with intent), unlawful manufacturing or felony possession with the intent to deliver (PWID). Conviction on felony drug charges results in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. Depending on the type of controlled substance and the amount in your possession at the time of arrest, the penalties include prison sentences up to 15 years and fines of up to $250,000 per count. If you are charged with federal drug crimes and convicted of a felony in federal court, fines can double up to life in prison and $500,00 per count.
Defending Clients Against Drug Charges
Getting arrested in possession of drugs does automatically result in a guilty verdict. There are many ways to challenge the legality of the arrest. Remember that you are always innocent until proven guilty. Questions we ask to challenge the legality of the arrest include:
- Did law enforcement have probable cause to search the area where the drugs were found?
- Did law enforcement have reasonable suspicion to perform the search on you?
- Were your Constitutional rights violated during the search?
By successfully challenging law enforcement on any of these questions, we can bring a motion to suppress evidence and if granted, the case will be dropped.