If you are convicted of drug possession in Pennsylvania, you could be sentenced to jail time. The criminal penalties for drug possession in Pennsylvania depend on the quantity and type of drug allegedly in your possession, your criminal record, and other circumstances unique to your case.
First-time drug offenders could qualify for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. If you complete the program, your drug possession charges could be dismissed, and you can ask the court to expunge or erase your arrest record. Expungement prevents the arrest record from showing up on a background check.
Jail Sentences for Drug Possession in Pennsylvania
Drug possession refers to various criminal offenses. Simple possession refers to knowingly possessing a counterfeit or controlled substance without a valid prescription from someone legally registered or licensed to issue such a prescription. It is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania.
You could face drug possession charges if you are charged with having controlled substances such as:
- Marijuana, cannabis, hashish, or other THC products
- Opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, or carfentanil
- Methamphetamine or “meth”
- Psilocybin Mushrooms
- Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
- Alpha-PVP or “Flakka”
You can face criminal drug possession charges for having certain medications without a valid doctor’s prescription. Medications that frequently lead to drug possession charges include but are not limited to:
- Prescription pain drugs, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and morphine
- Benzodiazepines such as Xanax (alprazolam) and Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Adderall and other stimulants that treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Muscle relaxers such as Valium (diazepam)
- Certain sedatives and sleep medications
The lists above are not exhaustive, and many other types of substances can lead to drug possession charges. If you are unsure about your rights or legal options after facing drug possession charges, contact an attorney for guidance as soon as possible.
Criminal Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance
A first-time offender charged with simple possession of a controlled substance typically faces a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000 per 35 PA Stat. § 780-113. However, criminal penalties for possession of a controlled substance vary significantly based on how dangerous the drug is and how much of the drug you allegedly possessed.
For example, if you are charged with holding 30 grams or less of marijuana, you face up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. However, having any amount of fentanyl is punishable by a two-year minimum prison sentence and a hefty fine. Fines and prison time increase according to how much a defendant is charged with having in their possession.
Felony Criminal Charges for Drug Possession
If you are charged with possessing a substantial quantity of a controlled substance, you can face felony criminal charges. The specific thresholds for felony drug possession vary depending on the type and quantity of the drugs. A Pennsylvania drug crimes defense lawyer who leads these cases can help you understand the potential criminal consequences in your case.
Second, Third, and Subsequent Offenses
You also face higher penalties for drug possession if you were previously convicted of drug possession. For example, if you are convicted of simple possession for the second time, the maximum prison sentence is three years instead of one year. The maximum fine is also increased to $25,000.
Possession With Intent to Deliver
Possession with intent to deliver (PWID) means the prosecution believes you intended to sell or distribute drugs. You may be charged with possession with intent to deliver if a large quantity of drugs was found in your possession or on your property.
You could also face possession of drug charges if scales, baggies, and other drug paraphernalia or large quantities of cash were found on your property.
The ARD Program May Help You Avoid Jail Time and a Criminal Record
The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is a diversion program that prioritizes drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation instead of punishment. If you complete the program, you could request that the court dismiss the criminal charges against you.
You could also ask the court to expunge your arrest record. Once an arrest record has been expunged, the public, including landlords and employers, cannot access it. Essentially, it is as if the arrest never happened.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office states that ARD is available to first-time non-violent offenders. If you face drug possession charges and have no previous convictions, you may qualify for the program.
Options for Reducing or Avoiding Jail for Drug Possession in Pennsylvania
If your drug offense case does not qualify for ARD, your lawyer can help you explore other options for reducing or even avoiding criminal penalties.
Plea Bargain for Drug Possession Charges
Plea bargains or plea deals are agreements between the prosecution and the criminal defendant. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea agreement for you so that you receive a lesser charge or reduced jail sentence.
For example, if you were charged with felony drug possession, the prosecution may offer a plea deal where you plead guilty to misdemeanor drug possession instead. You may receive a lighter jail sentence, probation instead of jail time, reduced fines, or other benefits. Accepting a plea deal also prevents you from going through a criminal trial.
Making Your Case at Trial
If you are unlikely to be found guilty of the drug charges, it may be best to take your case to trial. During a criminal trial, your drug crimes criminal lawyer will examine witnesses, present evidence to the court, and present your case to a jury for a favorable outcome. A drug crime attorney can represent you if your case ends up at trial.
Our Pennsylvania Drug Possession Defense Lawyer Can Help – Call Today for a Free Consultation
You could go to jail for drug possession in Pennsylvania, but you have rights and can explore your legal options. Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney David C. McKenzie III provides legal assistance and representation to people facing drug possession charges in Pennsylvania. He can advise you on your options, represent you during the legal proceedings, negotiate with the prosecution for a lighter penalty, and advocate for you.
Whether seeking legal help for yourself or a loved one, McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., is here for you. Call our office for a private consultation today to learn how we can help.