Drug Offenses in PA: Understanding Laws, Penalties, and Defense Options

Criminal Defense
By Goodwin Como, P.C.

There are many different types of drug charges you can face that can range from low-level misdemeanors to very serious felonies. The severity of the charges you face will typically depend on the type and quantity of drugs at issue in your charges. No matter what drug offense you have been charged with, working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is your best bet for reaching a fair outcome.

Types of Drug Charges in Pennsylvania

Most drug offenses that defendants are charged with typically fall into one of three categories.

1. Possession Charges

Possession charges are the most common type of drug charge you can face. Formally known as “possession of a controlled substance,” you can be charged with possession when you are found with drugs on your person (“actual” possession) or when they are within your immediate control (“constructive” possession). A “simple” possession charge is the least serious drug offense you can face. That said, the consequences of conviction can still carry long-term consequences. Take your possession charge seriously and contact a criminal defense attorney for help as soon as possible.

2. Manufacturing Charges

Under Pennsylvania law, it is a crime to undertake any act to prepare, produce, or otherwise process or make a controlled substance. While it is typically charged as a misdemeanor, defendants are often also charged with drug trafficking. If you are facing a drug manufacturing charge, you should seek help from a criminal defense attorney immediately.

3. Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking offenses are the most serious drug charges you can face. You can be charged with drug trafficking anytime you are arrested with an amount of drugs in your possession that is more than what the authorities would believe are for personal use. This can include minor drug dealing offenses as well as interstate, multi-million dollar drug trafficking operations.

Potential Penalties in Drug Cases

As mentioned above, the severity of penalties will depend on various factors, primarily on the type and quantity of drugs in your possession and the type of offense you allegedly committed. For example, a charge for possession of marijuana will carry a lighter penalty than a possession intending to distribute heroin. Other factors include whether you have prior convictions for drug offenses and other aggravating factors, such as whether you were in a school zone.

The wide variety of factors that can affect your case is one of the reasons why the potential penalties you face in a drug case can be very confusing. Here are some of the penalties you could face depending on the classification of your charges:

  • Third-degree misdemeanor: one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000
  • Second-degree misdemeanor: Two years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000
  • First-degree misdemeanor: Five years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Third-degree felony: Seven years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000
  • Second-degree felony: 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $25,000
  • First-degree felony: 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $25,000

As you can see, the consequences of a conviction can be severe. A criminal defense lawyer can help you get a fair outcome.

Defenses to Your Drug Charges

If you have been charged with a drug crime, it is critical to understand that you likely have a legal defense. The facts and circumstances of your case will determine what defenses are available, but some of the most common defenses include the following:

  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • Lack of probable cause
  • Lack of intent or knowledge
  • Entrapment
  • The drugs or paraphernalia belonged to someone else

Call Goodwin Como Today if You Have Been Charged with a Drug Crime

Do not let the prosecution determine your future – you need someone on your side. A criminal defense lawyer from Goodwin Como will fight for your rights and work tirelessly for the best possible result. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today by calling 724-438-1616.