When it comes to drug and possession charges in Pennsylvania, there are many questions you may have. In this post, we share 15 of the most common questions we hear and answers to those questions.
How Are Drug Cases Classified in Pennsylvania?
Ranging from the least to the most serious, five major classifications are used for drug cases in Pennsylvania: Simple Possession, Possession with Intent to Distribute, Distribution, Trafficking, and Manufacturing.
During sentencing, the following factors may be considered:
- Your prior record.
- Whether this is the first time you have ever been arrested on a drug charge.
- The type of drug in your possession. For example, penalties for marijuana possession are lighter than for meth.
- The amount of the drug in your possession. A tiny amount of a drug could be considered for personal use, whereas larger amounts might seem intended for others.
- The way the drug is packaged. Is it all in one bag, or was it in several bags that could easily be sold to others?
- Previous convictions for this or any other drug.
- The gravity of any previous drug convictions. For example, if the previous conviction is for trafficking, it will have a worse impact on a sentence than if it was for simple possession.
- The length of time between the previous drug conviction and this new charge.
In Pennsylvania, Can Possessing Drug Paraphernalia Result in a Drug Charge?
That depends on the police officers involved. They decide how to charge under the Possession of Drug Paraphernalia laws.
- If you are in possession of a little marijuana in a baggie, the police officer can file a Small Amount of Marijuana charge on its own, or the officer can add a Possession of Drug Paraphernalia charge.
- If police officers discover paraphernalia of various types, such as bongs, pipes, lighters, etc., in the course of a search, they can file one Possession of Drug Paraphernalia charge to cover it all, or they can charge for each item.
What Raises a Drug Charge from Simple Possession to Intent to Distribute?
Even if no other evidence indicates you are dealing the drugs you are caught in possession of, rules do exist about the weight that can elevate a charge to one of intent to distribute. Essentially, the more dangerous the drug, the lower the weight necessary for this to happen.
Here are the details:
- Over .13 grams of heroin
- Over 1 gram of meth, crack, or cocaine
- Over 28 grams of marijuana
- More than 15 tablets of ecstasy or MDMA
For What Reasons Can Drug Charges in Pennsylvania Be Dropped?
There are several reasons a drug charge in Pennsylvania might be dropped. For instance, your lawyer may discover that the police measures leading to the charge were illegal. Or you could participate in a Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) that results in the charges being dropped. Another way to have your charges excused is to become a confidential informant to help the authorities build cases against dangerous drug criminals.
Which Drug Offenses Are Considered Federal Crimes?
Some factors that can raise drug offenses to the federal level include:
- Crossing state lines.
- Involving a large enough number of people for the crime to be considered a conspiracy.
- Possessing amounts of drugs too large for personal use.
- Using weapons in the drug crime.
In Pennsylvania, How Can a Felony Drug Charge Be Changed to a Misdemeanor?
Your lawyer can sometimes gather sufficient supporting evidence to persuade the prosecuting attorney to reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor. The prosecutor takes into consideration several things:
- Your criminal history.
- The type and amount of drug you were charged for possessing.
- The way the search was conducted.
Are Drug Offenses Considered Violent Crimes?
It depends on the specifics of your charge. Drug trafficking and manufacturing are both charged as violent crimes. Less serious drug charges, such as possession, are not. Those convicted of crimes that are considered violent are likely to face much stiffer penalties, including longer jail sentences.
Are Drug Convictions Automatically Expunged from Criminal Records in Pennsylvania?
No. Nothing automatically changes your criminal record when you become 18. However, you can apply to have previous convictions expunged. When your record is expunged, all traces are removed from the system, including police reports and fingerprints.
When considering expungement, a court will consider the following:
- The nature of the offense.
- The petitioner’s age, employment record, other criminal activity, and any problems with drugs or alcohol.
- Damage the petitioner may suffer were the records not expunged.
- Whether the records serve any public safety purpose.
Applying for an expungement of previous drug-related convictions does not guarantee one will be granted. In addition, if the offense was committed while you were on parole or probation after a previous drug conviction, you will not be eligible for expungement.
In Pennsylvania, Can You Be Pardoned for an Earlier Conviction??
In some cases, yes, you can be pardoned for an earlier conviction. The Pennsylvania Expedited Review Program is specifically for those convicted of nonviolent marijuana use and possession. It expedites or speeds up reviews that can lead to pardons. In the program established by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons or BOP, the main criterion for granting pardons is how much one would improve the applicant’s life.
Although pardons are not guaranteed, the following criminal convictions are eligible for consideration by this program:
- Personal use possession of a small amount of marijuana.
- Possession of small amounts of marijuana intended for distribution but not for sale.
- A marijuana-specific conviction relating to the use, possession, promotion, or sale of drug paraphernalia.
- A criminal conspiracy connected to a marijuana-specific offense.
- Driving offenses that occurred while under the influence of medically prescribed marijuana.
- A felony conviction for possession of marijuana, with the intent to deliver.
- Any other marijuana-specific conviction that is considered appropriate by the Secretary of the Board of Pardons.
How Long Will a Drug Charge Stay on My Record in Pennsylvania?
That varies, depending on the crime you are charged with and several other factors. Some drug convictions will remain on your record forever. If you fulfill the requirements for an expungement, your lawyer can help you attempt to clear your records six months after the end of supervision following a consent decree or five years after finishing a prison term or probation.
Does a Pennsylvania Drug Conviction Make Me Ineligible to Enlist in the Military?
Even if you have had your drug case records expunged, the military requires those applying to join to reveal any criminal history. Failure to do so can result in charges for fraudulent enlistment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In Pennsylvania, Will Drug Charges Affect My Ability to Get Financial Aid?
Unfortunately, they will. A drug conviction can disqualify you from institutional financial aid at some colleges and universities. Federal financial aid is even stricter. Any type of drug-related conviction, no matter the gravity, means federal aid will not be available to you.
Does a Drug Charge Conviction Disqualify Me from Gun Ownership in Pennsylvania?
That depends. If your drug crime is considered a violent crime, whether a felony or misdemeanor, you will not be able to purchase a gun. If your drug case includes evidence that you are an addict, this also disqualifies you from gun ownership.
Is Entering a Plea of Guilt a Good Idea?
No. A guilty plea isn’t always the best option. It removes the possibility that your drug charge can be dropped, and, unless entered under the guidance of an attorney, it can result in your getting a stiffer sentence than necessary.
It is in your interest to discuss your options with an attorney. You can do this before deciding to hire him or her to represent you. An attorney can advise you on the best way to proceed in order to lessen the impact your drug charge will have on your life.
Who do I discuss my Drug Case with?
A drug charge is very serious, and a conviction can alter your life in countless negative ways. Drug cases are tried in criminal courts and involve complex procedures that require expert knowledge of the legal system. Obtaining professional advice early is crucial to understanding how to obtain the best result in your case.
An attorney with experience defending drug and possession charges in Pennsylvania will be up-to-date on the latest laws and understand how they affect your case. He or she will offer objective advice about how you should proceed and help you every step of the way until its resolution.
Contact a Pennsylvania Drug and Possession Attorney
With many years of experience as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, Jacob Wyland understands your rights. He can advise you on the best course of action when you are facing drug and possession charges. The Wyland Law Groups prides itself on making complex legal issues understandable for clients to make informed decisions regarding their defense.
Contact the Wyland Law Group today to discuss drug and possession charges in Pennsylvania. Our telephone number is 412-710-0013. We are standing by to assist you.