Charged with a Heroin Offense? Understand Your Options
Heroin is a deadly drug that can ruin the lives of the people who use it and the people they love. Often, people turn to heroin only after they have developed an opioid addiction after obtaining prescription drugs for pain management after an accident. In addition to the harm it does to your body, being charged with a heroin-related drug offense can change your life forever. That said, it’s important to understand that you have options, even if you think your case is hopeless. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand your options and get the best result possible. In some cases, a lawyer may be able to get your charges completely dropped or dismissed by a court.
Philadelphia criminal defense attorney fights for the rights of people facing heroin and other drug-related charges in the Philadelphia area and across the state of Pennsylvania. She knows the law, and she knows how to get results. The prosecutor just wants a conviction, but you are entitled to a fair and just outcome. If you’re facing heroin charges, contact us at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.
The Basics of Heroin Charges
Drugs are categorized according to drug schedules in Pennsylvania. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous, with a high potential for abuse that can lead to severe dependence. Heroin is categorized as a Schedule I drug. As a result, heroin charges are very serious and may be prosecuted aggressively.
The two most common heroin-related charges are as follows:
- Possession of Heroin. Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal to possess any amount of heroin. You can be charged with possession of heroin if it is found on your person, such as in your hand or your pocket. However, you can also be charged with possession of heroin if it is found under your control. For example, you could be charged with possession of heroin if it is found in the glove box of your car, in your bag, or in your home.
- Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID). You will be charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin if law enforcement believes that you intended to sell or otherwise distribute the heroin in your possession. This may be because you had more than what is typical for personal use. Alternatively, it may be because it was packaged in a way that would suggest you intended to distribute it – for example, it was packaged in individual, equal-sized portions.
PWID is a more serious charge than simple possession and carries heavier penalties. Whether charged with simple possession or PWID, it’s important to remember that the prosecution has to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the charges against you and help you understand your options.
The Potential Consequences of a Conviction
If you are convicted at trial or agree to plead guilty, you need to understand the potential penalties you are facing.
- Possession: Even a first offense for simple possession of heroin could result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Possession with Intent to Distribute: If convicted, you could face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The penalties will depend heavily on the quantity of heroin involved. Many PWID charges are the result of over-aggressive prosecutors and can be reduced to a possession charge.
In addition to prison and heavy fines, you will also have a drug conviction on your permanent record. In addition to the potential stigma of being a convicted drug offender, your conviction could make it difficult to find employment, a place to live, and obtain public benefits.
What Happens if I Go to Trial?
If you go to trial, the prosecution must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They will be required to introduce evidence showing that you are guilty of the charges that have been brought against you. You do not have to do or say anything, but you will have the opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s case and introduce your own evidence that supports your innocence.
The main drawback of going to trial is that you lose some control over the outcome. A judge or jury will decide whether or not you are guilty. If convicted, you will then be sentenced according to the Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines.
What Happens if I Accept a Plea Deal?
Plea deals can be attractive for several reasons. You may be able to get a more serious charge dismissed in exchange for pleading guilty to a lesser charge. In the context of a drug case, you may be able to avoid jail time if you agree to enter a treatment program. Plea deals often give defendants much more flexibility and control in the outcome of their case, but it does require you to plead guilty, which isn’t always the best option.
What about Drug Court?
If you’re struggling with heroin addiction, drug court can present a very attractive option. You must meet two criteria to qualify for Philadelphia’s drug diversion program:
- You are a non-violent offender; and
- You have no more than two prior juvenile adjudications or adult convictions.
If you qualify, you must then plead “no contest” (nolo contendere) to the charges, but your plea will be held in abeyance, meaning that it won’t be officially entered into the court records. Upon successfully completing the program, your plea will be withdrawn, and your case closed with prejudice. If you remain drug-free for the following year, your case will be expunged.
Drug court provides people who are struggling with addiction an opportunity to get the treatment they need. More importantly, it allows them to avoid a criminal conviction and the negative consequences of having a drug conviction on your permanent record.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Philadelphia
In addition to destroying your health and possibly resulting in death, heroin can result in heavy fines and years in prison. Don’t leave your future in the hands of the prosecution – get an attorney who will fight for your rights. Philadelphia criminal defense attorney has the knowledge and experience you need to get a fair result. Call us at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.
Photo Credit: Phillip Pessar via Flickr