Facing Cocaine Charges in Philadelphia? What You Need to Know
With all of the media attention focused on heroin and other opiates, it’s easy to overlook the seriousness of cocaine charges. Six people have been charged in a $1 billion cocaine bust at a Philadelphia port this summer. If convicted, those people could face years in prison and heavy fines. If you’ve been arrested in connection with cocaine, you are facing some very serious consequences.
At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we provide our clients with legal representation that is aggressive, skilled, and thorough to ensure that you get a fair result. We work with you every step of the way to protect your rights. If you’ve been charged with a drug offense, you need someone on your side – contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 to schedule a free consultation and to get the help you need.
Cocaine is a Schedule II Drug
In Pennsylvania, drugs are classified according to a schedule of controlled substances. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous, having a high potential for abuse with no legitimate medical use. Schedule III drugs are considered less dangerous, and Schedule IV and V drugs are considered to have a relatively low potential for abuse. Generally speaking, drug offenses involving Schedule I and Schedule II drugs are prosecuted more aggressively than less dangerous drugs.
Cocaine is considered a Schedule II drug, because it has some recognized medical uses, albeit with severe restrictions. However, it is considered to have a high potential for abuse, which can lead to physical and psychological dependence. This applies to any form of cocaine, including:
- Cocaine powder
- Cocaine base
- Crack cocaine
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a cocaine offense, an experienced drug offense lawyer can help you understand the charges and the potential consequences you are facing.
Possession of Cocaine
Most cocaine offenses are charged as what is referred to as “simple possession.” It is illegal to possess any form of cocaine in Philadelphia in any amount. In order to convict you for possession of cocaine, the prosecution must prove the following:
- That you were in possession of cocaine;
- That you knew it was in your possession; and
- That you knew it was cocaine.
These elements appear straightforward but are actually more difficult to prove than you might think.
- Possession: actual vs. constructive. Actual possession is when you had the cocaine on your person, such as in your hand or in your pocket. Constructive possession is more complicated – constructive possession is when you do not have actual physical possession, but it is within your control. For example, if cocaine is found in the glove box of your car, it could be considered constructive possession.
- Knowledge that it was in your possession. This element is often at issue in constructive possession cases. Did you know the cocaine was in your glove box? Or was it left there by a friend without your knowledge?
- You knew that it was cocaine. You cannot be convicted of possession of cocaine if you did not know that it was cocaine. However, you should be aware that prosecutors don’t need to prove that you actually knew it was cocaine – you can be convicted of possession if they can prove that you had reason to know it was cocaine.
Because it’s difficult to prove what you actually know, the prosecution will use circumstantial evidence to prove these elements. For example, they may point to the fact that you associate with known cocaine users or that your behavior prior to and during your arrest suggested that you knew you were in possession of an illegal substance.
If convicted, the penalties you face will depend on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and your criminal record:
- First offense: Up to 1 year in jail, a fine of $5,000 and a license suspension of 6 months
- Second offense: Up to 3 years in prison, fines of up to $25,000, and your license will be suspended for one year
- Third offense: Up to 3 years in prison, fines of up to $25,000, and your license will be suspended for two years
As you can see, “simple possession” is a very serious charge. If you’ve been charged with possession of cocaine, the best thing you can do is contact an experienced drug offense attorney.
Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Deliver
In Pennsylvania, drug trafficking is referred to as “possession with intent to deliver.” This includes the manufacture of drugs. Generally speaking, you are likely to be charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine in the following situations:
- You were in possession of more than would be had for personal use.
- The cocaine was packaged in a way that would suggest it was intended for sale or distribution.
Possession with intent to deliver is considered a more serious crime than simple possession and therefore carries more serious consequences. The penalties will vary according to the amount of cocaine in your possession and your criminal record:
Two to 10 grams:
- First offense: up to two years in prison and $5,000 in fines
- Subsequent offenses: up to three years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines
10 to 100 grams:
- First offense: up to three years in prison and $15,000 in fines
- Subsequent offenses: up to five years in prison and $30,000 in fines
100 grams or more:
- First offense: up to five years in prison and $25,000 in fines
- Subsequent offenses: up to seven years in prison and $50,000 in fines
Keep in mind that prosecutors very well may argue for the harshest possible sentence and heaviest fine in your case if you are convicted. A criminal attorney can make sure that the court hears your side and argue for a lighter punishment.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
No one can afford to go to jail or pay thousands of dollars in fines. If you’ve been charged with possession of cocaine, you should invest in your future by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. Criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer has the knowledge and experience you need to get a fair result. If you would like to schedule a free consultation, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law by calling 215-712-1212 or through our online contact form today.
Photo credit: Elvert Barnes via flickr