Meth Possession in Philadelphia
Possession of methamphetamine is a serious crime that can result in significant legal and collateral consequences. In fact, you can go to jail even after your first offense. After a conviction, you may also experience significant personal and professional problems.
Fortunately, you can protect your rights and your future by retaining an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can. An attorney can review your case and determine whether any legal defenses apply. In addition, a lawyer can work to negotiate a favorable plea bargain if you choose to pursue one.
All Meth Convictions Carry Possible Jail Sentences
Crystal methamphetamine is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substance Act. Even though first-time possession of small amounts of meth seems like a minor offense, jail time is still a possibility even if you are not charged with distribution or manufacturing.
If you are charged with possession under two grams of meth, the punishment for this misdemeanor offense is a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. While the crime is often referred to as “simple possession,” there is nothing simple about it. Even a first offense can lead to a mandatory driver’s license suspension. This will keep you from doing things like getting to work and the grocery store. In addition, you will be left with a criminal record that could affect things such as:
- Losing government benefits
- Losing student loans
- Not being able to own a gun
- Ineligibility for certain jobs
- Not being able to obtain a security clearance or pass some background checks
The penalties can be worse for second and third offenses of meth possession. Even if the person charged was able to avoid jail time on the first conviction, they might not be able to on subsequent convictions. Courts will treat subsequent offenses more seriously each time.
Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) Carries Harsh Penalties
If possession goes beyond “simple” and evidence demonstrates selling or possession with the intent to distribute, the penalties can rise significantly. The penalties for possession with intent to distribute, also known as PWID, rise with the amount of the substance with which the person is allegedly caught. Here are the penalties for meth:
- 2 to 10 grams – felony charges with up to two years in prison
- 10 to 100 grams – felony charges with up to three years in prison
- Over 100 grams – felony charges with up to five years in prison
The penalties rise for subsequent offenses of possession with intent to distribute. Even though these crimes are felonies, it does not mean that the judge must sentence the defendant to prison.
These are the state law penalties. There is also a possibility of federal drug charges. These have different penalties attached. Federal law enforcement does not always offer the same treatment programs and possible leniency that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may offer in a state-level case.
Factors that Determine Whether a Defendant Receives Jail Time
Whether a jail sentence is imposed also depends on whether other factors are present in your case. For example, here are some of the things that a judge may look at in deciding whether to impose a jail sentence and how much time should be served:
- The quantity of drugs involved
- Whether there were any other possible crimes involved
- Whether a weapon was used or found
- Whether the drugs were present in a school zone
- The number of previous drug arrests or any other criminal record
For your part, you must show that this was an isolated incident and that your record is otherwise free of serious crimes. To do so, you need a top Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who knows how to present mitigation both in plea negotiations or at sentencing.
Fighting Drug Charges
Just because jail is a possible penalty does not automatically mean that it will be imposed. Even after being charged, there are ways to stay out of jail. Of course, the first way to avoid prison is to successfully fight the charges against you. There are a number of ways to fight drug charges in Philadelphia:
- Evidence of the crime was illegally seized in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution
- Law enforcement entrapped you
- Insufficient evidence to establish constructive possession
- Mere presence
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office must not only prove every element of the crime, but they must also establish the methamphetamine was lawfully seized. There could be problems with the police report or other mistakes that they made in the process, such as failing to read you your rights or neglecting to obtain a search warrant.
Alternatively, you could plead guilty to the drug charges, but it may still not mean that you are going to jail. The prosecutor may be willing to agree to a deal that could keep you out of jail and put you in rehabilitation. There is less of an appetite for punishing “minor” drug crimes with incarceration, especially on the first offense. However, this means that you need an attorney who knows the system and how to obtain possible leniency for you in sentencing. There are drug court options throughout Pennsylvania that focus more on treatment than punishment and are designed to give the defendant a second chance. However, trying to handle your case on your own increases the chances that you may end up in prison for meth possession.
The most important thing in any drug possession case is to hire a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer immediately after you have been arrested. Your legal rights could be at stake, especially if there are problems with the arrest itself or the evidence that has been seized. Beyond that, you need to understand what you are facing and how to deal with your situation. Otherwise, the stress and panic that comes with being in the criminal justice system could overcome you.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with drug crimes, Wimmer Criminal Defense Law will fight for you to achieve the best possible legal outcome. We get results for clients through aggressive and tough legal representation. Call Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lauren A. Wimmer for a consultation today at (215) 712-1212 or contact us online to learn how we can help you.