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State versus Federal Possession with the Intent to Distribute Charges


1/17/2019

Possessing a controlled substance with the intention of unlawfully distributing that substance is illegal under both federal and state law. A conviction can result in high fines and long periods of incarceration in either a federal or state prison.

If you are facing possession with intent to distribute charges in either the federal or the state court systems, you need an experienced attorney representing you. At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, our knowledgeable team of lawyers can represent you throughout your entire case and work towards obtaining the best possible outcome on your behalf.

Federal Possession with Intent to Distribute

Under federal law, in order to be convicted of possession with the intent to distribute, all three of the following legal elements must be satisfied:

  • Illegal drug possession
  • Specific intent to distribute the drug in question
  • Possession of the drug with the specific intent to distribute the drug in question

In federal cases, a federal prosecutor has the burden of proving all three of these legal elements. If the prosecutor fails to meet his or her burden of proof, a criminal defense attorney at Wimmer Criminal Defense Law can raise the appropriate legal defense on your behalf at trial.

Possessing a Controlled Dangerous Substance

Under federal law and most state laws, individuals are prohibited from possessing controlled substances. There are two types of possession: actual possession and constructive possession. In order to be deemed “in possession” of a drug, an individual need not have the drug directly on his or her clothing or person. Having the drug nearby so that it is within the individual’s direct control or vicinity is usually sufficient to satisfy the legal element of possession.

In some instances, the accused may be able to allege that he or she was not, in fact, in possession of a particular drug. For example, the accused may be a visitor to someone’s home or a passenger in someone’s car where the illegal drugs are ultimately found. In those instances, the accused may allege that he or she did not have direct control over the substance – or was not even aware of the illegal drug’s presence.

The experienced legal team at Wimmer Criminal Defense Law may be able to challenge the possession element of a criminal charge or allege that you were not aware of an illegal drug’s presence at the time the drug was recovered or confiscated.

Intent to Distribute the Substance

In order to be charged with federal possession with intent to distribute, the accused must also have the specific intent to distribute the controlled substance. In order words, the federal prosecutor must be able to effectively demonstrate what the accused was intending to do with the controlled substance at issue. Since the prosecutor cannot literally get inside of the accused’s mind to determine his or her actual intent, the intent element must be proven using circumstantial evidence.

For example, if the accused is found in possession of a very large amount of drugs, it is usually safe to assume that he or she intended to sell the drugs. Moreover, if the accused is found in possession of drug paraphernalia, large amounts of money, or packaging material, it is similarly assumed that the accused has the intent to distribute the drugs.

Possession with the Intent to Distribute

Finally, at the federal level, the possession and the intent to distribute elements must have taken place at the same time. For example, if someone intends to sell or distribute a large amount of drugs, but he or she is not yet in possession of the drugs at that time, then the person cannot be charged with possession with intent to distribute. Similarly, if the accused only has a very small amount of drugs in his or her possession at the time of arrest, it will be difficult for the federal prosecutor to infer an intent to distribute the drugs.

The experienced Philadelphia drug charge defense lawyers at Wimmer Criminal Defense Law can challenge the federal prosecutor if he or she fails to prove all three elements of a possession with intent to distribute charge.

Federal Penalties upon Conviction

The penalties for a federal possession with intent to distribute conviction are based upon federal sentencing guidelines. Once the accused is convicted of this charge, a sentencing hearing is then held. At that time, the judge determines the criminal sentence based upon those guidelines. The period of incarceration and/or the fines imposed are determined largely by the specific substance involved, as well as the accused’s criminal history (or lack thereof).

An experienced Philadelphia drug defense lawyer at Wimmer Criminal Defense Law can represent you at a sentencing hearing and argue for the lowest possible penalty under the circumstances.

State Possession with Intent to Distribute Charges

Possession with intent to distribute at the state level is much the same as at the federal level. In the state system, you can be charged with possession with intent to distribute if any of the following occurs:

  • You are found to have a large quantity of illegal substances or drugs in your possession or immediate vicinity
  • A police officer observes you in the midst of a drug transaction
  • The police officer uncovers circumstantial evidence which points to a drug transaction, such as packing materials, scales, or large sums of money in your immediate vicinity

In order to prove the charge, the state prosecutor must also show that you intentionally and knowingly possessed an illegal drug, that you knew the drugs were illegal, that you knew the drugs were present, and that you intended to use or control the drugs. You must also have had actual or constructive possession of the illegal drug or substance at issue.

Hire a Philadelphia Drug Charge Defense Lawyer about Your Case

If you have been charged with state or federal possession with intent to distribute, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can. In order to schedule your free consultation and case evaluation with an experienced Philadelphia drug charge defense lawyer, please call us today at 215-712-1212, or contact us online.