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Think That Your Philadelphia Drug Possession Charge Isn’t Serious? Think Again.


9/23/2019

Across the country, lawmakers and their constituents are changing the way they deal with drug issues in their communities. This has given rise to the pervasive attitude that “just possession” isn’t really a serious charge – we even often refer to a possession charge as “simple possession.” Unfortunately, many people find out too late that the consequences of a conviction are still very serious.

At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we can help you navigate Philadelphia’s drug possession law and understand exactly what you are facing. Aggressive and dedicated, Philadelphia drug possession lawyer Lauren Wimmer will fight for your rights. If you want a lawyer committed to getting you a fair result, contact us at 215-712-1212 to schedule a free consultation.

Understanding Marijuana Charges in Philadelphia

As the country trends toward the legalization of marijuana, people are left to navigate a complicated maze of local, state, and federal laws. This is especially the case in Philadelphia, where marijuana possession was decriminalized in 2014. If you are arrested possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana, you will be cited with a civil infraction and charged a $25 fine. However, this applies only within the Philadelphia city limits.

If you are arrested for possession of marijuana outside the Philadelphia city limits, you will be charged with possession of marijuana under Pennsylvania state law. Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug in Pennsylvania, meaning that it is considered to be one of the most dangerous controlled substances with a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use. While this sounds absurd in light of the fact that Pennsylvania has legalized medical marijuana, you can still face serious criminal charges. Depending on the amount of marijuana in your possession, you could face very serious consequences under state law:

  • Possession of less than 30 grams: a fine of $500 and up to 30 days in jail
  • Possession of more than 30 grams: up to one year in jail and a fine of $5,000

Also, note that if you are arrested with more than 30 grams of marijuana within Philadelphia city limits, you will be charged with possession under Pennsylvania state law.

Possession Charges for Other Drugs

Aside from less than 30 grams of marijuana, drug possession is a serious crime in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania law criminalizes the possession of any controlled substance. This includes illegal street drugs as well as prescription drugs without a prescription:

  • LSD
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • MDMA
  • PCPC

Possession of anything that is considered a controlled substance under Pennsylvania’s drug schedules could result in a criminal drug possession charge.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

While possession of drug paraphernalia is a separate crime, it is closely related to simple possession charges. They are often charged together, although they either can be charged without the other.

Pennsylvania law criminalizes the possession of any item that may be used for the purpose of “planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packing, repacking, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.” Almost anything can be considered “drug paraphernalia,” including items that are otherwise legal to possess:

  • Plastic bag
  • Vials
  • Spoons
  • Mirror
  • Razors
  • Rolling papers
  • Pipes
  • Rubber tubing
  • Chemical compounds used to make drugs
  • Fertilizer
  • Lab and kitchen equipment such as glassware
  • Grow lights

It’s important to note that you can be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia even if you weren’t in possession of any drugs or charged with any other drug offenses. If convicted, you could face up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines.

What the Prosecution Has to Prove

In order to be convicted of possession of drugs, the prosecution has to prove the following elements:

  • You were in possession of drugs;
  • You knew you were in possession of drugs; and
  • You knew that it was illegal for you to possess the drugs.

The first element seems obvious, but can actually be more complex than you may think. There are two ways that you can be deemed to be in possession of drugs:

  • Actual possession: this is when the drugs are found to be on your person, such as in your pocket.
  • Constructive possession: this is when the drugs are found to be in an area you have access to and control over, such as the glove box of your car.

As you might imagine, prosecutors will aggressively file charges based on alleged constructive possession, claiming that you were in “possession” of the drugs even when you weren’t. In that case, the prosecution still needs to prove that you knew you were in possession of drugs and that you knew it was illegal to have them.

A common scenario is for someone to leave drugs in the glove box of your car. If you didn’t know they were in there, you cannot be convicted of possession. Alternatively, you cannot be convicted if you knew they were there but did not know it was illegal to have them – perhaps your friend told you he had a prescription for some pills.

Nevertheless, the prosecution will try to persuade you that their case against you is ironclad. An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate their case and help you develop an effective defense strategy.

Potential Consequences of a Drug Possession Conviction

We’ve already discussed the penalties associated with a conviction for marijuana. For all other drugs, the potential penalties you face will vary according to the drug you had in your possession and the quantity. Generally speaking, however, a simple possession charge is a misdemeanor, and you face the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in jail;
  • Fines of up to $5,000.

That said, possession of cocaine, meth, PCP, or more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana can result in a felony drug charge. You will also face heightened penalties if you have prior convictions for possession on your record.

Finally, keep in mind that a drug possession conviction could have other consequences. Your conviction could make it difficult to find a job, find a place to live, and even qualify for certain government benefits and other programs.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Philadelphia Drug Possession Defense Lawyer

Drug possession charges may not be a serious as some other charges you may face, but they still carry serious repercussions. You need someone on your side to help you get a fair result. Call Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer at 215-712-12-12 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.