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Pennsylvania law still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug. Therefore, marijuana possession in Pennsylvania continues to be a criminal offense. The current law provides that a person convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana, less than 30 grams, is guilty of an ungraded misdemeanor and subject to a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A person convicted of possessing more than 30 grams could face a penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Drug offenses cover possession of paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia includes rolling papers, marijuana pipes, grinders, syringes, essentially any item that assists in introducing a drug into a person’s body. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and one year in jail.
Possession of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine — including crack cocaine — and other harsher drugs subject a person to a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of $5,000 for a first offense. The maximum penalty increases to three years of imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $25,000 for a subsequent conviction.
Possession With Intent — PWI
PWI is charged when the Commonwealth believes, through actual or circumstantial evidence, that a person is selling, possessing, or distributing illegal drugs. PWI can be charged when a person sells drugs to a criminal informant or an undercover officer, when a large amount of drugs are possessed, or when items are discovered that show a drug trafficking operation existed (or still presently exists). These items would include scales, packaging materials, cell phones, large amounts of money in small denominations, etc.
The sentencing depends on the classification of drug and circumstances of the charge.
Typically, PWI of a controlled or counterfeit substance classified as a Schedule I or II drug — more commonly referred to as narcotics — is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
PWI of a controlled substance classified Schedule I, II, or III is a felony and carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. PWI of a Schedule IV substance is also a felony and carries a maximum penalty of three years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. PWI of a Schedule V substance is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Pennsylvania Common Pleas judges have discretion when sentencing a defendant. Most defendants do not receive the maximum penalty. As a criminal defense attorney, we often see that drug sentences are within the standard range, determined by the seriousness of the current offense, the offense gravity score (“OGS”), the defendant’s prior record, and the prior record score.
In PWI cases, the offense gravity score is greatly affected by the amount or weight of the controlled substance. For example, PWI heroin of less than one gram has an OGS of 6. PWI heroin of 100-1000 grams has an OGS of 11. The difference in standard range between these two offenses could be a county sentence compared to a state sentence. A person charged with PWI could also be prosecuted by the federal government depending upon the situation. Our drug attorney understands the weight of importance placed on a gravity score, both literally and physically, and will be able to help you with the best defense possible.
Whether the police used a search based on probable cause, a confidential informant to gather evidence, or other surveillance techniques, the key to fighting drug charges is to challenge the method used to establish the prosecutor’s case. Criminal Defense Attorney Dutko will challenge the traffic stop, the search warrant application, or even the reliability of the confidential informant. We understand that a successful outcome begins with taking the time and effort to put in the hard work from the beginning, even before the preliminary hearing. Contact Dutko Law today for a free consultation and put Attorney Dutko’s experience to work for you.