Defending A Drug Possession Charge In Pennsylvania

While drug possession is one of the most common and minor drug offenses in Pennsylvania, the penalties can still be severe. Depending on the type of drug and the amount, you could face costly fines and significant jail time.

Proving drug possession

Under Pennsylvania law, a conviction for drug possession requires proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you:

  • Knowingly and intentionally possessed a controlled substance without a valid prescription
  • Knew the drug was an illegal controlled substance
  • Had actual or constructive possession of the drug

Under the doctrine of “constructive possession,” the police do not have to find the drugs in your pocket or in your purse. Rather, prosecutors need only show that you had knowledge of the drug’s presence and exercised dominion and control over it. For instance, if you placed marijuana in the glove compartment of a friend’s vehicle, you could be charged with drug possession. However, if a friend placed LSD in your purse without your knowledge, you should not face criminal charges.

Drug possession penalties

The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act of Pennsylvania classifies drugs into schedules based on their potential for abuse and other factors. Schedule I drugs, like heroin and peyote, result in the highest penalties, while Schedule IV drugs, which include small amounts of opium or codeine, carry the lightest. First offenders charged with possession of common drugs like cocaine, meth and LSD face up to one year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

Pennsylvania has specific laws addressing marijuana. If found guilty of possession of 30 grams or less, you can be sentenced to no more than 30 days in jail and/or fined not more than $500. However, if you have more than 30 grams of marijuana in your possession, the penalties include jail time of up to one year, a $5,000 fine and automatic suspension of your license. Depending on the other facts and circumstances, you may also be charged with possession with intent to distribute, which is a more serious offense. 

At Kardos, Rickles, Hand & Bidlingmaier, we know how devastating a drug conviction can be for your personal and professional life. Our Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys work tirelessly to minimize the consequences of an arrest, such as obtaining a full dismissal of the charges or successfully negotiating a plea deal.