Although the popularity of cocaine has dropped in recent years, the United States still leads the world in cocaine use. Experts estimate that 14 percent of Americans have tried cocaine.
You may not be alone if you are a cocaine user. But if you are found guilty of possessing cocaine, Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws may be used against you. This means that even if there are extenuating circumstances, the judge has to give you at least the minimum sentence. If you are charged with possession of cocaine, it is critical that you hire an attorney with experience in drug crimes.
The Quantity Of Cocaine That Can Get You Arrested
You can be arrested for cocaine possession even if you only have just a small amount that you intended only for personal use.
For a first conviction of possessing cocaine, you can be sentenced to up to one year in prison.
For a second conviction, you could serve up to two years in prison, and up to three years for a third conviction.
Your driver’s license will be suspended for six months for a first offense, one year for a second offense and two years for a third offense.
Cocaine possession also has other lasting impacts, and you may experience difficulty in finding a job, maintaining your current one, keeping or getting custodial rights to your children, being eligible for certain professional licenses, and more.
In Pennsylvania, you have possession of a controlled substance when you own or possess it. If the controlled substance is available by prescription, and you are caught with the drug but without a valid prescription for it, you can be charged.
For you to be convicted of possessing a controlled substance, prosecutors must prove either:
- You knowingly and intentionally had control of an illegal drug.
- You knew the drugs were illegal, you knew the drugs were present, and you intended to use or control them.
- You either had actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance. In other words, you had the drug on your person, such as in your pocket, or in a spot that you had control over, like the trunk of your car or hidden under your bed.
What Pennsylvania Law Says About Drugs
Under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, it is prohibited to knowingly or intentionally possess drugs (or fake drugs) unless you have a prescription. A violation of this is a misdemeanor. It is also prohibited to manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to deliver drugs unless you are licensed to do so. A violation of this is a felony.
Speak to a Pittsburgh Cocaine Lawyer
If you have been charged with a drug offense, your first step should be to immediately hire a Pittsburgh drug lawyer.
An experienced attorney will have worked with the prosecutors handling your case many times before. They can draw on their relationships and understanding of the local court system to lessen or dismiss your charges.
Don’t talk to the police or prosecutors unless your attorney is with you.
Your lawyer will go over what happened both before and after your arrest. Importantly, he or she will assess whether there was probable cause to charge you with a crime. This includes determining if the cocaine really belonged to you.
If you were arrested for cocaine possession while you were in your car, a critical aspect of your case will be whether or not the police had probable cause to pull you over and do a search. If there was not probable cause, the evidence obtained by law enforcement can be suppressed.