In western Pennsylvania, as in many other parts of the country, the tendency is for drug users to move from taking prescription painkillers to heroin. As a result, heroin is one of the most frequently used drugs in the Pittsburgh area, and our local courts often hear possession of heroin cases.
You can be arrested for heroin possession even if you only have just a small amount that you intended only for personal use.
If you are found guilty of heroin possession, you will face Pennsylvania’s strict mandatory minimum drug laws. For a first conviction of possessing heroin, 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.
A heroin conviction can negatively impact other areas of your life, like your ability to get a job, pass security clearances, or obtain custody of children. You may also be ineligible for certain types of financial aid.
In Pennsylvania, for you to be convicted of possessing a controlled substance, prosecutors must prove:
- 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.
Learn Your Next Steps From a Pittsburgh Heroin Lawyer
If you have been charged with a drug offense, your first step should be to immediately hire a lawyer.
An experienced drug crime 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 heroin really belonged to you.
If you were arrested for heroin 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.