Arrests for dealing drugs in Pittsburgh cover the manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to distribute, or PWID. Even though the name includes “manufacture,” it essentially means you were allegedly selling, possessing, or distributing illegal drugs.
If you are found guilty of selling or trafficking drugs, Pennsylvania’s harsh sentencing laws will be used against you. If you are charged with PWID, it is critical that you hire an attorney experienced in PWID charges and other drug-related charges.
What Led to Your PWID Arrest?
You can be charged with possession with intent to deliver if:
- You were found with a large amount of illegal drugs in your possession and, based on the amount, the police believed it was more than you would have just for your own use and that you intended to sell them.
- The police allegedly saw you dealing illegal drugs.
- The police discovered “circumstantial evidence” (scales, packaging materials, cell phones, large sums of money in small denominations, etc.) tending to show that a drug trafficking operation is ongoing.
- You allegedly distributed a drug such as marijuana to your friends for their free use.
The Search Matters in PWID Cases
In most cases, the police need a search warrant to search for illegal drugs in your home or yard. A search warrant is an order issued by a judge that law enforcement can present to the owner of the property to show they have the right to enter, search for evidence and seize that evidence.
To obtain a warrant, law enforcement needs to show the judge they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that evidence of this crime is likely to be found in a particular location.
With a warrant, the police have the legal right to search your house, apartment, or person for illegal drugs. They do not need your permission. If the warrant specifies they can search a particular part of your home, like the bedroom, but they hear sounds they believe to be people flushing drugs down the toilet, they can expand their search to include the bathroom.
The police can search your property without a warrant:
- If you give them your consent
- If it’s an emergency, for example if an armed terrorist runs into your house
- If the evidence is in plain view
A Lawyer Can Challenge the Search
Searches conducted without a warrant that don’t meet these criteria will be ruled as illegal search and seizure. The evidence collected will not be admissible in court.
If the police arrive to conduct a search on your home without a warrant, you should tell them they need to come back with a warrant. Do not talk to them any further. Instead, call an experienced attorney at (412) 281-2146.
If the police come by with a warrant, you should have an experienced drug defense attorney help you. A lawyer can ensure they act within the terms of the warrant and protect you from making damaging statements regardless of what they find.
Surveillance in PWID Cases
Depending on the circumstances, law enforcement may have had you under surveillance before your arrest. You may be surprised at the amount of information, including recordings of your phone conversations, that they have.
Police in Pennsylvania also frequently use confidential informants to obtain information about alleged illegal activities.
If you are confronted with apparent surveillance evidence, a lawyer can review it for inconsistencies and misinterpretations. If the surveillance was performed illegally or procedures weren’t followed regarding the informant’s information, they may be able to have these materials suppressed.
How A Drug Conviction Harms You
PWID can be punished harshly. However, the extent of the penalties for drug offenses in Pennsylvania depends on factors that include the amount and type of drugs involved, whether a weapon was present, prior conviction, and other elements.
Possession with the intent to deliver is always classified as a felony in Pennsylvania with the exception of possession with the intent to deliver Schedule V drugs, which is a misdemeanor.
Pennsylvania has sentencing guidelines that assess an offense’s gravity score or severity. The scores range from 1-15, with 14 and 15 reserved for violent crimes like murder. Some PWID charges have a gravity score of 13, which shows how serious the crime is. These charges also come with high prior record scores that entail higher sentences, more community service, and mandatory sentences.
Your driver’s license will be suspended for six months for a first PWID offense, one year for a second offense, and two years for a third offense.
You will have a criminal record that can negatively affect your ability to get a good job, join the military, obtain certain professional licenses, or be admitted to graduate school.
You may also be unable to obtain a federally subsidized student loan.
If you share custody of your children, a drug conviction could be damaging to your parental agreement and you might lose some of your rights to see your kids.
Pennsylvania has held that previously accepted mandatory minimum sentences are now considered unconstitutional. Therefore, Pennsylvania’s PWID sentencing is based on your prior criminal history, the circumstances involved, the type of drug, the amount, and it’s overall classification.
- Third-degree misdemeanor– Up to one year in jail, and fines up to $2,000.
- Second-degree misdemeanor– Up to two years in jail, and a max fine of $5,000.
- First-degree misdemeanor–Up to five years in jail, and fines reaching $10,000.
- Third-degree felony– Up to seven years imprisonment, and a max fine of $15,000.
- Second-degree felony–Up to 10 years in prison, and fines reaching $25,000.
- First-degree felony– Up to 20 years in prison, and maximum fines of $25,000.
Proving Possession in PWID Cases
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 found without a valid prescription for it, you can be charged.
For you to be convicted, 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.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you have been charged with any drug offense, your first step should be to immediately hire a drug crime attorney. This is especially true if you’re accused of selling drugs in or around Pittsburgh.
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. This may result from proving that you never had possession of the drugs involved or by limiting the evidence against you.
Don’t Make Statements Alone
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 drugs really belonged to you.
A Lawyer Can Challenge the Evidence
If you were arrested for drug possession while you were in your car, for instance, 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. In addition to probable cause, your attorney can look for flaws in how the drugs in question were collected and tested. If mistakes are made in how they were measures, this can impact your charges and potential sentence.
If you are charged with PWID in Pittsburgh, yo may think your case is hopeless, but that is simply not true. An experienced drip defense lawyer can do a lot to improve your situation. Depending on the factors involved and your record, you may eligible for a drastic reduction in the charges or a total dismissal. Call Mike Worgul or Samir Sarna today – our Pittsburgh drug lawyers. We can be reached at (412) 281-2146.
We are available 24/7 and offer free initial consultations. We’ll review the situation and explain what comes next.
What Our Clients Say
Read what Donna had to say about us on Avvo:
“My son was arrested with several drug-related charges while in a special program for prior charges. I contacted Michael Worgul’s Law Firm. He immediately went to consult with my son who was in jail. It was quite a complex situation and he and his associates went right to work with the DA and police. At the preliminary hearing, he got all but one charge dropped and got my son a good plea agreement with minimum jail time. I was very impressed with his concern for my son and his case.”
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