Being arrested in Greensburg, or a nearby city, for drug possession probably brings up a lot of questions, and is typically more serious than you first suspect. Drug possession laws are tough in PA and strictly enforced in Westmoreland County. So, regardless of the type of drug or circumstances, it’s always best to discuss your options with an experienced drug possession lawyer near you.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our drug lawyers in Greensburg know that questions and uncertainty weigh heavily on your mind if you or a loved one are facing drug possession charges. Whether it was a simple mistake or a misunderstanding, a drug possession arrest does not have to define your life. We can provide answers and will be at your side to ensure your case ends with the best possible result.
Pennsylvania’s Drug Possession Laws
The Pennsylvania statute on controlled substances categorizes drugs based on:
- How likely they are to lead to abuse;
- Whether there is an accepted medical use; and,
- If it’s relatively safe to use under a doctor’s supervision.
Generally, drugs on Schedule I are more serious because they have a higher potential for use, no medical application, and are never safe. Schedule V is on the other end of the scale. In between, there are certain schedules where it is legal to possess the drug, in certain amounts and if you have a prescription. For example:
- Schedules I and II include heroin, LSD, various forms of fentanyl, opium, methadone, amphetamines, and certain derivatives.
- Schedule III and IV drugs may have medically accepted uses, but are only available with a prescription, such as Xanax, Ambien, codeine, and certain steroids;
- In Schedule V, you’ll find drugs that you can often purchase as over-the-counter medications. However, some have restrictions on age, so you could still face drug possession charges. Due to their potential to be used in the creation of other controlled substances, there may also be limitations on the amount you can have in your possession.
Keep in mind that you could face aggravated possession charges if the drug involved was produced as a compound, blend, or another type of preparation. Again, mixtures of Schedule I drugs will be more serious than those lower on the scale. If you are in trouble for drug possession, contact one of our experienced Greensburg criminal defense lawyers.
Drug Possession Penalties
The controlled substance schedules are important because both the listing and the amount of the drug in question affect the severity of the drug possession charges against you. Low amounts of Schedule III and VI controlled substances are likely to be charged as a misdemeanor with penalties including:
- First-Degree Misdemeanor: Up to five years in custody and a maximum fine of $10,000;
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor: Two years’ incarceration and a fine up to $5,000; and,
- Third-Degree Misdemeanor: Up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.
For a first-time drug possession offense in Dauphin County, a drug possession attorney may be able to work out an arrangement for probation rather than time in custody.
When the drug involved climbs higher on the scheduling list, you have a significant amount in your possession, or a combination of both, you could be charged with felony drug possession. The range of incarceration is between seven and 20 years, though your average sentence for felony drug possession could be 8-10 years. The fines will also increase to a maximum of $25,000.
Other Consequences for Drug Possession
In addition to the criminal penalties connected to a drug possession conviction, you should also consider the long-term implications such a charge can bring. A felony or misdemeanor becomes part of your permanent criminal record, so it will show up any time background check is conducted, which could affect:
- Educational opportunities;
- Your current job or professional license;
- Potential employment opportunities;
- Immigration status or the naturalization process;
- Your constitutional rights regarding voting and owning a firearm;
- Child custody and visitation in divorce proceedings;
- Your driver’s license, if the circumstances of your arrest are related to motor vehicle use
How A Greensburg Drug Possession Attorney Can Assist You
In any criminal case, the prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. By working with an experienced defense attorney, you may be able to raise this doubt by calling the witnesses’ testimony into question, highlighting the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s legal arguments, and finding faults with the evidence.
There are also other defenses strategies that may apply in a drug possession case. For instance, state and federal constitutional laws prohibit unlawful search and seizure by law enforcement. Any evidence obtained pursuant to an unlawful search may be ruled inadmissible. Plus, you may have a defense of entrapment if law enforcement used trickery to make the arrest.
Securing a reduction or dismissal is also possible if you can show that you didn’t actually have the alleged illegal drug or a lesser amount in your possession. Providing a prescription from a medical doctor can also lead to a dismissal. Regardless of the existence of evidence absolving you of guilt, you face challenges in getting these facts and arguments before the court Simply trying to explain the situation can be problematic, sometimes doing more harm to your situation. A drug possession attorney will know how to best bring these issues to light, as well as what not to say because it may expose you to further criminal charges.
Contact an Experienced Drug Possession Lawyer Near You
Some consequences go well beyond possible jail time and fines if you’re convicted of drug possession. It’s crucial to know what you’re getting into and the best course of action is retaining experienced legal counsel to act on your behalf. For more information on your rights and what to expect when dealing with drug possession in Greensburg, call (724) 834-1275 to reach Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys.
You can also contact us online 24/7 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.