An opioid epidemic has gripped the county, and as a result, law enforcement in Greensburg and Westmoreland County treat heroin and its pharmaceutical counterparts extremely seriously. Police and prosecutors take a tough stance on these substances, and though every case is unique, you face significant time behind bars for heroin possession in Greensburg. When you want to know what you’re up against immediately, trust an experienced heroin lawyer to explain all your options and how to best proceed.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our drug lawyers in Greensburg are dedicated to delivering skilled, knowledgeable legal services in all drug cases. We know what you’re going through and realize that even if you were in possession of heroin, you are likely best served by treatment and diversion programs rather than prison. You can rely on our legal team to shoulder the legal burden as we work to obtain the best possible outcome.
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Pennsylvania Heroin Possession and Trafficking Laws
The state either restricts or prohibits activities regarding controlled substances, from drugs considered extremely dangerous down to over-the-counter medications. Heroin’s classification, in particular, makes its possession, distribution, and trafficking among the most serious drug crimes in the Commonwealth. Various factors separate a misdemeanor from a felony heroin charge. Plus, other considerations impact the sanctions you face for a conviction.
Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin Charges
Every case is different, so you should trust a heroin defense lawyer to address specific inquiries regarding your situation. However, some answers to common questions may be useful.
What type of drug is heroin under Pennsylvania’s classification statute? Heroin falls under Schedule I within the Pennsylvania Health and Safety Code. Drugs included in this listing are those that:
- Have a high potential for abuse by users;
- Aren’t currently acceptable for any medical use by health care practitioners in the US; and,
- Cannot be administered safely for use, even under supervision of a physician.
Heroin is mentioned by name under the section involving opium derivatives with a specific chemical designation:
How/Does the heroin drug classification affect criminal charges? Controlled substances falling within the Schedule I category are typically charged as felonies, even for first-time offenders found in possession of small amounts. The charges can be elevated to a higher degree felony for possession of larger amounts or if you have a prior criminal history.
What is heroin possession versus distribution? Generally, the idea is that possession only harms the user. Pennsylvania law considers it a more serious crime if you’re distributing heroin because your acts have a direct impact on other people. The statutory terminology used to refer to trafficking is “Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID),” but it also includes manufacturing, selling, delivering, or distributing controlled substances.
Are the penalties different for possession versus heroin distribution? A heroin possession charge is a misdemeanor. Depending on the amount and other factors, you face 1-5 years’ incarceration and a fine ranging from $2,000-$10,000. However, you may face a felony heroin charge for trafficking, manufacturing, distribution, delivery or PWID. The penalties increase dramatically based on the amount of the drug, so:
- You could be sentenced up to 20 years imprisonment for a first-degree felony;
- A second-degree heroin felony charge could lead to a maximum of 10 years’; and,
- Your imprisonment sentence could be up to seven years for a third-degree felony.
Heroin PWID and related acts trigger Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws. This means that a judge won’t have the discretion to reduce your sentence if you’re convicted, even in the presence of extenuating circumstances.
Do I have any defenses after being arrested for heroin possession or PWID? There are multiple strategies for fighting heroin charges, starting with attacking the prosecutor’s case. In a criminal trial, the state goes first by offering evidence and witness testimony. During this presentation, your heroin defense attorney can pinpoint weaknesses in the facts. By doing so, your lawyer can raise doubts in the minds of the judge or jury. You could be acquitted if these questions prevent the prosecutor from proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In addition, once it’s your turn to present your case, your attorney can offer evidence and testimony to dispute the charges. Potential defenses include:
- Unlawful search by police, who must have a warrant or probable cause to arrest you for heroin charges;
- Entrapment, where police use schemes to persuade you to commit the crime;
- Defenses based upon the amount of heroin, which could lower the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor heroin possession charge; or,
- Other defense strategies depending on the circumstances of your case.
What should I do if I was arrested for heroin? The moment you’re charged with any type of heroin crime, you need to contact an experienced Greensburg drug crimes attorney. A heroin lawyer can potentially gain a strategic advantage by getting involved in your case as early on as possible. Representation is especially important during police questioning when you could inadvertently make a statement that can be used against you. From there, your heroin defense attorney will be at your side during arraignment. Having a lawyer can be very helpful when you’re arranging bond for your release until trial.
An attorney who understands heroin charges can also help you navigate the criminal process, so you avoid complications and pitfalls. Additionally, your lawyer can assess your unique situation and possibly facilitate treatment alternatives, which may benefit your health and how your case progresses.
Trust a Greensburg Heroin Lawyer to Protect Your Rights
Pennsylvania laws are tough on heroin and other opioids, but you’re still entitled to your day in court. If you’re facing heroin possession or distribution charges in Greensburg or throughout Dauphin County, you can rely on Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys to fight for your rights and work towards the best possible result.