How to Defend Against a Drug Possession Charge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
A drug possession charge can weigh down on you to the point where you can’t think about anything else.
If you’re facing any drug charge in Pennsylvania, you might already know the consequences and how serious they are. Penalties include time in prison, depending on the offense. You could also have your license revoked, be forced to pay large fines, and struggle with getting future opportunities.
While it’s natural to imagine the worst-case scenarios, they don’t have to become a reality. There are numerous ways to defend yourself against a drug possession charge in Pittsburgh and get the best possible outcome. If you’re reading this, you’ve already taken the initiative to help yourself. Now it’s time to take action.
Below, our drug possession lawyers in Pittsburgh, PA explain how to build a solid defense against drug possession charges and the common strategies that could apply to your case.
What are Drug Possession Charges in PA?
Drug possession is a serious offense in Pennsylvania, defined as knowingly or intentionally having control of an illegal drug. This could include a “street drug,” such as heroin, or a controlled substance without a prescription, like Adderall or Oxycontin. In some cases, you could be charged for possessing fake drugs.
To convict you on drug possession charges, prosecutors must prove the following three elements:
- 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 had either actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance.
Actual possession means you had the drug on you, such as in your pocket. Constructive possession means the drug was in an area you had control over, like the trunk of your car or hidden under your bed.
Even if you were just “holding onto them for a friend,” having illegal drugs on your person or somewhere you reasonably controlled could qualify as possession and carry severe penalties.
Types of Drug Possession Charges in PA
Depending on the type of drug, the amount police found, and if they believe you intended to sell it, there are different consequences you can expect.
Learn more about Pennsylvania drug possession charges and their penalties below:
- Possession of Cocaine
- Possession of Heroin
- Possession of Steroids
- Possession of MDMA, Methamphetamines, or PCP
- Possession of Schedule I or Schedule II Drugs (including Marijuana)
- Possession of Schedule III or Schedule IV Drugs
- Possession of Schedule V Drugs
- Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID)
What to Do After a Drug Possession Charge in Pennsylvania
The aftermath of a drug possession charge can be overwhelming. However, your immediate response can be crucial for the rest of your case.
Here are the steps to take after being charged or arrested for drug possession:
Hire a Drug Crime Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with possession in Pittsburgh, hire a drug crime attorney as soon as possible. Find an experienced legal professional who has a record of success with cases similar to yours. Their background and education could provide necessary insight as you work on your defense or plea bargain.
You might be wondering if hiring a criminal defense lawyer is worth it. Maybe you’re worried they’ll give you more invoices than advice or take advantage of you in your current vulnerable position.
To avoid a bad legal fit, thoroughly research your options before deciding. Review their awards, case results, and client reviews before scheduling a consultation. Now is not the time to be passive—your freedom and future might be on the line. With help from one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Pittsburgh, you have a better chance of getting the results you want with the defense you deserve.
Exercise the Right to Remain Silent
Don’t talk about your drug possession charges with anyone or answer any questions from the police. You’ve heard it before: anything you say can and will be used against you. That includes social media posts, text messages, and all other forms of communication. No matter how innocent or unrelated a cop’s questions might seem, your answer could be a lead for them in the case against you.
If police or investigators talk to you, request to have a lawyer present. Refusing to answer is not an admission of guilt; it’s an exercise of your rights. Your lawyer can respond carefully on your behalf to protect you from incriminating yourself or giving a false confession.
This doesn’t mean your attorney can put words in your mouth or make decisions before consulting you. Instead, they should act as a “legal mouthpiece,” filtering your wants and needs through the terms of the law. Remain silent and trust them to help you navigate your drug investigation.
Common Defenses Against PA Possession Charges
There are multiple ways to defend yourself against a drug possession charge. Your lawyer will evaluate your case and determine the best way to proceed based on the evidence and charges you face.
Some of the most common defenses against a Pittsburgh drug possession charge include:
Lack of Evidence
Prosecutors have the burden of proof, meaning it is their job to prove you committed an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. They can’t convict you if they cannot sufficiently prove you committed a crime.
Therefore, a lack of solid evidence against you could be a strong defense in your drug possession case. Your lawyer will collect discovery from prosecutors and determine the best point of attack. Additionally, the evidence your lawyer collects could undermine and contradict the prosecution’s evidence, weakening their case while strengthening yours.
Police Violated Your Rights
Everyone has a right to a lawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. This means police must have a warrant before searching you or your property. They also need probable cause to arrest you for drug possession.
Say you have a couple of grams of cocaine in your car, and an officer stops you for speeding. If the coke is clearly visible, like in the seat beside you or on your dashboard, they can legally take it from you. However, if the drugs are hidden somewhere, such as your glove compartment or trunk, cops are not allowed to search your vehicle unless they have probable cause.
If police violated your Fourth Amendment rights, any evidence they collected from an unlawful search and seizure will be removed from your case. This can result in your drug possession charges being reduced or dismissed entirely.
Although difficult to prove, a lawyer can help you build a defense of entrapment. Entrapment means you only committed a drug possession offense because law enforcement planted the drugs or otherwise made you commit a crime. If your lawyer can successfully prove you were entrapped, the charges will be dismissed.
Lack of Knowledge or Intent
One of the elements of a possession charge is knowingly and intentionally having drugs in your control. Therefore, a strong defense could be you were unaware of the substance. Maybe a roommate hid their stash in your belongings, and you had no idea until police arrived. If you did not intend to commit a crime, your charges could be dismissed.
You Have a Prescription
If you have a valid prescription for a controlled substance, you cannot be charged with drug possession. Therefore, you can defend against a drug possession charge by proving a doctor prescribed it to you as medication.
Every case is unique, which means every defense should be, too. Depending on the details of your charges, your attorney can work to identify every possible route to secure your freedom. You are not without options after a Pittsburgh drug possession charge—no matter how powerless prosecutors try to make you feel.
Even if you’re found guilty, your lawyer can negotiate a lesser sentence. You could participate in a drug diversion program, serve probation instead of jail, or find other alternatives to punishment. Your dedicated drug crimes attorney will work tirelessly to reduce the severity of your penalties and their impact on your future.
Contact a Pittsburgh Drug Possession Attorney Today
Past mistakes shouldn’t define your future. After being charged with drug possession in Pittsburgh, contact an experienced drug attorney at Worgul, Sarna, & Ness Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to help you defend yourself and secure a more positive outcome. You deserve a lawyer who is entirely on your side and willing to go up against relentless prosecutors. We’re here to fight for you.
Contact our criminal defense team of Worgul, Sarna, and Ness, P.C. at (412) 532-8658 or online to schedule a confidential consultation.