Pennsylvania law enforcement can arrest someone for drug possession if they determine that the suspect has knowledge of and the ability to control the drugs in question. Depending on the type and amount of drugs found, they could face misdemeanor or felony charges.
Simple possession is when an individual has a small amount of illegal drugs in their control with no intention to sell them. This type of charge can result in fines of up to $5,000 and a year in prison.
The word “small amount” is relative to the type of drug in question. For example, possessing less than one gram of heroin is a misdemeanor, while having over one gram of heroin is subject to felony charges. For marijuana, possessing up to 30 grams is a misdemeanor, and anything above that is a felony.
Possession with intent to deliver (PWID)
If an individual has large quantities of drugs or other evidence that suggests the intent to sell, they may face possession with intent to deliver charges. Things that may infer the intent to sell may include packaging the drugs in different-sized containers, having scales or other drug paraphernalia or large sums of money on their person. PWID drug charges are direct felonies (unless they are Schedule V drugs, like cough preparations with less than 200mg of codeine) with up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
Actual vs. constructive possession
Proof of possession is an important element for convicting someone, but the prosecution must also prove that the defendant was aware of and had the ability to control the drugs in their possession. That means they must be able to show either actual or constructive possession. Actual possession is when the state establishes the accused had the drugs on their person, while constructive possession is when they can prove that the accused had knowledge of or ability to control the drugs in question.
Possessing drugs can result in serious consequences, depending on the type of drug and amount. In Pennsylvania, law enforcement has wide-ranging authority when it comes to arresting those suspected of possessing drugs. It’s important to understand the distinctions between types of possession so that you know your rights if ever arrested for drug possession charges. There may be defenses you can use to convince the judge to discard or diminish the charges.