Pennsylvania Drug Laws

Generally, drug crimes in Pennsylvania are either “simple possession” or “possession with intent to deliver” (PWID) cases.  PWID cases are more serious cases that involve higher penalties.

Possession Of Marijuana: Marijuana possession in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor.  Fines and/or prison sentences are directly related to the amount of marijuana you are caught with.  If you are in possession of what is considered to be a small amount of marijuana for personal use (30 grams or less) you are facing a maximum penalty of up to 30 days in jail, and a fine of $500.   For possession of more than 30 grams, the maximum penalties go up to 1 year in jail and $5000 in fines and an automatic six month loss of your driver’s license.   If you are a first time marijuana offender, it is possible to get probation without a verdict.  For second (2nd) offense possession charges, or multiple subsequent offenses, the penalties may double. If you have a significant amount of marijuana, you run the risk of being charged with possession with intent to deliver or distribute in many cases.

Sale Or Trafficking Of Marijuana: Selling marijuana in Pennsylvania is a felony that carries with it up to 10 years in prison. Fines range from $5,000.00 to $100,000.00.  The penalties can be more severe if you were selling at or near a school.  However, recent laws have held that certain enhancements are unconstitutional.  Using a minor to distribute marijuana or selling marijuana to someone under the age of 16 will carry with it a minimum mandatory period of incarceration.

Possession of other Controlled Substances Penalties (Heroin, Cocaine, LSD/Acid, Ecstasy/MMDA, Meth, and prescription drugs including Vicodin and Oxycontin or illegal steroids):  You may be subject to up to one year in prison, and/or a $5,000 fine first (1st) offense. Up to two years in prison for a second (2nd) offense. Up to three years in prison for a third (3rd) offense and fines may escalate to $25,000. Possession of more than five grams of crack (cocaine) may be subject to a minimum penalty of 5 years in prison.

Classification of Drugs under Pennsylvania Law - Pennsylvania drug law divides drugs into five different schedules, based on how dangerous they judge the drug to be.

Schedule I – contains drugs for which the Legislature felt there was no accepted medical use and the drugs had the highest potential for abuse. This schedule includes LSD, heroin and synthetic drugs.

Schedule II – includes substances with a medical use with severe restrictions and a high potential for abuse such as cocaine, opium, methamphetamines (meth) and methadone are on this schedule.

Schedule III – includes drugs that have a medical use and less potential for abuse, including anabolic steroids.

Schedule IV – includes drugs with an accepted medical use and a lower potential for abuse. It includes many prescription medications.

Schedule V – contains substances with an accepted medical use and the least potential for abuse, including many prescription medications with low levels of codeine.

Possession With Intent to Deliver (PWID) – Under Pennsylvania law, “deliver” means the actual, constructive or attempted transfer of any controlled substance from one person to another person or people.  For any narcotic other than marijuana, the law does not make the distinction between conducting a transaction for profit or giving the drug away for free, so, technically, offering a friend a line of cocaine may be considered delivery.  It is a crime not only to deliver drugs, but to possess drugs with the intent to deliver.  Prosecutors may use a variety of different kinds of evidence to try to prove this intent.  The most common is the amount: that the suspect possessed more drugs than one would usually have for personal use, so he or she must have intended to sell them.  Prosecutors may also use evidence like how the narcotics were allegedly packaged, if there was any equipment like scales or baggies nearby, if there was a large amount of money present, where the suspect was at the time of the arrest, or any behavior they alleged the suspect was engaging in.

Any PWID charge for a Schedule I or II drug that is derived from an opiate or chemical synthesis, called a “narcotic drug” in the law, results in a felony charge and up to 15 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. For PCP, meth or cocaine, you could face up to 10 years and a $100,000 fine.

Any other Schedule I, II or II controlled substance, if convicted, may result in up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.  A Schedule IV drug could lead to up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.  PWIDs for Schedule V controlled substances are the only misdemeanors, and may result in up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences:  Pennsylvania assigns mandatory jail sentences to persons convicted of dealing or possessing with the intent to deal certain drugs.  Those penalties vary based upon the type of drugs possessed and the weight of the drug, as well as whether it is the first drug dealing offense for a person, or a second or subsequent offense.  The prosecutor has discretion on whether a mandatory sentence is pursued.  If a prosecutor is successful in obtaining a conviction in a drug delivery case, he/she can now require the judge to impose the mandatory minimum sentence. The judge has NO discretion. If the prosecutor seeks to enforce the mandatory sentence, the judge must do so. Because this power is solely at the discretion of the prosecutor, it is certainly beneficial to have an attorney with a positive relationship with the District Attorney’s Office.  As a former prosecutor, I have maintained those positive relationships that may make a difference whether a mandatory minimum may be pursued.

If you or a loved one is charged with a drug crime, you need an experienced attorney to advise you of your options.  As a former prosecutor, I know the system and will vigorously fight for your rights.  Feel free to contact me for  a risk free consultation to explore the choices that are available to you.