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Defenses For Drug Possession Charges in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2013 | Drugs

Today’s blog spot is by Adam Rosenblum, a criminal defense attorney practicing in New Jersey and New York City.

Getting stopped by the police if you have drugs in your possession can be a frightening ordeal. There are so many emotions and thoughts running through your head, but it’s important to remain calm and do your best to think clearly through the situation. If you are being charged with drug possession in Pennsylvania this article, is designed to give you some information on your rights and how to protect yourself from increased fines, penalties and jail time.

Under Pennsylvania law, prosecutors have the burden to prove that you committed the crime that you are being charged with. This means that every element of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. As a starting point for a defense, this means that the prosecution must be able to negate any reasonable defense of innocence.

When Can The Police Search Me For Drugs?

In drug cases, some of the strongest defenses revolve around issues involving the search and seizure, possession and whether the substance illegal under the law. A search that is conducted by the police must be valid and not violate an individual’s constitutional rights to privacy. For this to occur the prosecution needs to show that the police officer had a reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic offense has been committed before stopping the vehicle. An example of reasonable suspicion would be a car that is swerving while driving or the strong odor of marijuana or alcohol after the vehicle has been stopped.

A valid search warrant is needed to search one’s home, and this protection extends to hotel rooms as well. The police often will try to gain consent by asking an authorized person to give valid consent or they enter the room under the “exigent circumstances” exception. Exigent circumstances include a situation where the police believe that immediate action is necessary, before they would be able to get a warrant. For example, the police may believe that suspects will destroy evidence.

If an officer is searching your person, then the search is limited to a “pat down” search where the arresting officer can only pat down the outer parts of your clothes to feel for any weapons. Officers are allowed to feel around and manipulate areas of clothing to feel whether the object may be a certain drug or other weapon. Where a search is conducted after an arrest, an attorney can bring up certain defenses to show that the officer lacked probable cause to make an arrest in the first place or if a search occurs and the officer did not adhere to federal and state laws.

What Are The Penalties For Possession Of Marijuana In Pennsylvania?

Marijuana is by far the most commonly used illegal drug in Pennsylvania, as is the case in all 50 states. In Pennsylvania, there are three categories of marijuana possession. Possession of less than 30 grams for personal use is an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use is an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $5,000 fine for a first offense, while a second conviction of more than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Possession with intent to deliver marijuana or cultivation of marijuana is an ungraded felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The charge of drug paraphernalia often accompanies a marijuana possession charge. Drug paraphernalia includes any device intended to be used to introduce an illegal drug into the human body, or to fold or conceal an illegal drug. Drug paraphernalia is an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine.

Defendants with no prior record, who are charged with possession of marijuana for personal use or drug paraphernalia, often are able to enter a first time offenders program, which allows them to ultimately emerge without a damaging criminal record.
Author Bio: Adam H. Rosenblum is a criminal defense lawyer admitted to practice in both New Jersey and New York. Adam frequently receives calls from individuals who are charged with drug possession and intent to sell drugs.

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