What Types of Drug Charges are the Most Severe in Pennsylvania?
Penalties for drug possession in Pennsylvania are some of the toughest in the country. Despite more and more states decriminalizing certain drug offenses, a conviction for possession or intent to distribute in cities across our state offer severe consequences. While these charges vary on the type of drug and the circumstances of the possession, it’s important to consult an experienced drug charge defense lawyer to help you understand what’s at risk based on what types of drug charges are the most severe in Pennsylvania.
Common Drug Charges in Pennsylvania
While there are a number of different drug offenses within PA, the most common involve heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. The primary concern for law enforcement is stopping the trafficking of these substances, but charges for possession even without intent aren’t taken lightly either.
Since these drugs are all very different in their purpose and effects, they are penalized in different ways. Pennsylvania and federal law divide controlled substances into “schedules,” based on their potential for abuse and therapeutic value. Below are a few examples:
- Schedule 1:
Drugs that have a very high potential for addiction and abuse with no medical purposes. (Over 100 drugs are on the official list)
- Schedule 2:
Drugs that may create “severe psychological or physical dependence,” but unlike Schedule 1, contain substances prescribed for medical use.
- Schedule 3:
Drugs that may result in physical dependence or psychological dependence, but in general, have less potential for abuse than Schedule 1 & 2 and are often prescribed medically.
Codeine & Hydrocodone products mixed with aspirin or Tylenol
- Schedule 4:
Drugs that offer very limited possibility of becoming physically or psychologically dependent and are often prescribed medically.
-Clonzaepam (Klonpin, Valpax, etc.)
- Schedule 5:
Drugs that have very little risk of addiction and are prescribed medications. These drugs may sometimes be higher scheduled drugs in lower amounts.
-Cough medicines (with codeine)
-Zolpidem (Ambien, Stillnox, Zolpimist)
Pennsylvania Drug Charges & Penalties
Pennsylvania drug penalties are fairly straightforward: there are two basic misdemeanors – carrying up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000 – and three felonies – Felony Possession with Intent (Drug Trafficking), Felony Possession with Intent To Deliver (PWID), and Unlawful Manufacturing. Depending on the Schedule in which the drug falls under, these charges can result in up to 15 years imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000 per count.
Marijuana is still illegal in PA, so intentionally or knowingly having it within your possession can result in serious charges. These penalties will depend on the amount you are caught with at the time of your arrest, as well as whether or not you have been convicted in the past. For example, 30 grams or more could result in a maximum of one year sentence and $5,000 in fees, while the same amount as a third offense ups the potential jail time to 3 years.
Weight is used to determine the severity of a drug charge involving cocaine. For example, less than 2 grams could result in one-year jail sentence and $5,000 in fines, while 2 to 10 grams of cocaine could receive a minimum 2-year sentence. You’ll also lose your driver’s license for 6 months to 2 years, depending on how many offenses are on your record.
It’s important to note that federal offenses for possession and trafficking may be much more severe depending on the circumstances of your arrest.
Heroin is considered the most dangerous of the Schedule 1 drugs listed above, and so is charged as such. In Pennsylvania, possession of 1 to 5 grams is a mandatory minimum 2-year sentence, largely due to the fact that there is no accepted medical use for heroin in PA.
There may also be programs you could be required to attend which provide rehabilitation to first-time offenders in an attempt to prevent a future offense.
IF you or someone you know if facing a serious drug offense, our dedicated team of criminal defense attorneys are here to help. With experience in all types of drug charges over the last 25 years in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we’ll fight aggressively to minimize your penalties and protect your freedoms. Contact us today for a free consultation.