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Heroin is one of the most common drugs in Pennsylvania. It is a Schedule I drug, and a heroin arrest can lead to serious penalties. If an individual is charged with possession of heroin, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has mandatory sentencing requirements that are severe. A Schedule I drug carries the highest criminal penalties among drug charges.
Heroin Laws in Pennsylvania
According to Pennsylvania law, simple possession is considered having less than one gram of heroin. This is considered a misdemeanor and has a maximum penalty of one year in jail if it is a first offense. A first offense also carries a maximum fine of $5,000. Any subsequent charges could lead to three years of incarceration and a $25,000 fine.
To be charged for possession of heroin, the substance does not have to be on an individual’s person. Individuals can face a possession of heroin charge if the substance was found in their car, home, handbag, or backpack.
What to do if You Have Been Charged With Possession of Heroin
When an individual is charged with possession of heroin, it is important that he or she does not make any statements to the arresting officer regarding the heroin. A possession of heroin charge is like any other criminal charge, so it is vital not to speak with law enforcement officials until a criminal defense attorney is present. Any statement that you make can be used against you and taken out of context. When the police question you about the situation, you can politely state that you wish to remain silent until your attorney is present.
A criminal defense attorney is necessary because he or she can examine the facts that surround your arrest. There must be probable cause for an individual to be charged, and a defense attorney can establish if an arresting officer acted lawfully. For instance, if a police officer stopped you in your car, a criminal defense attorney can determine if the officer had probable cause to make the stop. An attorney can also look into the circumstances that surrounded your arrest, which include where and how the heroin was found.
Defenses to a Possession of Heroin Charge
There are a number of solid defenses that can be used to fight a possession of heroin charge, which include:
Unlawful Search and Seizure
According to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, an individual has the right to due process of the law. This includes lawful search and seizure procedures that take place before an arrest. If heroin is found in plain sight, which may include on the dashboard of a vehicle after a lawful traffic stop, it could be taken and used as evidence. However, if heroin was found in the trunk of a vehicle, and the accused did not give the law enforcement official permission to open the trunk, it can’t be used as evidence. When the accused’s Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, heroin can’t be used as evidence during a trial. In these circumstances, the charges are typically dismissed.
Entrapment takes place when an undercover police officer persuades an individual to commit a crime that he or she may not have committed. When an undercover police officer pressures an individual to show heroin to him or her, it could be considered entrapment.
The Heroin Wasn’t Yours
If the heroin was found in your vehicle but there were other individuals in your vehicle, you may not have been aware that the drugs were in your car. This is a common defense, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can pressure a prosecuting attorney to prove that the drugs actually belonged to you and not another individual that was present.
If you have been charged with possession of heroin, it is important to seek the guidance of a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected.