What is Cocaine Possession?
Under the law, a person with access to cocaine or other controlled substances has possession of those substances. Possession (simple possession) refers to access to drugs. Possession refers to access to drugs. A person with cocaine in his/her pocket can easily access the drug. The same is true if the drugs were in the trunk of a car. The individual also has access to drugs in, say, a storage facility he/she rents.
The federal Schedule II classification of cocaine makes it illegal to possess without a prescription. Yes, there are prescription forms of cocaine, but this isnt the standard way people acquire or use the drug. Powdered, smokable, and injectable street forms of cocaine are what people usually procure.
Pennsylvania State Law and the Amount of Drugs in Your Possession
In some states, the law looks differently upon someone with a small amount of drugs in his/her pocket than someone with multiple kilos of cocaine in a car’s trunk. Possession of a small amount of cocaine is still a crime, but a large amount isn’t automatically a felony. In Pennsylvania, possession for personal represents a misdemeanor charge. Even someone with a significant amount of cocaine might not face felony charges. Possession with intent to deliver — drug dealing — is a felony regardless of quantity on his/her person. Also, in the state of Pennsylvania, any manufacturing drugs faces felony charges.
Keep in mind, a person may have a large amount of drugs in his/her possession and only intends those drugs for personal use. He/she may still face charges for intent to deliver. A skilled attorney would need to convince a court or jury otherwise.
Penalties for Cocaine Possession in Pennsylvania
The penalties for cocaine possession in Pennsylvania vary depending upon the charges falling under the misdemeanor or felony statutes. Misdemeanor charges come with lesser penalties than a felony. Persons charged with a misdemeanor may find leniency under “first-offender” statutes. A person accused of a felony could face a $250,000 fine and up to 15 years of incarceration.
Federal Law and the Amount of Drugs in Your Possession
Pennsylvania state law might not automatically levy distribution charges against someone carrying a certain amount of drugs, but federal law is different. Possession charges could reach the federal level. A person with a significant amount of cocaine in a vehicle, house, apartment, or other location could be charged with intent to distribute. The penalties for allegedly dealing/distributing large quantities of drugs may be severe.
The Role of a Defense Attorney
A qualified and ethical defense attorney provides the best and most realistic defense strategy. He/she may seek a dismissal of the charges, a reduction in charges, or a not guilty verdict in court. Defenses for drug possession charges take many forms. The attorney may, for example, argue the drugs did not belong to the accused or the police entrapped the defendant. How the attorney approaches the defense will vary from case to case.
With some cases, the attorney might seek a plea arrangement. If found guilty, the attorney could ask for leniency at sentencing. Defending cocaine possession charges in Pennsylvania can prove complicated. For this reason and more, anyone charged with simple possession or intent to deliver should seek out a qualified attorney who understands both state and federal law.