Personal Injury Lawyer

The war on drugs has made drug possession laws and charges come to the forefront of people’s minds. With certain states legalizing marijuana while other states are cracking down on their drug laws, the actuals rules and penalties can get a bit confusing. In this post, we’ll walk through what a drug possession charge is and what the penalties are if you are charged with drug possession, but it is wise to discuss your specific situation with a criminal defense attorney DC relies on.

What is considered drug possession?

First, let’s define drug possession. This means that someone has illegal drugs (otherwise known as a controlled substance) in their possession. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they had the drugs on them at the time of the arrest. The drugs could be in their homes or in their vehicles. It’s the prosecutions’ job to prove that the person 1) knew the drugs were indeed illegal and 2) willingly knew they were in the possession of illegal drugs. Once that has been proven and the person is convicted of drug possession, then they face the penalties.

Drug possession penalties

People charged with drug possession can face a wide variety of penalties based on the state in which they live. Just list states have differing laws on what is considered an illegal drug or considered possession of an illegal drug, they also have differing penalties.

The main thing that influences the size of the penalty is determined by what the person’s intent was with the illegal drugs. Were the drugs just for personal use? Or did the police find evidence that the person intended to sell or distribute the drugs to others? The intent to sell or distribute drugs has a much higher consequence than those who were just using the drugs for personal matters.

In 1986, federal lawmakers passed a mandatory minimum sentence for drug offenses and most states have adopted their own version of mandatory minimum sentences as well. These minimums depend upon the type of drug, the weight the person was possessing of the drug, and if the defendant had any prior drug convictions.  Depending upon the states, penalties can range from a mere $100 fine plus a few days in jail to a several thousand dollar fine plus several years in jail.

Sentences can also be extended due to aggravated circumstances. Aggravated circumstances include things such as prior records (have they been convicted of drug possession in the past?) or if the drug deal was made within 1,000 feet of a school, putting children potentially in danger. Sentences can also be lessened if mitigating circumstances are at work such as someone being forced to distribute or sell drugs at the hand of an abusive partner. The judge will take into account all the factors before passing a sentence on the defendant.

Some states have special drug courts designed for repeat offenders. The judges in these courts are given even more control during sentencing because the goal of these special drug courts is to help rehabilitate the repeat offenders. Most of the time, the sentence will include mandatory stays at treatment centers in order for the defendants to get a handle on their drug addictions.   



Thank you to our friends and contributors at The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C. for their insight into criminal defense and punishments for drug possession.